About ten minutes after the Quest for the Holy Grail ended, Sir Launcelot fell back into his old bad habits of adultery-having and Guenever-loving. He would sit, at meals or Mass or simply clutching his silver Grail medal (Sir Bors won the gold, since he not only entered the Grail chamber but went all the way to Sarras and came back alive); to outward appearances he seemed lost in prayer or reflection, but really in his mind’s eye he committed adulterous act after adulterous act after adulterous act, with Guenever.
Guenever, for her part, was just as bad. They couldn’t keep their hands off one another, says Malory; they were together more hotter than they did to-forehand. It soon became unseemly; don’t think that tongues weren’t wagging in court about it. Wag number one was Sir Agravaine, the least interesting of Sir Gawaine’s several brothers.
But all was not well in Launcelot-Guenever Adultery Land! A hilarious pattern emerged, which ran like so. One, a maiden would show up requesting the best and most eligible knight accompany her on a strange adventure. Two, everyone would point at Sir Launcelot, since his wife Elaine’s death (of grief) meant he was available again. Three, Launcelot would reluctantly leave Camelot with the maiden, and complete the strange adventure. Four, Guenever would become suspicious of Launcelot’s time with the maiden, and also resentful because even if nothing happened between them (as he would always insist) the strange adventure cut into Launcelot/Guenever canoodling time. Five, Launcelot would resent her suspicion and resentment. Six, they would ignore one another’s simmering resentments, leaving Launcelot looking for an excuse to avoid Guenever, which circles us back to step one.
Eventually, one day, Guenever decided she’d had it! She called Launcelot into her chamber and bawled him out, complaining about how he was all the time gallivanting around and never had enough time for her.
Launcelot responded by blaming Guenever (and the distraction of sex with her) for his failure to get further than the threshold of the Grail chamber back in Book XVII, which was kind of a non sequitur but whatever. He claimed he’d cooled their affair only out of respect for her crown and fear of their discovery.
“And if I had not had my privy thoughts to return to your love again as I do, I had seen as great mysteries as ever saw my son Galahad, outher Percivale or Sir Bors; wit ye well, madam, I was but late in that quest.” Launcelot always called Guenever madam when he’s mad at her. “Wit ye well, madam, it may not be yet lightly forgotten the high service in whom I did my diligent labour. Also, madam, wit ye well that there be many men speak of our love in this court, and have you and me greatly in await, as Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred; and madam, wit ye well I dread them more for your sake than for any fear I have of them myself, for I may happen to escape and rid myself in a great need, where ye must abide all that will be said unto you. I mean, if the worst should happen I can always jump on a horse and leave, madam, and leave you here in Camelot holding the bag. And then if that ye fall in any distress through willful folly, then is there none other remedy or help but me and my blood? You want I should let myself get arrested, tried, and executed for you, madam?”
“I –” Guenever tried to answer him, but Launcelot was on a roll.
“And wit ye well, madam, the boldness of you and me will bring us to great shame and slander; and that were me loath to see you dishonoured. And that is the cause I take upon me more for to do for damosels and maidens than ever I did to-fore, that men should understand my joy and my delight is my pleasure to have ado for damosels and maidens. I’m Sir Launcelot, Knight in Shining Armor, the knight who is the best and the most generous. That’s my whole public persona! I lose that reputation, I stop living up to it, I cease to be the Knight in Shining Armor pretty quick. Suddenly I’m Sir Launcelot the Queenfucker!”
She looked daggers at him, over folded arms. “Are you done?”
Guenever then rebutted like so: she burst into tears and accused Launcelot of not loving her, and of sleeping with other ladies behind her back. “For wit thou well,” she spit, “now I understand thy falsehood and therefore shall I never love thee no more. And wit thou well never be thou so hardy to come in my sight; and wit thou well I discharge thee this court, that thou never come within it!”
Launcelot did a double-take. “Exile? Again? What will you tell Arthur?”
“That’s my problem! Go!”
Sir Launcelot burst into tears himself, and fled the scene. He went immediately to the handful of knights he trusted implicitly: Sir Bors, Sir Ector the Lesser, and Sir Lionel. Guenever’s kicked him out of Camelot and he’s going home to Benwick to sulk, he tells them.
“Launcelot, my friend,” said Bors, “take it from a guy who got a gold medal in Grail-finding. Guenever’s upset, but she’ll calm down and regret her actions. She’s a lady! Ladies do that all the time. Men also do that all the time, but I’m putting this in sexist terms because my dialogue is being written by Sir Thomas Malory. You’re a good guy. Get out of Camelot, but don’t go far; just go up the road to Castle Winsdor, and get my friend Sir Brastias to put you up for a while. I’ll let you know when Guenever’s ready to talk to you again.”
“You’ll talk to her for me?” Launcelot knew that Guenever held Bors in high regard (again, Grail-finding). “I’d owe you a big-time favor.”
Bors waved the offer away. “Ye need not to move me of such matters, for well ye wot I will do what I may to please you.”