Project Description

The Lady of Shallot

Elaine the White, Elaine the Fair or the Maid of Shallot were names given to the only daughter of Bernard of Astolat, the lord of the legendary castle and town in Arthurian legends. When Bernard organized a jousting tournament, Lancelot, a famous knight of King Arthur’s court, traveled to Astolat, incognito, to compete. He was not originally planning to attend, but convinced otherwise he visited Bernard and his two sons before the tournament. While in her family’s household, Elaine became enamoured of him and begged him to wear her token at the coming tournament. He did so because it would add to his disguise. Lancelot went on to win the jousting tournament, masked from King Arthur’s party, fighting against and beating forty of them. However, he was hurt during the tournament by a lance, and after falling ill Elaine sat by him day and night, nursing him back to health. When he was well, he announced that he would be leaving. Elaine begged him to marry her, but he told her that his love for Guinevere, wife of King Arthur, is too strong for him to love Elaine. After Lancelot left Astolat, ten days later Elaine died of a broken heart. Per her instructions, her body was placed in a small boat, clutching a lily in one hand, and her final letter in the other. Her body floated down the Thames to Camelot, where she was discovered by King Arthur’s court, being called a little lily maiden. Lancelot was summoned and after reading the contents of the letter, he explained what happened. In memory, Lancelot organised a rich funeral for Elaine.