White Knight is a title which the famed Arthurian knight, Sir Lancelot, used until he discovered his actual name. According to legends, he was one of the most important knights among the Knights of the Round Table. He has been variously regarded as the bravest knight of King Arthur as well as the closest friend of the King. The White Knight, Sir Lancelot, was also the one who fell in love with Queen Guinevere and had an affair with her. This episode finally led to the downfall of King Arthur, a fate Sir Lancelot bemoaned till his last days.
Historically, the earliest mentions of the White Knight in Arthurian literature can be traced back to the 12th century writings of Chretien de Troyes. In his writing, Chretien makes Sir Lancelot out to be among the top three knights of King Arthur. It was also in his writings that Chretien made Lancelot the champion of the King himself and later embroiled him in a story involving an affair with the Queen.
According to historical legends, the White Knight was born to King Ban of Benwick. While he was still an infant, his father the King had to flee from his kingdom and then from his subsequent refuge as well. As the King and his wife fled, their infant son was left behind. He was picked up by the Lady of the Lake who then kept him and brought him up. This child eventually mastered combat and other skills under the care of the Lady of the Lake. Ultimately, when he grew up, the child received fame first as the White Knight and then as Sir Lancelot.
Among the earliest adventures in which White Knight partook, was his confrontation with the Dolorous Guards. These were a group of twenty knights who guarded the castle of the Copper Knight. Copper Knight challenged the White Knight and the White Knight, in response, defeated more than twenty knights before reaching the quarters of the Copper Knight himself. But Copper Knight fled, leaving his castle behind.
It was in the town near Copper Knight’s castle that the White Knight finally discovered his original name. After Copper Knight had fled and the White Knight had control of the castle, he was led by the local people of the town to a cemetery. He was told that the cemetery had a very heavy slab of metal which could be lifted by only one knight, and this knight would find his name upon lifting up the slab. The White Knight attempted to lift up the slab and succeeded. And under the slab, he found “Lancelot” written. From then onwards, the White Knight took up his rightful name.
Galehaut was one of the most prominent and skilled knights in the Arthurian legends. He rose to challenge King Arthur for the very control of his kingdom. And with the help of his loyal followers, superior forces and nobility of character, Galehaut was on the verge of winning the war against King Arthur. However, he was awed by the bravery of the White Knight, Sir Lancelot, while on the battlefield and took him to be his closest friend. Lancelot asked Galehaut to surrender to King Arthur, despite his victory, and let King Arthur rule his realm. Galehaut conceded and he and Lancelot had a long friendship until their deaths.
Although the White Knight was one of the most trusted companions of King Arthur and defended the King in every battle, he also fell in love with Queen Guinevere. This love was reciprocated by the queen and the two became lovers. They had a long affair until King Arthur was informed about it. The King then ordered the death of the Queen and reluctantly decided to wage war against Lancelot. However, in the ensuing warfare, King Arthur was forced to fight and defeat his adopted son Mordred in battlefield, and himself died of his wounds. The White Knight rescued Queen Guinevere but both felt that the burden of King Arthur and his companion’s deaths lay on them. So Queen Guinevere became a nun and later, the White Knight also became an ascetic.
The White Knight was tricked into believing that Elaine of Corbenic was Queen Guinevere. After he had slept with her, he realised the trick and wanted to kill Elaine but learned that she was pregnant with his child. This child grew up to be Sir Galahad, deemed the bravest knight in the world by King Arthur. According to Arthurian legends, Galahad was the embodiment of piety and chastity. Together with Galahad and Percival, the White Knight later set out in the quest for Holy Grail. However, he was awarded only a single glimpse of the Grail while his son, Galahad, was destined to behold it.
The Arthurian legends state that the White Knight Sir Lancelot became a hermit in his later years. Many years after the death of King Arthur, he learned about the death of Queen Guinevere. He himself met his death within days of the Queen’s death. Although he wished to be buried by the King and the Queen, he was instead buried at the castle of the Joyous Guard, by his lifelong friend Galehaut.
The White Knight was the title used by King Arthur’s renowned knight, Sir Lancelot. Lancelot was among the earliest Knights of the Round Table and was King’s champion in many contests. He was considered the greatest swordsman and jouster. According to legends, he was brought up by the Lady of the Lake and early in his life, he had no recollection of his real name. So he went by the title of the White Knight. Later, at the site of the Dolorous Guard, he was able to discover his name in a cemetery and resumed it. Sir Lancelot fought bravely on behalf of King Arthur in many battles but ultimately, his love for Queen Guinevere caused the downfall of the King.