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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 45

Summary and Notes

The author again reiterates the differences between the lifelong passion of medieval adults and the fleeting adolescent fumblings of the modern day. He marvels at the fact that it has taken Lancelot and Guenever 25 years to reach an “understanding;” a romantic peace in their relationship; we moderns would have no time for that.

White turns his focus to the King, who, while Lancelot and Guenever have been redefining and solidifying their relationship, has been “inventing Law as Power,” a variation of Right as Might.

The author notes that the main reason Arthur allows Guenever and Lancelot to keep betraying him is simply because he has so much power. They are both entirely at his mercy, and his generous and kind spirit cannot bear to confront the power that he has over them.

The kingdom is at a temporary peace; the Orkney faction is sidelined for a few years, and Arthur has the leisure time to work on reinventing the justice system of England - but that is the topic of Book Four.

Lancelot has one more confrontation with God and his conflict between the spirit and the flesh in the book.

A knight from Hungary named Sir Urre arrives at Camelot. After killing the son of a Spanish witch seven years previous, Urre had been cursed with wounds that would not heal. His wounds would go on bleeding until the best knight in the world laid hands on him.

The question has been left unanswered as to what exactly happened to Galahad after the Search for the Holy Grail. The reader will remember that he unhorsed his father Lancelot, and was declared the best knight in the world, leaving Lancelot second. Galahad allegedly went to Babylon, but beyond that, the reade4r does not know whether he is alive or dead, and so by extension, whether Lancelot is the best knight or not.

A sumptuous ceremony is put on for Lancelot to try his powers on Sir Urre. Lancelot, understandably, is more than a little reluctant and nervous. The author asks the reader: How would you feel to be the best in the world? The pressure to be the best is tremendous, and the repeated trials nerve-racking and exhausting. Lancelot is no different, and his anxiety is compounded by the fact that he wants so desperately to perform miracles. A laying-on of hands is so obviously Christ-like and miraculous that for Lancelot, the meaning of Sir Urre is too heavily symbolic to bear. He prays mightily before the ceremony to be allowed to perform the miracle.

The knights, one by one, go to Urre and attempt to cure him, and all 100 of them fail. Lancelot believes in his heart that he will not be able to perform the miracle because of his current ongoing affair with Guenever. He pleads with both Arthur and Urre not to make him try, because then he will be forced to tell of his love for the Queen, but neither listens to him.

White chooses not to let the reader actually see the miracle; Guenever, standing from a distance hears bystanders yelling about what has taken place: Lancelot has cured Urre. Camelot is in an uproar with joy and amazement. Lancelot, for his part, is overwhelmed and grateful that he has been allowed to perform a miracle despite trading God for Guenever. He kneels and weeps “like a child.”

The fact that Lancelot is allowed to be pure despite is sin is the real miracle in this section. It must be remembered that Christ himself was believed to be both man and divine, and Lancelot is in the chapter as well: able to perform miracles yet be seduced by earthly love. Therefore, he has completed his Christian journey as both a knight and a man.

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