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Sir Lancelot du Lac or Lancelot of the Lake lived in the Middle Ages, during a period dominated by knights which lasted from the 12th to the 14th century AD. Sir Lancelot is the protagonist of a series of legendary tales which are part of the Arthurian cycle. The central figure of the stories is the famous King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. As is commonly known, Arthur was the mythical King of Camelot who played a leading role in many adventures, with the help of his most loyal knights, such as the search for the Holy Grail.

One of these knights, who was equal in fame and honour to Arthur, was Sir Lancelot. The legend goes that Sir Lancelot was the son of Ban of Benwick, a French monarch who was an ally of King Arthur, and of Elena. As he was young, when his parents died, Sir Lancelot was put into the care of the legendary Lady of the Lake, wife of the wizard Merlin. She was the one who taught him knightly ideals, trained him to use the sword and educated him on British customs. However, there are versions that state that Sir Lancelot was actually the son of the Lady of the Lake and of King Ban.



The figure of Sir Lancelot has inspired the creation of the Lancelot sword

When Sir Lancelot reached his youth he was taken by the Lady of the Lake to King Arthur's court. Amazed by his honour, his skill with the sword and his bravery in combat, King Arthur decided to accept him as a knight of the Round Table. This was how Sir Lancelot became a loyal knight, companion and friend of King Arthur. Together they went on to experience multiple adventures. However they did not only share wartime adventures but also a lover, Queen Guinevere.

The romance between Lady Guinevere and Sir Lancelot began when King Arthur sent him in search of Guinevere to her castle to bring her to Camelot where she would marry Arthur. During the journey the two young people fell in love; this moment undoubtedly marked the beginning of the end of order in the kingdom of Camelot. Sir Lancelot decided to remain chaste in respect and loyalty to his queen and king. He continued to go on adventures accompanied by his inseparable sword as a true medieval knight.


Representation of Guinevere arming knight with Sir Lancelot's medieval sword

The basic equipment of a medieval knight consisted of several essential items. Firstly, as defensive material, the medieval warrior had a coat of mail which the soldier wore over a tunic, with a rather small pointed shield; and a cylindrical helmet which he could wear with or without a nose protector. As regards offensive weapons, he could be equipped with a crossbow or lance. However the most important weapon for a knight was the sword which enabled him to engage in hand to hand combat. The most common medieval sword had a straight blade with a double cutting edge and was over one metre in length. The sword was used with a single hand, so the hilt was short; with the other hand the soldier held the shield.


Lancelot sword, the medieval knight's essential weapon


Design of knight Lancelot of the Lake's sword with scabbard

In his adventure in search of the Holy Grail, Sir Lancelot reaches the fortress of King Pelles, who guarded the holy relics. In this castle lived Elaine, King Pelles' daughter. The princess fell at the feet of the handsome knight and declared her love for Sir Lancelot. The latter refused, maintaining his strict attitude of remaining loyal to Guinevere. However, Elaine drugged the knight, making him spend the night with him. From this meeting another famous knight from Arthurian tales would be born, Sir Galahad.

After this the shamed Sir Lancelot returned to Camelot, where Queen Guinevere, green with envy, expelled him from. The knight accompanied only by his sword went on to roam for months through the British woodland until Queen Guinevere granted his pardon. Shortly after, Arthur along with his knights embarked on the journey in search of the Grail. During this adventure many knights died, to such an extent that Arthur's power was seriously damaged. At this time, Arthur's court entered into crisis. Some of the knights of the Round Table disapproved of the foreign Sir Lancelot, envying his relationship with the king; therefore, they started a civil war against King Arthur. The excuse was to be a trap that they prepared for Sir Lancelot and Guinevere. King Arthur discovered the forbidden love and condemned both lovers. The war between the followers of the queen and those of the king was significant. The confrontation ended with the pardon of Queen Guinevere by the king and the exile of Sir Lancelot, who returned to France.


The Knights of the Round Table armed with their swords

Ever since that battle, Camelot never recovered. It was Mordred, son of Arthur, fruit of his incest with Morgana, who usurped the throne from his father, thereby starting a new civil war. At this time, some knights loyal to Arthur and companions of Sir Lancelot asked the latter to come to the aid of the monarch. The loyal soldier accompanied by his sword came to the aid of King Arthur but failed to arrive on time. Arthur died and lost Camelot.

After this difficult event, Queen Guinevere decided to join a monastery and commend the rest of her days to the Lord. The path of Sir Lancelot was to be similar, as he became a hermit guarding the coffin of Arthur in the same chapel where he lay. One of his final achievements before dying was that of burying the body of the deceased Queen Guinevere next to King Arthur so that both could sleep together for eternity.


Fight of knights armed with swords with Camelot in the background

The story of the adventures of Sir Lancelot belongs to legend, however, it is likely that the author Chrétien de Troyes, who wrote one of the key works on the figure Sir Lancelot in the 12th century, based his tale on popular memory relating to a true fact concerning the adventures of a warrior king and his court of loyal knights. Therefore, although the facts may not have taken place as the legendary tales tell us, as these have been adorned by men of letters throughout history, perhaps there is some truth in the seed of the tale. It could be that at some point at the beginning of the Middle Ages there was a knight of French origin who was a great companion and loyal servant to a British king. In any case, it is a difficult mystery to get to the bottom of, so until then we can hold on to the imagination and fantasy that allow us to recall the knight Sir Lancelot sword in hand and enjoy the adventures of this medieval hero.


Sir Lancelot du Lac armed with helmet, spear and sword


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