Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart


Lancelot ou le Chevalier de la charrette (Lancelot, the knight of the cart) is the third Arthurian novel written by Chrétien de Troyes (circa 1135−circa 1181). It was composed between 1176 and 1181 at the request of Marie de Champagne. This novel in octosyllabic verses is part of the Holy Grail cycle, the four volumes of which are kept at the Bibliothèque nationale de France under shelf-marks FR 113 to FR 116. This copy of the novel was commissioned by book lover Jacques d’Armagnac, duke of Nemours and count of La Marche, between 1470 and 1475. He called upon illuminator Evrard‏ d'Espinques (1414−1494), from Cologne, to illustrate the work. In the novel, Lancelot sets out to rescue Queen Guinevere, who has been kidnapped and is being kept prisoner by Meleagant. To reach his goal, Lancelot has to overcome a number of obstacles and make sacrifices along an initiatory journey. One of these sacrifices is the source of the “knight of the cart” in the title. In order to save his lady, Lancelot reluctantly must get into a convict cart driven by a cattle keeper, a sign of utmost social shame in the Middle Ages. By doing so, he loses his honor and is ostracized under the very code of knighthood that requires him to make the sacrifice. This novel is a good example of fin'amor or fol’amor (courtly love), the ideal love story in medieval literature.

Last updated: October 17, 2017