Thursday 4 February 2016

Guinevere - A Welsh Story??

What do we know of Guinevere?
 She was.... 

King Arthur's Wife
 Queen of Camelot
Lancelot du Lac's, Lover

Guinevere was embroiled into a love triangle that was always going to end badly. She had it all. A loving and powerful husband. A beautiful home. She was popular and loved by the people. She should have been happy and who knows, maybe she was. But her fate was sealed the day she met Lancelot.

So where forth did she come from and what has she got to do with the Welsh?

Firstly we need to check out her name. In Welsh she was called Gwenhwyfar - The White Enchantress / The White Ghost - that makes her sound kind of seductive with supernatural powers doesn't it?

 I want to look at  Trioedd Ynys Prydein, for those of you who don't speak Welsh - I am among your number - it translates as The Triads of the Island of Britain.

I want to specifically have a look at line 56 ( LVI - for those who prefer Roman Numerals)! Have a read.

Arthur's Three Great Queens
Gwenhwyfar daughter of (Cywryd) Gwent,
and Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gwythyr son of Greidiawl,
and Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gogfran the Giant.

So it seems that Arthur was married 3 times. Luckily all his wife's were called Gwenhwyfar.  He never found himself in a position where he said the wrong name - that must have come in handy?! 

But hey, Arthur was not content with just a wife. Oh no...  

And his Three Mistresses were these:
Indeg daughter of Garwy the Tall,
and Garwen (Fair Leg) daughter of Henin the Old,
and Gwyl (Modest) daughter of Gendawd (Big Chin). 

That is interesting...don't you think? I never think of Arthur as having mistresses. He is always portrayed as the wounded party  - I knew there was more to it than we first thought! 

I think the names (translations) are great. I wonder if Big Chin was meant as a compliment back then?

 I love reading the Triads of Britain..and I think you will like them too.  I have always been particularly interested in the...

Three Golden-Tongued Knights, Whom No One Could Refuse Whatsoever They Might Ask.

and the...

Three Golden Shoemakers of the Island of Britain

....intrigue me as well.

If you did not know already, everything in Britain comes in three's and that it a fact - well, maybe. But hey, it would hardly be a Triad if it didn't. And come to think of it - the love triangle idea is beginning to make sense - there are three points to a triangle...I know it is a very weak hypothesis. I'll shut up now.

If I have sparked your interest in the Triads then Celtic Twilight have a fabulous translation on their website.

There is another Triad that mentions Guinevere. The Trioedd Ynys Prydein. This states that Gwenhwyfar fell out with her sister which caused the Battle of Camlann. Typical - women always get the blame.

In my next post on Guinevere, I am going to take a look to see what are old friend, Geoffrey Monmouth, made of her. He had those lost manuscripts after all - so everything he says must be true.

 Queen Guinevere by James Archer (c.1860)
Queen Guinevere's Maying by John Collier (1900)


  1. I was always partial to the Feasting of the Hungry Man myself. It's where the Gwenhwyfar - Medraut (Mordred/Modred) relationship gets its somewhat rocky start. I have an entirely different take on the "other" Guineveres in Arthur's life (and let's not forget sister Gwenhwyfach; she =hates= it when people forget her :D).

    I've been sitting on publication of a novella detailing all of this -- it's been edited and has a cover and everything -- but I haven't published it yet because it represents the genesis of book 6 in my historical Arthurian series, and officially I'm only up to book 3.1 in publishing everything. I don't want to confuse readers by starting out with the funeral of one of the main characters...

    I'll shut up now. :D
    Kim Headlee, who has spent the last, oh, third of a century or so rehabilitating Guinevere's reputation.

  2. You might want to read Robert Graves' White Goddess, as the Welsh Triads strongly hint of her name as really being the title for a goddess/queen and not a personal name.

  3. I shall certainly check out Graves' work. Thank you!


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx