Guy of Warwick falsely threatened with false accusation of rape

A guy’s life is filled with punishing threats. Consider, for example, the medieval case of Guy of Warwick. He was serving the Roman emperor as an eminent mercenary. The emperor’s seneschal, the wicked and duplicitous Morgadur, pretended to seek Guy’s friendship. In truth, Morgadur was setting Guy up to falsely threaten him with a false accusation of rape.

The seneschal Morgadur invited Guy to play backgammon and chess in the chamber of the emperor’s lovely young daughter Laurette. She and Guy interacted in a way that was normal before affirmative-consent regulations:

“Sir Guy,” she said, “welcome!
Come sit, and you can amuse yourself.”
Guy took her and kissed her.
With great fondness he talked with her.

{ “Sire Gui,” fait ele, “ben viengez!
Venez seer, si vus enveisez.”
Gui la prist, si la beisa,
Par grant amur a lui parla. }

Morgadur and Guy then played chess. Guy quickly defeated Morgadur in three successive games. Morgadur was peeved at his losses.

Morgadur declared that he must go into the city and would be back soon. He advised Guy to amuse himself with Laurette. After Morgadur left, Laurette and Guy amused themselves. Guy of course didn’t rape Laurette. Male primates, including men, typically aren’t interested in raping females.

Morgadur contrived against Guy a false accusation of rape. He went to the emperor and accused Guy:

“Sir,” he said, “I will tell you the news
without concealing your shame.
You have retained a mercenary.
He wishes to humiliate and deceive you.
Your daughter, my young lady-lord,
he makes into a concubine for himself.
He entered into your chamber by force
to corrupt sexually your Laurette.
And if you don’t want to believe me about this,
hasten to return there.
In your chamber you will find him
embracing and kissing your daughter.
Thus I have come to report it to you —
that your shame wouldn’t be hidden from you.
If you order him to be seized
and sent to your dungeon,
and then order him to be judged in your court
to be taken to be hanged or drowned in the sea,
you will be more than enough feared
by all such persons of your realm.
Thus do not ever allow such behavior,
not for him, not for his service.”

{ “Sire,” fait il, “jo vus dirrai,
Vostre hunte pas ne celerai:
Retenuz avez un soldeier,
Honir vus volt e enginner;
De vostre fille, ma damaisele,
Fait en ad de lui ancele,
En voz chambre par force entrat,
Vostre Laurette purjue ad.
E si de ço creire ne me volez,
De repeirer vus hastez;
En vostre chambre le purrez trover
Vostre fille acoler e baiser.
Pur ço le vinc a vus mustrer
Que vostre hunte ne voil celer.
Se vus prendre le feissez
E en vostre chartre me meissez,
En vostre curt le feissez juger,
En halt pendre u en mer neier,
Assez serreies le plus dotez
De tuz icels de voz regnez;
Ne pur ço ne leissez vus mie,
Ne pur lui, ne pur sa aie.” }

Wicked and duplicitous men like Morgadur foster mendacious rape-culture culture. The wise emperor knew better:

“You shouldn’t talk of that,” he said.
“Seneschal, from now on, let it be!
Guy wouldn’t do me wrong,
not as you have said would he do,
even were he to be dismembered.
I know him to be such a loyal knight.”

{ “Ne devez,” fait il, “de ço parler.
Senescal, desore, leissez ester!
Gui vers mei ne mesprendreit,
Ne ço que dit as pas ne freit
Pur les menbres derencher,
Tant le sia leal chevaler” }

The emperor rightly regarded Guy as a good man. He had urged Guy to marry Laurette. Absent evidence showing otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt, you should listen and believe men who say that a good man hasn’t raped a woman. Guy in fact didn’t rape Laurette.

Morgadur then returned to the chamber where Laurette and Guy were amusing themselves together. The wicked and duplicitous seneschal called Guy aside:

“Guy,” he said, “I have the capacity to cherish you much,
so I want now to report to you:
the emperor has been informed
that you have shamed and disgraced him
in that you have corrupted his daughter
and entered her chambers by force.
If he can catch you or seize you,
he will have you burned or hung from high.
Go away, I command you.
Don’t delay by any amount of time.
If in this city you would be found,
you will be delivered to a painful death.”

{ “Gui,” fait il, “mult vus puis amer,
Pur ço le vus voil ore mustrer:
A l’empereur est acointé
Qui hunte li as fait e vilté
Que sa fille purjue avez
En ses chambres a force entrez:
S’il te put ateindre u prendre,
Arder te frat u en halt pendre
Alez vus ent, jol vus comant.
Ne demorez tant ne quant.
Si en ceste cité seiez trové,
A dolerose mort serrez livré.” }

Morgadur thus falsely threatened Guy with a false accusation of rape. False accusations of rape are bad enough. When such false accusations are rightly disregarded, truly evil persons take lying to another level. They falsely threaten a man with a false accusation of rape.

Guy was innocent of the rape charge he allegedly faced. He despaired that the emperor believed the despicable rape charge:

“God,” said Guy, “Indeed this is wrong.
if here I should receive death
for that for which I have no fault at all,
nor have I even thought of doing such.
This morning, when the emperor went away,
by what he said, he loved me very much.
Who can ever put trust
in fine promises and fine words?
So the emperor has said to me
and by the truth promised me,
that he would do me great good and honor.
Now he wants to kill me painfully
because of the words of a scoundrel,
an envious person, a slanderer.”

{ “Dieu,” fait Gui, “ja est ço tort.
Se jo i dei receivre la mort
De ço dunt jo culpes nen ai,
No jo unques ne m’en pensai.
Hui matin, quant il s’en ala,
Par sun dit mult me ama.
Qui se put mes afier
En bel pramettre e bel parler;
Car li empereres dit me aveit
E pur veir me prametteit
Que grant ben me freit e honur,
Ore m’en velt ocire a dolur
Pur le dit d’un paltoner,
D’un envius, d’un losenger.” }

Guy never even thought of raping Laurette. Perhaps he thought of having consensual and mutually enjoyable sex with her after they married. Is such imagination a crime?

Guy was miserable and furious at being falsely accused of raping Laurette. He went to his lodgings and summoned his fellow knights. They armed themselves and left Rome to go to serve the Persian sultan. The sultan was an enemy of the Roman emperor. If you want men to be loyal to you, protect men against false accusations. A good start would be to commemorate and honor prominently the lives of Saint Eugenia and Saint Marina.

The emperor saw Guy and his men leaving. He spurred his horse and quickly went to Guy:

“Guy,” he said, “don’t go forward!”
“Friend,” he said, “let it be!
For what do you want to depart from me?
If I have wronged you in anything,
I beg you, tell me,
whether that wrong be in word, or that be in deed.
If anyone has reproached you for doing wrong,
I want to stand with you forever.
Above all the world I want to love you.”

{ “Gui,” fait il, “n’alez avant!”
“Ami,” fait il, “laisser ester!
Pur quel vols tu de mei aler?
Se jo ai riens mesfait a tei
Jo vus requer, dites le mei,
Seit ço en dit, seit ço en fait.
Se nul vus ad par mal retrait,
A vus me voil redrescer,
Sur tuz del mund vus voil amer.” }

That’s how all authorities should treat falsely accused men. Too often authorities merely kill men, imprison them, or eliminate them in other ways.

Guy of Warwick saving a lion from a dragon

Even after the Romans feted Guy as a hero for leading them to victory over the sultan, Morgadur continued his wickedness toward Guy. Guy had a pet lion that he had rescued from being killed by a dragon. One day, Morgadur killed that lion while it was sleeping. Guy was furious at the slaying of his beloved lion. He swore to kill whomever had killed the lion. Informed that the lion-killer was the seneschal, Guy drew his sword and cleaved Morgadur’s head down to his teeth. Morgadur deserved that fate merely for the false words of his false accusation against Guy.

While Guy never raped anyone, neither woman nor man, he was not morally perfect. He had been acutely lovesick for Felice, the daughter of Count Rualt. He told her that his heart could love only her, and that he loved her above all else. She harshly rejected his love. Nonetheless, he continued to declare his love for her. Years later, in gratitude for Guy’s service, the Roman emperor’s lovely daughter Laurette sought to marry Guy. He initially accepted that attractive marriage proposal, despite his love for the hard-hearted Felice. He thus might be charged with being fickle or disloyal in love.

The archbishop stood ready to solemnize the marriage of Laurette and Guy. The marriage rings were brought forth. Only then did Guy remember Felice. He lamented to himself:

Ah! Felice, beautiful beloved,
How is love for you now parted!
Now I know well that I have done wrong,
when for riches I have loved another.
Now I repent of that, I regret that.
Any other than you I don’t want to love.
It’s better than I love your body only,
and without gold and without silver,
than love another woman for all the world,
for all the riches that are within it.

{ Ahi! Felice, bele amie,
Cum ore est l’amur departie!
Ore sai ben que mesfiat ai,
Quant pur richesce altre amai;
Ore m’en repent, si m’en doil,
Altre de vus amer ne voil,
Mielz amereie tun cors solement,
E senz or e senz argent,
Que une altre od tut le mund,
Od les richesces qui dedenz sunt. }

A wife’s wealth helps men to avoid men’s traditional gender burden of arduous labor to support a wife and children. Guy, however, wasn’t marring the emperor’s lovely daughter Laurette just for her wealth. He had pleasurably amused himself with her. Nonetheless, for love of Felice, who had harshly rejected him, Guy broke off his marriage to Laurette. That was foolish and cruel. He should have totally forgotten about frigid Felice and gone forward to marry the lovely Laurette.

As Guy did, men occasionally make mistakes in love. Such mistakes don’t justify false accusations of rape. Men’s love mistakes also aren’t grounds for falsely threatening them with false accusations of rape. Misdirected penal madness must end for romance to begin.

* * * * *

Read more:


The seneschal Morgadur falsely threatens Guy of Warwick with a false accusation of rape in the medieval Anglo-Norman verse romance Guy of Warwick {Gui de Warewic}. This Anglo-Norman Guy of Warwick is dated to (shortly) “before 1204.” Weiss (2008) p. 14. For a modern English translation of a fifteenth-century Middle English Guy of Warwick, Scott-Robinson (2019).

Weiss translated Morgadur’s false accusation using the term “rape.” For example, “He entered your chambers by force and has raped your Laurette.” Guy of Warwick, vv. 3281-2, trans. Weiss (2008) p. 132. Above I have translated the text more literally. Morgadur didn’t literally accuse Guy of forcing Laurette to have sex with him. Morgadur’s accusation could be interpreted as accusing Guy of having illicit, consensual sex with Laurette. Punishment for illicit sex, like laws criminalizing seduction, has historically been gender-biased toward punishing men. Today’s literary scholarship typically charges fictional men with rape even without clear textual warrant. I have followed that practice above in interpreting the story.

The quotes above are from the medieval Anglo-Norman Gui de Warewic, with the Old French (Anglo-Norman) edition of Ewert (1933) and my English translation, benefiting from that of Weiss (2008). Those quotes are vv. 3245-7 (“Sir Guy,” she said…), 3275-96 (“Sir,” he said…), 3305-10 (“You shouldn’t talk of that”…), 3321-32 (“Guy,” he said, “I have the capacity…”), 3333-46 (“God,” said Guy…), 3384-92 (“Guy,” he said, “don’t go forward!”…), 4231-40 (Ah! Felice, beautiful beloved…).

[image] Guy of Warwick saving a lion from a dragon. Woodcut illustration on page 7 of Rowland (1701). Via Compositor. Also available on Wikimedia Commons. Another illustration in this book shows Guy returning with the dragon’s head and the grateful lion walking at his side. These illustrations also exist in the 1690 edition of Rowland (1701).


Ewert, Alfred, ed. 1933. Gui de Warewic, Roman du XIIIe Siècle. 2 vols. Les classiques français du Moyen Âge, 74-75. Paris: Champion.

Rowland, Samuel. 1701. The Famous History of Guy of Warwick. London: printed for G. Conyers, at the Golden-Ring in Little-Britain. Originally published in 1690.

Scott-Robinson, Richard. 2019. Guy of Warwick translated and retold in modern English prose. Story from Cambridge University Library MS Ff. 2.38, the fifteenth century version (retold from the Middle English of Zupitza, J., 1875 and 1876, reprinted as one volume 1966, Early English Text Society). Eleusinianm.

Weiss, Judith, trans. 2008. Boeve de Haumtone and Gui de Warewic: Two Anglo-Norman Romances. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 332; The French of England Translation Series, 3. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

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