Britomart was introduced in Edmund Spencer’s epic English poem The Faerie Queene (1590). It’s possible that her character was based on the Britomartis, a Greek goddess, or on Bradagante from Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, but in Spencer’s poem, she represents English virtue (specifically chastity). She’s a badass lady knight, who is prophesised by Merlin to found the English monarchy.
Here are just a few of the excellent things she does in the poem:
- Fight first, asks questions later. Consistently beats the shit out of every man who tries to mess with her using an ENCHANTED SPEAR
- Merlin prophesised that her descendants would run England; she’s set up as an ancestor to Queen Elizabeth
- Makes her future husband fall in love with her when her helmet falls off while she’s fighting him
- Actually, it’s always a spectacle when she takes her helmet off: “Which whenas they beheld, they smiteen were/ With great amazement of so wondrous sight,/ And each on other, and they all on her/ Stood gazing…” (III.ix.23). Very “I am no man” of her.
- Rescues a Lady from an evil wizard because the lady’s knight couldn’t do it himself
- When the lady’s knight realises that she was rescued by someone else, he convinces himself that Britomart is a man and tries to fight her
- Is captured and thrown into a room that has violent depictions of rape on the walls. She escapes and saves another woman who has been captured
- Rescues male knights almost as often as she rescues women (looking at you, Redcrosse Knight)
- Beats her future husband in single combat. He has to team up with another knight to give her a run for her money – only to stop the fight when her helmet falls off and he loses all chill