Sir Lancelot May Have Been Inspired by Hungary's King Laszlo, Pow Says
The famed knight of the Round Table, Sir Lancelot du Lac, may very well have been based on Hungary's King Laszlo, also known as Ladislaus I, according to Stephen Pow, doctoral student in the Department of Medieval Studies at CEU, who presented his argument at an event at the Hungarian Institute of Paris co-hosted by the International Medieval Society of Paris.
In his talk, entitled "Laszlo to Lancelot: Hungarian Kings, Arthurian Knights," Pow contends that "the original inspiration for Lancelot appears to be none other than the chivalric King Ladislaus I of Hungary (1077-1095), leader-elect of the First Crusade and sainted monarch of the Arpadian dynasty."
Stephen Pow's talk in the Hungarian Institute of Paris drew crowds from French academia. The moderator was Marianne Sághy, associate professor of the Department of Medieval Studies at CEU, who organized the event. Orsolya Csomo, musicologist, professor at ELTE Szombathely and director of the Pueri Castelli children's choir of Varpalota, sang ancient Hungarian and Latin Gregorian songs in honor of Saint Ladislaus of Hungary. Discussant Anne Wagner, professor at the Université of Franche- Comté, appreciated Pow's plausible hypothesis that Hungary's own King Laszlo was the model for Sir Lancelot, the most perfect of the knights of the Round Table. The pronunciation of the names is nearly identical.
Lancelot first appeared in the Chrétien de Troyes' "Le Chevalier de la charette" at the end of the 12th century. The commission to write a romance featuring the Hungarian king might well have been related to the marriage of Margaret Capet and King Bela III in 1186, Pow said. He went on to show that there was a precedent for including Hungarian historical figures into narratives and described the subtle ways that the political agendas of the period are reflected in Arthurian romances.
Special thanks to Janos Havasi, Balazs Palvolgyi, Raeleen Chai Elsholz and Lindsey Hansen as well as to Professor Michelle Szkilnik of the Université de Sorbonne, Paris.