Is it true? Was Queen Gwenevere Faerie? Was her marriage to King Arthur more than a marriage to unite the divided territories of Great Britain around the Roundtable and ensure future progeny? What was Merlin’s grand design to bring about the conception of Arthur by magical workings of visionary forces and then foster him out to an ordinary common folk family until he was ready for his kingship to commence? Why did Merlin play an integral role at the dawn of Arthur’s kingship only to see him lose direction and fade away dying an ignominious death at the hands of his bastard son, Mordred? What failed to be achieved that did not play out on the grand stage that once was Camelot?
Gwenevere appears as a rather lack luster figure in Arthurian legend, neither powerful, having the authority of a Queen or any linkage to a historically recorded figure. In addition, she did not come into the marriage from among the various families of nobility as a political power alliance with a well-endowed dowry of land. Her ancestry also seems tenuous at best and of little help to Arthur who unlike other royalty did not inherit his throne but had to fight for it. Queen Gwenevere is chiefly known for her affair with her husband’s best knight and friend, Lancelot. Also notable is her childlessness and the constant attempted abductions involving her retrieval back to Camelot by various knights and King Arthur himself. So what gives?
According the Wendy Berg (who wrote the book, Red Tree, White Tree: Faeries and Humans in Partnership) the marriage of Gwenevere to Arthur only falls into place and makes sense if we realize that Gwenevere is Faerie. Berg points out that the intension behind the marriage and Gwenevere’s reign as Arthur’s wife within the human world was to build a bridge of understanding between the two races Faerie and human, for others to follow in the future. The Faerie race is of the stars and theirs is the blood of white star-fire represented by the white tree (The name Gwen meaning “White” is used often for Faerie as well as Celtic names.); the human race of the red blood of the earth is represented by the red tree. In this way the spiritual forces in the worlds above us which inspire and illuminate our divine natures are united with the deeper earth bound forces of the collective unconscious are brought together for the benefit of the planet and humankind.
Gwenevere’s central purpose is simply to be Faerie among humans and her union with Arthur was “…an attempt to explore and heal the relationship between the two races which inhabit the earth, Faery and human…” (Berg, 2010, p.12). This healing is paramount to the well-being of the planet. In addition we are given to understand that Arthur’s parents, Uther Pendragon, who is of faerie origin, and Ygrainne, who is a Priestess, were ostensibly brought together due to the grand design initiated by Merlin “to create a fully human King whose stellar [faerie] ancestry would, it was hoped, allow him to more easily bridge the gap between Faery and human” (Berg, 2010, p. 69) and bring to fruition a higher vibratory impulse in the outer world.
While this perspective of Arthurian legend may at first seem fantastical and far reaching, after sitting with it for a while, it fell into place and explained much of what for most of us is nonsensical behavior by various characters that people the narrative. The Faerie origin of the three main protagonists, Arthur, Gwenevere and Merlin, provides an underlying theory of purpose behind what is probably “…one of the richest outpourings of story in western civilization” (Berg, 2010, p.67).
If further exploration of Arthurian legend interests you along this vein, I suggest you read Berg’s entire book which is a meticulously researched and well thought out treaties on the faerie origin narrative behind King Arthur’s marriage to Queen Gwenevere, and his knights of the Roundtable intent upon the Grail Quest.
Berg, Wendy (2010). Red Tree, White Tree: Faeries and Humans in Partnership. Skylight Press: Gloucester, Great Britain.