The Legend of Guy of Warwick, Warwickshire
The British love a story of knights errant and lost love, witness the Arthurian legends. Another such is the story of Sir Guy of Warwick. And just as with the tales of King Arthur there is perhaps hidden away deep in the story the tiniest kernel of truth.
Many different versions of the tale have been written and told, reflecting the preoccupations and fascinations of their own day. But it is possible to pick out the more or less constant episodes from them.
Guy was born of humble stock in the tenth century, but he became a page to the Earl of Warwick. Seeing the Earl’s daughter Felice so often he inevitably fell in love with her, but she told him that to win her love in return he would have to travel far and wide and perform great feats of arms. And this he did, his travels and battles ranging through France, Germany and even into the Middle East. His opponents were not limited to other knights either – he fought giants, dragons, and monsters on his quest for glory. Rather incongruously one of the monsters he killed was a massive dun cow driven mad by a prankster.
When finally he was satisfied with his fame, he returned to wed Felice, but no sooner had they married than he was overcome with revulsion for the slaughter he had wrought wherever he went, and as penance decided on an immediate pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Again after years away he felt his duty done, and returned incognito to Warwick. Back again in England he found the Danes had conquered much of the country, but in single combat he slew their champion, the giant Colbrand. Still incognito he even worked for Felice for a time before becoming a hermit, sometimes given food by his wife, though he never revealed his identity until death was knocking at his door, when he proved himself her husband by showing a ring she had given him. Stricken with grief Felice followed him to the grave not long after.
A cave supposedly linked with Guy when a hermit exists in Warwick, and is now a listed ancient monument containing a statue of the hermit-knight carved from the stone there.
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