is not an Irish legend, however it is a very poignant tale of the great
love of a woman for Sir Lancelot of Arthurian legend.
a maiden loved Sir Lancelot, but his heart had been pledged to Queen Guinevere
from the moment he joined King Arthur's company at Camelot. So the maidens
sighed in vain, and most gave up the chase. Only one ever matched with
her affection the perfect, tragic exclusivity of Lancelot's passion for
the Queen. That woman was Elaine of Astolat, the fair, the loveable, the
lily maid. When she first saw Lancelot, from the tower of her father's
castle, she did not even know who he was. He was riding in disguise to
test his valor without the support of his formidable reputation.
father gave him shelter for the night, as was the custom of the day. Elaine
sat by him in her father's hall. When she found out that he was to fight
in a tourney (a display of skill) held each year in Camelot, she asked
him if he would wear her favor. This was an expected courtesy, for knights
often rode into battle wearing ribbons or silks from the ladies they loved.
Lancelot was an exception because he could not wear Guinevere's favor and
he vowed to wear no other. He refused Elaine's request, but when he saw
her stricken look, he relented. A favor, after all, would add to his disguise.
But Elaine took the gesture seriously.
Lancelot rode into the jousting field bearing a white shield Elaine's scarlet
sleeve, embroidered with pearls. He was not recognized that day as he unseated
forty and he himself was wounded by a spear. He rode back to Elaine with
his injury. She nursed him lovingly for months, and when he was healed,
she asked him to marry her. He told her as gently as he could, that he
would never marry. She offered to become his paramour. Appalled, Lancelot
said that his heart was given elsewhere and returned alone to Camelot.
simply wasted and died for love. Her deathbed, at her request, was a barge
set upon a river to drift to Camelot. It was Lancelot who found her and
who sadly buried her.