Malory’s description at this point makes me almost wonder if he has some kind of preference between Sir Gawaine and Sir Launcelot, like, he thinks one of them is a generally awful person and the other is the best knight ever who totally deserves to sleep with Guenever.
Anyway. Launcelot monologues his response: “Alas most noble Christian realm, whom I have loved above all other realms, and in thee I have gotten a great part of my worship, and now I shall depart in this wise. Truly me repenteth that ever I came in this realm, that should be thus shamefully banished, undeserved and causeless; but fortune is so variant, and the wheel so moveable, there nis none constant abiding, and that may be proved by many old chronicles, of noble Ector, and Troilus, and Alisander the Mighty Conquerer, and many mo other; when they were most in their royalty, they alighted lowest. And so fareth it by me, for in this realm I had worship, and by me and mine all the whole Round Table hath been increased more in worship by me and mine blood, than by any other. And therefore wit thou well, Sir Gawaine, I may live upon my lands as well as any knight that here it. And if ye, most redoubted king, will come upon my lands with Sir Gawaine to war upon me, I must endure you as well as I may. But as to you, Sir Gawaine, that if ye come there, I pray you charge me not with treason nor felony, for an ye do, I must answer you.”
Gawaine shakes awake when he realizes Launcelot has stopped talking. “I’m sorry, what? I wasn’t listening.”
Launcelot quakes with rage as he lists off his main points. “I’m leaving England. I’m sorry I ever came here. You guys are jerks and your Round Table would have collapsed a long time ago without me holding it up. I’m going home to Benwick. If you guys decide to invade Benwick, you’ll be met with an army. Also, Sir Gawaine, you in particular are an ass.”
Gawaine scoffs. “Yeah, go running home to Benwick! Better lay in supplies, because it’s going to be along siege!”
“No siege,” says Launcelot. “You invade, I meet you in the field and crush you.”
“Shut up and hand over Guenever,” is the whole of Gawaine’s response.
Guenever’s been standing there this whole time, listening to Launcelot and Gawaine bicker. She clears her throat to speak, but then Launcelot turns to her.
“Madam, now I must depart from you and this noble fellowship for ever; and sithin it is so, I beseech you to pray for me, and say me well; and if ye be hard bestead by any false tongues, lightly lady send me word, and if any knight’s hands may deliver you by battle, I shall deliver you.“
Everyone in Camelot, king, duke, baron, earl, knight, lady, gentlewoman, everybody breaks down sobbing as Sir Launcelot, the best night ever, leaves, never to return. It’s a tremendously dramatic moment, Malory assures us. Violins swelling, cameras spinning, and Sir Gawaine the only holdout on the waterworks.
As you might expect, the whole of the Benwick faction goes with him. Not just Launcelot’s relatives, Sir Lionel and Sir Ector the Lesser and Sir Bors and so on, but also Sir Palomides, Sir Safere, Sir Lavaine, Sir Urre, with many others. When they arrive in Benwick (which Malory says in either Bayonne or Burgundy, I guess because they both start with a B) Launcelot puts together a huge parliament, where he sets up a new feudal system displacing the one Arthur set up at the end of Book V.
And now, another list! Launcelot’s new feudal arrangement!
SUPER KING OF EVERYTHING: Launcelot
King of Benwick: Ector the Lesser (also overking of Lionel and Bors)
King of France: Lionel
King of King Claudas’s lands: Bors
Duke of Limosin: Sir Blamore
Duke of Poictiers: Sir Bleoberis
Duke of Querne: Sir Gahalantine
Duke of Sentonge: Sir Galihodin
Earl of Perigot: Sir Plenorius
Earl of Masauke: Sir Selises
Earl of Tursauk: Sir Melias de Lile
Duke of Landok: Sir Safere
Earl of Agente: Sir Clegis
Earl of Surlat: Sir Sadok
Duke of Anjou: Sir Dinas, Mark’s former seneschal
Duke of Normandy: Sir Clarrus
Earl of “the Lands:” Sir Bellangere le Beuse
Duke of “the Province:” Sir Palomides
And many more that meseemeth it were too long to rehearse.