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The Lady of Shalott


   Mystic Realms        Arthur, the rightful king

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The Lady of Shalott

 Elaine of Astolat

John William Waterhouse - The Lady of Shalott, 1888

'And at the closing of the day, 

she loosed the chain and down she lay.

 The broad stream bore her far away

The Lady of Shalott.'


Read her story in  

Tennyson's Lady of Shalott  


  'Lancelot and Elaine'.


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The Legend of Elaine, the Lily maid of Astolat  

( or Ascalot, or Escalot )

As with most legends, there are subtle differences as told by different authors in different generations. What follows is the general story, although details may vary in other tellings.

Her story begins in Thomas Malory's
Le Morte d'Arthur, when her father Bernard of Astolat organizes a jousting tournament, attended by King Arthur and his knights. While Lancelot was not originally planning to attend, he was convinced otherwise and ended up visiting Bernard and his two sons prior to the tournament.

Lancelot was in her family's household, Elaine becomes enamoured with him and begged him to wear her token at the coming tournament. Explaining that Guinevere would be at the tournament, he conceded to wear the token but that he would have to fight in disguise so as not to be recognised. He then asks Bernard if he can leave his recognizable shield with him, and borrow a more anonymous looking one. Bernard agrees and lends him the plain-white shield of Torre, Elaine's brother.

Lancelot goes on to win the jousting tournament, still in disguise, fighting against King Arthur's party and beating forty of them in the tournament. He did however receive an injury to his side from Bors's lance, and had to be carried off the field by Lavaine to the hermit Sir Baudwin's (an ex-Round Table knight) cave. Elaine then urges her father to let her bring the wounded Lancelot to her chambers, where she nurses him. When Lancelot is well, he makes ready to leave, and offers to pay Elaine for her services; insulted, Elaine brings him down his shield she had been guarding, and a wary Lancelot leaves the castle, never to return, aware of her feelings for him.

Ten days later,
Elaine dies of heartbreak. As per her instructions, her body is placed in a small boat, clutching a lily in one hand, and her final letter in the other. She then floats down the Thames to Camelot where she is discovered by King Arthur's court. They summon Lancelot and read to him the contents of the letter, after which he explains what had happened. Lancelot proceeds to pay for her funeral richly and her mass-penny, at her request.


"But Launcelot mused a little space;

He said 'She has a lovely face;

God in his mercy lend her grace,

The Lady of Shalott."'



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