Guy of Warwick

From Academic Kids

Guy of Warwick is a legendary English romantic hero popular in England and France from the 13th to the 17th century.

The principal legend is that Guy falls for the lady Felice who is of much higher social standing. In order to wed Felice he must prove his valour and become a Knight, in order to do this he travels widely battling fantastic monsters such as Dragons, Giants, a Dun Cow and Great Boars. He returns and weds Felice but soon, full of remorse for his violent past, he leaves on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, later he returns and lives out his long life as a hermit (according to local legend in a cave overlooking the River Avon).

Guy, son of Siward or Seguard of Wallingford, by his prowess in foreign wars wins in marriage Felice (the Phyllis of the well-known ballad), daughter and heiress of Roalt, earl of Warwick. Soon after his marriage be is seized with remorse for the violence of his past life, and, by way of penance, leaves his wife and fortune to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. After years of absence he returns in time to deliver Winchester for King Ethelstan from the invading northern kings, Anelaph (Anlaf or Olaf) and Gonelaph, by slaying in single fight their champion the giant Coibrand. Local tradition fixes the duel at Hyde Mead near Winchester. Making his way to Warwick he becomes one of his wifes bedesmen, and presently retires to a hermitage in Arden, only revealing his identity at the approach of death.

The versions of the Middle English romance of Guy which we possess are adaptations from the French, and are cast in the form of a roman daventures, opening with a long recital of Guy's wars in Lombardy, Germany and Constantinople, and embellished with fights with dragons and surprising feats of arms. The kernel of the tradition evidently lies in the fight with Colbrand, which represents, or at least is symbolic1 of an historical fact. The religious side of the legend finds parallels in the stories of St Eustachius and St Alexius, and makes it probable that the Guy-legend, as we have it, has passed through monastic hands. Tradition seems to be at fault in putting Guys adventures under IEthelstan. The Anlaf of the story is probably Olaf Tryggvason, who, with Sweyn of Denmark, harried the southern counties of England in 993 and pitched his winter quarters in Southampton. Winchester was saved, however, not by the valour of an English champion, but by the payment of money. This Olaf was not unnaturally confused with Anlaf Cuaran or Havelok (q.v.).

The name Guy (perhaps a Norman form of A. S. wig= war) may be fairly connected with the family of Wigod, lord of Wallingford under Edward the Confessor, and a Filicia, who belongs to the 12th century and was perhaps the Norman poets patroness, occurs in the pedigree of the Ardens, descended from Thurkill of Warwick and his son Siward. Guys Cliffe, near Warwick, where in the 14th century Richard de Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, erected a chantry, with a statue of the hero, does not correspond with the site of the hermitage as described in the Godfreyson (see HAvEL0K).

The bulk of the legend is obviously fiction, even though it may be vaguely connected with the family history of the Ardens and the Wallingford family, but it was accepted as authentic fact in the chronicle of Pierre de Langtoft (Peter of Langtoft) written at the end of the 13th century. The adventures of Reynbrun, son of Guy, and his tutor Heraud of Arden, who had also educated Guy, have much in common with his fathers history, and form an interpolation sometimes treated as a separate romance. There is a certain connection between Guy and Count Guido of Tours (fi. 800), and Alcuins advice to the count is transferred to the English hero in the Speculum Gy of Warewyke (c. 1327), edited for the Early English Text Society by G. L. Morrill, 1898.

The French romance (Brit. Mus. Han. MS. 3775) has not been printed, but is described by Emile Littr in Hist. litt. de Ia France (xxii., 841-851, 1852). A French prose version was printed in Paris, 1525, and subsequently (see G. Brunet, Manuel du libraire, s. v. Guy de Warvich ); the English metrical romance exists in four versions, dating from the early 14th century; the text was edited by J. Zupitza (187.51876) for the E.E.T.S. from Cambridge University Lib. Paper MS. Ff. 2, 38, and again (~ pts. 1883-1891, extra series, Nos. 42, 49, 59), from the Auchinleck and Caius College MSS. The popularity of the legend is shown by the numerous versions in English: Guy of Warwick, translated from the Latin of Girardus Cornubiensis (fi. 1350) into English verse by John Lydgate between 1442 and 1468; Guy of Warwick, a poem (written in I617 and licensed, but not printed) by John Lane, the MS of which (Brit. Mus.) contains a sonnet by John Milton, father of the poet; The Famous Historie of Guy, Earl of Warwick(c. 1607) by SamuelRowlands; The Booke of the !vfoste Victoryous Prince Guy of Warwicke (William Copland, no date); other editions by J. Cawood and C. Bates; chapbooks and ballads of the 17th and 18th centuries: The Tragical History, Admirable Atchievements and Curious Events of Guy, Earl of Warwick, a tragedy (1661) which may possibly be identical with a play on the subject written by John Day and Thomas Dekker, and entered at Stationers Hall on the 15th of January 1618/19; three verse fragments are printed by Hales and Furnivall in their edition of the Percy Folio MS. vol. ii.; an early French MS. is described by J. A. Herbert (An Early MS. of Gui de Warwick, London, 1905).

See also M. Weyrauch Die mittelengi. Fassungen der Sage von Guy (2 pts., Breslau, 1899 and 1901); J. Zupitza in Sitzungsber. d. phil.hist. KI. d. kgl. Akad. d. Wiss. (vol. lxxiv., Vienna, 1874), and Zur Literaturgeschichte des Guy von Warwick (Vienna, 1873); a learned discussion of the whole subject by H. L. Ward, Catalogue of Ronrances (i. 47 1-501, 1883); and an article by S. L. Lee in the Dictionary of National Biography.


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