The story begins with Una arriving at the court of Queen Gloriana carrying a suit of armour upon which is painted a red cross.
Also at court is a young peasant boy who has attended the palace to ask the Queen to give him the responsibility of a quest, so that he can prove his strength and virtue.
Una is desperately sad, as her parents have been captured and taken prisoner by a vicious dragon in a faraway town, and she asks the Faerie Queene to assign one of her bravest knights to help her rescue them.
The boy sees his chance and volunteers for the task. Una is initially unsure, as she was hoping for a proven knight for such a personal and daring mission.
But she considers his plea and says he can try on the armour she is carrying and, if it fits, she will grant him his wish.
So the boy tries on the armour, and sure enough it fits him as if it were tailor made. Because of the armour’s distinctive design, Queen Gloriana dubs him ’The Redcrosse Knight’ before giving him the quest to rescue Una’s parents.