Lynette and Lyonesse

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Arthur Rackham: "Sir Gareth battling the evil Red Knight while his Lady Lioness watches on"

In the Arthurian legend, Lynette (alternatively known as Linnet, Linette, Lynet, or Lyonet) is a haughty noble lady who travels to King Arthur's court seeking help for her beautiful sister Lyonesse (also Linesse, Lionesse, Lyonorr and other names), whose lands are besieged by the Red Knight of the Red Lands.

Lynette and Lyonesse in Malory[edit]

The sisters are most famously depicted in Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. In Book IV: “The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney”, Dame Lynette comes to court asking for assistance against the Red Knight of the Red Lands. Since Lynette refuses to reveal her name for reasons which are not explained, she is presented with a kitchen servant instead of a champion. He says his name is Beaumains, but he is really Gareth of Orkney in disguise. On their journey, the pair encounters the Black, Green, Red, and Blue knights and the Red knight of the Red Lands. Gareth kills the Black Knight, incorporates the others into Arthur’s court, and rescues Lynette's sister Lyonesse. Lustily in love with Lyonesse, Gareth conspires to consummate their relationship before marrying. Only by the magical intervention of Lynette is their tryst unsuccessful, thus preserving Gareth's virginity and, presumably, his standing with God. Gareth later counsels Lyonesse to report to King Arthur and pretend she doesn’t know where he is; instead, he tells her to announce a tournament of his knights against the Round Table. This allows Gareth to disguise himself and win honor by defeating his brother knights. The heralds eventually acknowledge that he is Sir Gareth right as he strikes down Sir Gawain, his brother. The book ends with Gareth rejoining his fellow knights and marrying Lyonesse. At court, Lynette falls in love with another of Gareth's brothers, Gaheris.

In other adaptations[edit]

  • In Gerald Morris' The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf, Lynet is the feisty main character, and Lyonesse, in a new twist, is cruel and stupid. In this adaptation, the reason Lynet does not reveal her name to King Arthur is that her father fought in a battle against him; she fears the King would therefore turn her away if he knew her identity. Lynet is a recurring character throughout the series.
  • Lynette is also the main character of Vera Chapman's The King's Damosel.
  • In Alfred Tennyson's poem Gareth and Lynette, the poet implies that it is Lynette whom Gareth marries.