A female knight who exemplifies chastity in Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. In Spenser’s allegory, Britomart is one representative of Queen Elizabeth. She was the daughter of King Rions (Rience) of South Wales.
She fell in love with a knight named Artegall after seeing a vision of him in a mirror. Traveling to Fairy Land to find him, she became the companion of Prince Arthur, Sir Guyon, and the Red Cross Knight, the latter of whom she helped to escape from the Castle Joyous. Among other adventures, she encountered Merlin and heard his prophecies of the future of Britain, and she rescued the maiden Amoret from the prison of the sorcerer Busirane.
Britomart and Amoret encountered Artegall and Scudamore (Amoret’s amie) with visors over their faces, and Britomart fought both of them, defeating Scudamore and fighting Artegall to a draw. Their identities were revealed. Britomart and Artegall fell in love and were swiftly betrothed, but Artegall had to leave to finish a quest assigned to him by Gloriana, the Fairy Queen. He was later captured and imprisoned by Queen Radigund of the Amazons. Britomart heard of his plight from his squire Talus, and she freed him by slaying Radigund.
Spenser took her name from that of the Cretan goddess Britomartis, and was said to have killed Radigund, Queen of the Amazons. The idea of a female knight may have been suggested to Spenser by Marfisa in Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso.
Angela | The Legend of King Arthur
The Faerie Queene | Edmund Spenser, 1570-1599