[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Fairie Queen: Britomart unit. Story source: Stories from the Faerie Queene by Mary Macleod, with drawings by A. G. Walker (1916).
How Britomart did Battle for the Golden Girdle
The last day of the tournament came when all the knights again assembled to show their feats of arms. Many brave deeds were done that day, but Satyrane above all the other warriors displayed his wondrous might; from first to last he remained fighting and, though sometimes for a little while fortune failed him, yet he always managed to retrieve his honour, and with unwearied power he kept the prize secure for his own party.
The field was strewn with shivered spears, and broken swords, and scattered shields, showing how severe the fight had been; there might be seen also loose steeds running at random whose luckless riders had been overthrown, and squires hastening to help their wounded masters. But still the Knights of Maidenhood came off the best, till there entered on the other side a stranger knight.
Whence he came no man could tell. He was in a quaint disguise, hard to be discovered, for all his armour was like a savage dress, decked with woody moss, and his steed had trappings of oak-leaves that seemed fit for some savage mortal. Charging the enemy, this stranger smote down knight after knight, till every one began to shun the dreadful sight of him. They all wondered greatly who he was and whence he came, and began to ask each other his name, but when they could not learn it anyhow, it seemed most suitable to his wild disguise to term him the Savage Knight.
But, truly, his right name was otherwise. Though known to few, he was called Sir Artegall, the champion of Justice, the doughtiest and the mightiest Knight then living.
Sir Satyrane and all his band were so dismayed by his strength and valour that none of them dared remain in the field but were beaten and chased about all day till the evening. Then, as the sun set, out of the thickest rout rushed forth another strange knight, who put the glory of the "Savage Knight" to shame — so can nothing be accounted happy till the end.
This strange Knight charged his mighty spear at Artegall in the midst of his pride and smote him so sorely on the visor that he fell back off his horse and had small desire to rise again. Cambell, seeing this, ran at the stranger with all his might and main but was soon likewise to be seen lying on the field. Triamond thereupon was inwardly full of wrath and determined to avenge the shame done to his friend, but by his friend he soon found himself lying, in no less need of help. Blandamour had seen everything from beginning to end, and when he beheld this, he was sorely displeased and thought he would soon mend matters, but he fared no better than the rest before him.
Many others likewise ran at the Knight, but in like manner they were all dismounted, and of a truth it was no wonder. No power of man could stay the force of that enchanted spear, for the stranger was no other than the famous Britomart.
Thus the warrior Princess restored that day to the Knights of Maidenhood the prize which was well-nigh lost and bore away the prize of prowess from them all.
Then the shrill trumpets began to bray loudly and bade them leave their labour and long toll for the joyous feast and other gentle play, for now the precious golden girdle was to be awarded to the most beautiful lady.
Through all ages it has been the custom that the prize of Beauty has been joined with the praise of arms and Chivalry. And there are special reasons for this, for each relies much on the other: that Knight who can best defend a fair Lady from harm is surely the most fitting to serve her, and that Lady who is fairest and who will never swerve from her faith is the most fitting to deserve his service.
So after the proof of prowess well ended came next the contest of the sovereign grace of beauty, in which the girdle of Florimell should fall to her who most excelled. Many wished to win it only from vanity, and not for the wondrous virtues which some said it possessed. For the girdle gave the gift of constant and loyal love to all who wore it, but whosoever was false and fickle could never keep it on, for it would loosen itself, or else tear asunder. It was said to be of magic origin, and Florimell, to whom it had been given long ago, held it dear as her life. No wonder, then, that so many ladies sought to win it, for she who wore it was accounted to be peerless.
The feast, therefore, being ended, the selected judges went down into the late field of battle to decide this doubtful case, for which all the ladies contended. But, first, inquiry was made as to which of those knights who had lately tourneyed had won the wager. Then it was judged that Satyrane had done best on the first day, for he ended last, having begun first; the second day was adjudged to Triamond, because he saved the victor from disaster, for Cambell was in all men's sight the victor till by mishap he fell into the hands of his foemen; the third day's prize was adjudged to the stranger knight, whom they all termed the "Knight of the Ebony Spear," and it was given by good right to Britomart for she had vanquished the "Savage Knight," who until then was the victor and appeared at the last unconquered, for the last is deemed best. To Britomart, therefore, the fairest lady was adjudged as a companion.
But Artegall greatly grudged this and was much vexed that this stranger had forestalled him both of honour and of the reward of victory. He could not dispute what was decreed, but he inwardly brooded over the disgrace and awaited a fit time to be avenged.
This matter being settled and everyone agreed, it next followed to decide the Paragon of Beauty and yield to the fairest lady her due prize.
Next: The False Florimell