Representative of holiness in Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. He carried a shield with a bloody red cross on it.
He was commissioned by Gloriana, the Fairy Queen, to accompany Una to the kingdom of her parents and deliver them from a dragon that was scourging their land. On the way, he was tricked by the evil sorcerer Archimago into believing Una a wanton, and he abandoned her.
He became infatuated with Duessa, a witch in the guise of a beautiful maiden named Fidessa. He drank from a magic fountain which made him weak, allowing the giant Orgoglio to throw him in a dungeon. Una sought and obtained the help of Prince Arthur, who killed Orgoglio, exposed Duessa, and freed the Red Cross Knight. Eventually, they reached Una’s land and the Red Cross Knight slew the dragon in a three-day battle. The Red Cross Knight and Una were betrothed.
In a later adventure, the Red Cross Knight joined the warrior maiden Britomart at the Castle Joyous. It is revealed late in Spenser’s poem that the Red Cross Knight is St. George, the patron saint of England.
The Faerie Queene | Edmund Spenser, 1570-1599