Guinevere, also often written as Guenevere or Guenever, is the wife and queen of King Arthur in the Arthurian legend. Guinevere has been portrayed as everything from a villainous and opportunistic traitor to a fatally flawed but noble and virtuous lady. She has first appeared in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, a pseudo-historical chronicle of British history written in the early 12th century, and continues to be a popular character in the modern adaptations of the legend.
In the later medieval romances, one of the most prominent story arcs is Queen Guinevere's tragic love affair with her husband's chief knight and friend, Lancelot, indirectly causing the death of Arthur and many others and the downfall of the kingdom. This story first appeared in Chrétien de Troyes's Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, and became a major motif in the Lancelot-Grail of the 13th century, carrying through the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.
In one of the Welsh Triads ('Trioedd Ynys Prydein', no. 56), three Gwenhwyfars married King Arthur. The first is the daughter of Cywryd of Gwent, the second of Gwythyr ap Greidawl, and the third of (G)ogrfan Gawr ("the Giant"). In a variant of another Welsh Triad ('Trioedd Ynys Prydein', no. 54), only the daughter of Gogfran Gawr is mentioned. There was once a popular folk rhyme known in Wales concerning Gwenhwyfar: "Gwenhwyfar ferch Ogrfan Gawr / Drwg yn fechan, gwaeth yn fawr (Gwenhwyfar, daughter of Ogrfan Gawr / Bad when little, worse when great)."
Welsh tradition remembers the queen's sister Gwenhwyfach and records the enmity between them. Two Triads ('Trioedd Ynys Prydein', no. 53, 84) mention Gwenhwyfar's contention with her sister, which was believed to be the cause of the Battle of Camlann. In the mid-late 12th-century Welsh folktale Culhwch and Olwen, she is also mentioned alongside Gwenhwyfach; in later prose romances, she appears as Guinevere's evil twin. German romance Diu Crône gives Guinevere two other sisters: Gawain's love interest Flori and Queen Lenomie of Alexandria.
Guinevere is childless in most stories. The few exceptions include Arthur's son named Loholt or Ilinot in Perlesvaus and Parzival (first mentioned in Erec and Enide). In the Alliterative Morte Arthure, Guinevere willingly becomes Mordred's consort and bears him two sons, although the dying Arthur commands Mordred's children to be killed (but Guinevere to be spared as he forgives her). There are mentions of Arthur's sons in the Welsh Triads, though their exact parentage is unclear. Besides the issue of her biological children or lack thereof, Guinevere also raises the illegitimate daughter of Sagramore and Senehaut in the Livre d'Artus.
Other family relations are equally obscure. A half-sister and a brother named Gotegin play the antagonistic roles in the Lancelot–Grail (the Vulgate Cycle) and Diu Crône, respectively, but neither character is mentioned elsewhere. While later literature almost always named Leodegrance as Guinevere's father, her mother was usually unmentioned, although she was sometimes said to be dead (this is the case in the Middle English romance The Adventures of Arthur, in which the ghost of Guinevere's mother appears to her and Gawain in Inglewood Forest). Some works name cousins of note, though these do not usually appear more than once. One such cousin is Guiomar, an early lover of Morgan le Fay in several French romances; others include Elyzabel (Elibel) and Garaunt (possibly Geraint). In Perlesvaus, after the death of Guinevere, her relative King Madaglan(s) d'Oriande is a major villain who invades Arthur's lands, trying to force him to abandon Christianity and marry his sister, Queen Jandree.
- Guinevere is portrayed by Cherie Lunghi in the 1981 epic medieval fantasy Excalibur.
- Guinevere is a central character in the Broadway musical Camelot, in which she was initially portrayed by Julie Andrews, then Sally Ann Howes. She was played by Vanessa Redgrave in the film version of the musical.
- In the TV show Legends of Tomorrow episode "Camelot/3000", Guinevere is portrayed by Elyse Levesque. In the episode, she is a knight who became queen because of her loyalty to Merlin. In response to Sara letting her know of her affection for Guinevere; Sara Lance felt attraction to her, and after Merlin, who was actually Stargirl, confessed her love to King Arthur, she and Sara shared a kiss.
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