In the Arthurian legends*, the Lady of Shalott was a young woman named Elaine of Astolat who died of unfulfilled love for Sir Lancelot, the greatest of King Arthur's knights. Lancelot had entered a jousting tournament but wanted to hide his true identity so he asked Elaine to give him a different shield. In return, he agreed to wear her colors in the tournament.
Lancelot won the contest, but he was injured and fled to avoid being discovered. Elaine found him and nursed him back to health. She also revealed her love for him. However, Lancelot could not return her affections because he loved Guinevere.
joust fight on horseback between two knights
The heartbroken Elaine died of grief, but before dying, she wrote a letter to Lancelot requesting that he bury her. Her father placed the letter in her hand and put her body on a barge, which a mute boatman rowed to King Arthur's court at Camelot. Lancelot saw the barge and recognized Elaine. When King Arthur read Elaine's letter, he asked Lancelot to bury her, thus granting her final request.