Finally, his relations with Guenevere are revealed to Arthur by the sons of King Lot, Gawain, however, taking no part in the disclosure.
The story of the loves of Lancelot and Guenevere, as related by Chretien, has about it nothing spontaneous and genuine; in no way can it be compared with the story of Tristan and Iseult.
The Arthurian cycle must have its own love-tale; Guenevere, the leading lady of that cycle, could not be behind the courtly ladies of the day and lack a lover; one had to be found for her.
In these either Merlin made the table for Uther Pendragon, or it had belonged to Leodegrance, king of Cornwall and father of Guenevere, and was given to Arthur on his marriage with that princess.
Wace, who, while translating Geoffrey, evidently knew, and used, popular tradition, combines these two, asserting that she was of Roman parentage on the mother's side, but cousin to Cador of Cornwall by whom she was brought up. The tradition relating to Guenevere is decidedly confused and demands further study.
The Welsh triads know no fewer than three Gwenhwyfars; Giraldus Cambrensis, relating the discovery of the royal tombs at Glastonbury, speaks of the body found as that of Arthur's second wife; the prose Merlin gives Guenevere a bastard half-sister of the same name, who strongly resembles her; and the Lancelot relates how this lady, trading on the likeness, persuaded Arthur that she was the true daughter of Leodegrance, and the queen the bastard interloper.
This episode of the false Guenevere is very perplexing.
To the majority of English readers Guenevere is best known in connexion with her liaison with Lancelot, a story which, in the hands of Malory and Tennyson, has assumed a form widely different from the original conception, and at once more picturesque and more convincing.
In the French romances Lancelot is a late addition to the Arthurian cycle, his birth is not recorded till long after the marriage of Arthur and Guenevere, and he is at least twenty years the junior of the queen.
But though Guenevere has changed her lover, the tradition of her infidelity is of much earlier date and formed a part of the primitive Arthurian legend.
Early in 1858 Morris published The Defence of Guenevere, which was almost unnoticed by contemporary criticism, but is now recognized as one of the pearls of Victorian poetry.