Of all the knights of Arthurís round table, Sir Launcelot is recognized as the greatest that ever lived. In Maloryís Le Morte díArthur, Sir Launcelot has proven himself the most noble and most extraordinary knight of the time of Camelot. Despite his vast acclaim and renowned reputation, certain acts, perhaps in good faith, yet in conflict with the basic political laws of the land, have earned him the second title of traitor.
Sir Launcelot was the most respected knight of King Arthurís court as well as the personal favorite of King Arthurís. Everyone agreed that he was the finest knight in Camelot for he was never defeated in any battle. Often, he even took on multiple enemies alone and, against near impossible odds, emerged victorious. In a personal eulogy, Sir Ector appropriately describes Launcelot: "Sir Launcelot, surely you were the greatest of all Christian knights: none could match you! You were the most formidable in battle and the most courteous in manners; in the company of warriors the most courageous, in the company of ladies the gentlest of men, and in a righteous cause implacableÖ"
Launcelot is the model knight for the code of chivalry. Whether through his prowess in battle or his largesse that everyone admired, he ceaselessly fulfilled each aspect of the code. Throughout the book, he exhibits both honor and loyalty to King Arthur and all his fellow knights. Courtly love is another part of the code of Chivalry. Courtly love is love often between one man and another manís wife. By having an affair with King Arthurís wife, although still abiding by the code of chivalry, his loyalty was put into question.
Sir Launcelot had one dominant flaw; he was hopelessly in love with King Arthurís wife. Merlin once prophesied, "Gwynevere is destined to love Sir Launcelot and he her, and many disasters will result from their love." Unfortunately, his prophecy could not have been more true. Queen Gwynevere did indeed love him and they had an ongoing affair that they were able to keep secret for a while. Eventually they were caught and Arthur, forced by his duty as king, to sentence Queen Gwynevere to be burnt at the stake. While in the midst of being brought to face her punishment at the stake, Launcelot along with his followers attempted to rescue her. He succeeded, but in the process he unintentionally killed the brothers of Sir Gawain, Sirs Gaheris and Gareth. Gawain swore revenge on him, thereby inciting a war between King Arthurís knights and his former knights who chose to defend Launcelot. One death led to another until virtually the whole kingdom had been destroyed. In a succession of events, almost all involving Sir Gawain, Sir Launcelot, King Arthur and even Queen Gwynevere died before their time. Launcelotís betrayal and mistakes essentially led to the end of Camelot.
Despite his mistakes, Sir Launcelot by every means should be considered the greatest and most noble knight ever to live. There is no doubt that he committed some crimes that were inexcusable, but most of these occurred because he had no choice. When he rescued Gwynevere he was forced to kill several men unwillingly out of self-defense, but it cannot be overlooked that of all these men, none were able to defeat him because of his skilled fighting. In fact, no one could defeat him including Sir Gawain who attempted to many times. Even his adultery, although betraying the king, was considered courtly love and according to the code of chivalry made him a better knight. No other knight alone could have brought about the downfall of Camelot as Launcelot did. None else but he, the most respected knight of all, could cause the round table to divide and arouse such motivation and inspiration in the people of Camelot to fight for his cause and oppose their king.