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Chretien de Troyes

De Troyes was both a writer and poet for the French court, and also a troubadour and courtier. The exact date of his birth is uncertain although it is thought that he was born in Troyes, Champagne, France during the twelfth-century.

Chretien is believed to have been influenced in his interpretative writing by of Arthurian legend and historical fact by an Anglo-Norman writer, ‘Robert Wace’ of the mid-twelfth-century. He enjoyed the patronage of ‘Henry II’ and was a sympathetic writer on Henry Tudor’s search/claim of ascendance to the British throne. It has been suggested that Chretien de Troyes drew much of his inspiration for his writing from the Welsh Chronicles of the Mabinogion but this is the subject of debate.

Chretien was responsible for the first reference to the legendary naming of Arthur’s court of  ‘Camelot’ as an imaginary location, a place of plenty, hope and prosperity overseen by King Arthur himself. He is also believed to have been clever in allying the persona of Guinevere, to the ‘Countess Marie de Champagne’, daughter of ‘Louis VII of France’. Chretien later dedicated ‘Yvain and Lancelot’ to her, but the Lancelot known in previous Arthurian romances now became ‘Lancelot du Lac’, a Knight without peer, and saviour of Guinevere from a condemned death. Chretien’s writing on this adulterous union has been described as being extremely romantic and erotic with Arthur depicted as an ineffective husband even if he was a committed defender and governor of Christendom in Britain. ‘Sir Kay’ is redrawn, turned into a villain, making Lancelot du Lac the only heroic character. Chretien introduces the unfinished story of ‘Perceval’ (c.AD1180), and the stories of ‘Erec et Enide’(c.AD1160),  and‘Geraint’.

At the time of his death in c.AD1183, Chretien’s work was extremely popular across medieval Europe, and was to continue to influence future French Arthurian legend writers and also it is thought Sir Thomas Malory of the fifteenth-century.