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Perhaps the greatest event of the Middle Ages was the telling of Robin Hood. Considered by many to being the most successful and entertaining Swashbuckling story, Robin Hood remains prominent in the world of literature, poetry and the modern movies. It is my guess that Errol Flynn, Hollywood actor extraordinaire, was the one who placed Robin Hood in the top brackets. With his portrayal of the outlaw hero in 1938, The Adventures of Robin Hood (in Technicolor) remains, by far, the greatest of all the Swashbuckling classics. Even though Errol Flynn made Robin Hood a superstar, he was not the first actor to portray the legend, or indeed was the legend created for Errol in the late 1930's. The legend of Robin Hood has lasted, at least, since the early thirteenth century, when local historians in Mediaeval England made references to the ballads of Robin Hood. But it is major controversy, even to this day, whether or not the outlaw had ever actually lived. Even as this webpage is being written, there are some historians in England who are on a quest to unlock the mysteries of the elusive legend. So far there have been many names that are identifiable with Robin Hood that have turned up in ancient records, but none are as of yet a far gone conclusion of the man's existence. One of the earliest accounts we have of the legend is a manuscript of poetry (that cannot actually be called a ballad), that was dated either late 1480's or early 1520's that has for its title: "A little Gest of Robyn Hode". Hode, in old English, is another way of writing Hood, and the letter "y" in Robyn, was a Medieval placement for the letter "i". The Gest, from its appearance, was concluded to being a copy of some other original manuscript, of which, by now, is widely accepted as being actually written in or around 1400, making it the oldest poem on Robin Hood. And where does this old poetry place Robin? In Sherwood Forest, in the reign of King Richard the Lion-Heart, in the 1190's - wrong!! To my utter surprise, the oldest stories from the Robin Hood legend (including a small handful of others written in the late 1400's and early 1500's) place Robyn Hode in, not Sherwood Forest, but a Forest located approximately 40 miles north of Sherwood called Barnsdale Forest. And Robyn Hode of the Gest is not within Richard the Lion-Heart's reign, but that of "our good king Edward". Which king Edward? well, that has not yet been settled, but 95% of the clues lean toward king Edward II. And a time period leans towards the 1320's and not the 1190's.
A ROBIN HOOD TIMELINE:
Has There Been Two Distinct Robin Hoods in History?
The hypothesis was considered that the Hod/ Hode/Hudd/Hood surname is of Scottish or
Locksleah, Locksley, Loxley are all synonymous with the claimed place-name for the birth-place of Robin. Surely then following naming patterns his name would have been Robin or Robert de Loxley?
If it can be relied upon, the 'Sloane Manuscript' of 1600 gives Robin's birthplace as Loxley. However, although the inspiration for the ballad character was granted 'Loxley' he was not born there. There is a Loxley in Warwickshire and one in
Johanas Littel, John Le Litel, John Littel, John Little, Littel John, Little John all names synonymous with the legendary figure. As for his birthplace, the Geste places this in Holderness, East Riding of Yorkshire/Humberside. Some suggest he was the son of William de Faucumberg of Catfoss manor in Holderness.
Local tradition at Hathersage in Derbyshire says that Little John retired and was buried here in the churchyard. No other place has claimed this, although the same could not be said for his commander.
Eliza Ashmole writing in the late 1600's first recorded that Little John's bow hung in the church chancel and that he was buried at Hathersage with a stone set at each end with a large distance between.
In 1784 the local church vicar, Charles Spencer-Stanhope (d.1874) wrote that the squires brother, William Shuttleworth hung a thigh bone, reputedly from Little John's grave in his room. However as it was thought to be bringing poor fortune to its owner, it was ordered to be reburied by his clerk. But the clerk kept the labelled bone in his window as a curio.
When the father of Charles Spencer-Stanhope (Walter Spencer-Stanhope of Cannon Hall and Horsforth Hall 1749-1821) and Sir George Strickland were visiting Hathersage, Strickland* is reported to have "run away with it" and it has never been recovered.
It was William Shuttleworth who in the late 1700's had the grave body exhumed, the thigh bone was measured at 291/2 inches by the woodsman Mr. Hinchcliffe.
The grave was reported to be two stones 13 feet apart which were erected by the Ancient Order of Foresters in 1929.
The reputed bow of Little John hung on the walls of Hathersage church until 1729. From here it was taken by the Spencer-Stanhope family caput, Cannon Hall in Cawthorne. Here it remained until the early 1950's. The bow was hung below the minstrel gallery in the Cannon Hall ballroom [built 1891]. The bow that was personally observed in the early 1950's hanging in the ballroom was more like a recurved heavy, thick bow, one end broken and with the other end tipped with a horn. It looked nothing like the bow shown in the photograph [below] taken in the grounds of Cannon Hall during the inter-war period,. This purportedly shows 'Little John's bow', a six foot long, thin, tapering weapon, held by an archaeologist, H.C. Haldane of Clarke, Hall near
Ask anyone to think of the Robin Hood story and they will no doubt mention the Merry Men, Maid Marian, The Sheriff of Nottingham and, of course, Sherwood Forest. But is this really the place which was the central location for the exploits of our great hero?
But still the debate rages on, centered mainly on the question, does the historical evidence and research point to Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire or Barnsdale Forest in Yorkshire as the principal haunt of Robin and his men?
Barnsdale's claim to the Robin Hood legend derives from references in the very early Ballads. The Ballad of "Robin Hood and Sir Guy of Gisborne" refers to "Robin Hood of Barnsdale".
The Ballad of "Robin Hood and the potter" tells of Little John meeting the potter at "Wentbreg" or Wentbridge in
Add to this the death of Robin at nearby Kirklees Priory and his alleged birth at Loxley and you can begin to see why this justification for the Barnsdale and
However, those championing a Sherwood Robin Hood are able to draw on substantial evidence to counter these claims. Again, a good starting point is evidence from the early Ballads.
In "Robin Hood and the Monk" the city to which Robin Travels is
In other stories including the association with Sir Richard of Lee, it is clearly Sherwood Forest that is the "
Also important is the role of the enemy who is synonymous with Robin Hood. The Sheriff of Nottingham, as the holder of this office would clearly have no juristriction outside Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire thereby excluding the
Finally, of the two locations, only Sherwood Forest lay claim to the designation of
A.D. 1110 – A.D. 1165
In a fascinating recent book, local author Tony Molyneux-Smith put forward a new theory about the origins of the Robin Hood legend. This new approach placed the outlaw firmly back in Nottinghamshire but broke with tradition regarding his true identity.
Molyneux-Smith's conclusion is that Robin Hood was a pseudonym used by succeding generations of a family named Foliot who held the Lordship of a place called Wellow through to the late 14th. Century.
The author believes that Wellow's proximity to
In 1138, the Scots had taken advantage of the civil war between the factions of King Stephen and the Empress Maud to cross the northern border and raid into English territory. Archbishop Thurstan of York appealed to the 'Men of Sherwood' to come and help an improvised army beat the Scots off - this they duly did, and at Northallerton the Scots retired after being peppered by deadly arrows from the bows in the hands of these enigmatic 'Men of Sherwood'.
In the subsequent battle of
In 1140, a new bridge over the River Trent at
Richard I was born at
Traditionally 'Robin Hood' was born in Loxley, Locksley or Lockesley, a village in
When the truce in The Holy Land was broken by the Christians and unarmed Moslem merchants were attacked, Saladin led his forces to defeat the Christian armies and
Richard I, The Lion-Heart was crowned in 1189 . . . Richard saw himself born to become the leader of a new Crusade and recapture the Holy City of Jerusalem from the Infidel. Richard I left on this Holy Crusade in December 1189, naming the son of his deceased elder brother - his nephew, Prince Arthur - as his heir should he die whilst abroad and getting a sworn oath from his brother John not to travel to England in Richard's absence for a period of three years
Their mother - Queen Eleanor - shortly afterwards persuaded Richard to release his younger brother from this oath. Before Richard I left England, he divided England in two and gave the job of ruling in his absence to two of his most loyal Justices - Hugh Bishop of Durham would care for the northern part ; and William Longchamp, his Chancellor and Bishop of Ely administering the southern part. Within a few months of Richard's departure, Longchamp had marched north with an army and displaced Hugh. For six months, Longchamp lorded over
Richard I left
When Prince John after spending Christmas in
John threatened that if Longchamp did not end his siege, he would march over and "visit him with a rod of iron and such a mighty host that he (Longchamp) could not withstand." Longchamp answered with a demand that John hand back the two castles and surrender to Longchamps' justice. John erupted in a terrific rage which set his nearby courtiers scurrying for cover and the scene was set for a battle - then Richard's emissary arrived. Richard I had heard of Longchamps' upsets and troubles, and sent the Archbishop of Rouen all the way from
John retaliated by attacking De Lacy's lands and confiscating his estates that lay within John's own jurasdiction. A second arbitration by the ruling council was necessary and duly agreed : the two royal castles would revert to the ownership of the Crown, but be held for Richard I under a Constable appointed by Prince John - and as preferred by most of the barons present at the arbitration, in the case of the king dying abroad on Crusade, Prince John would succeed Richard I on the throne of England. These terms agreed, both sides retired to glare at each other : then John's half-brother Geoffrey landed at
Geoffrey had also sworn not to travel to
Prince John was begged by the barons to get rid of the despotic Longchamp - not the other way around, as depicted in the 1938 feature film. John also had the support of all the English freemen and burgesses, without which the struggle between him and Longchamp would have probably degenerated into a similar civil war such as between Stephen and Matilda between 1135 and 1155, resulting in wholesale anarchy.
In February 1192, Queen Eleanor returned to England after hearing of her son John plotting with the King of France, Philip Augustus, to get hold of Richard's lands and castles in France. Philip's sister Princess Alice was bethrothed to Richard I but he had jilted her in favour of marrying Princess Berengaria of
At the same time, Longchamp returned to
John had broken the independence of the ruling council and destroyed Longchamp - all John had to do was be patient for the throne to drop into his lap.
King Richard had been arrested at
Nine months later, the devastating news arrived in February 1193 that King Richard had been arrested at Vienna in December 1192 and was at that time in prison in Germany, held to ransom for the immense sum of a hundred thousand marks or 㿮,000 : at the time a quarter of England's wealth. The news was followed shortly afterwards by a rumour that Richard was in fact, already dead.
Prince John could not be prevented from sailing over to
The temptation at this time to the ruling council to give into Prince John - the man they had all sworn would succeed Richard anyway - was terrific as it would keep the Peace and avoid a almost certain French invasion supported by John's troops in England. Seeing the council wavering, Queen Eleanor pointed out that Richard's death was only a rumour and the ransom demand still stood, and reminded the council of their outstanding oaths of loyalty to King Richard. The Lionheart's past reputation and his recent exploits in the
Prince John was forestalled but two problems remained - the first, Richard's release due to the political situation in Europe was uncertain - if Richard was already dead or killed later, the council would have to crown the man they were threatening ; and secondly, Prince John controlled large parts of England's income and his help in collecting the ransom money was absolutely necessary. The collection of the ransom money was arranged by the Bishop of Salisbury, Hubert Walter, under an agreement that any castles not controlled by Prince John at that time would be turned over to Queen Eleanor's caretaker-ship for a specific period on the understanding that if Richard wasn't released by the end of that time the castles would then transfer to Prince John - an agreement tantamount to offering John complete control of England and hence the throne.
On 4th February 1194 - twelve months and six weeks after his arrest and a substantial portion of the ransom demand having been paid -Richard I was released into the arms of his mother, Queen Eleanor. On 7th March he landed at
Richard was desperate for money, and began auctioning off many official posts to the highest bidder. Three sheriffs who had opposed Longchamp - including his former 'northern' Justice and poor old Gerard Camville at
In 1172, yet another monastery had been founded in Sherwood Forest and endowed by the King himself with the village, mill and
Though plans to outwit the robbers were laid in 1194, the demands on money and soldiers made by Richard I and after his death by King John meant that these plans were postponed for over ten years. That the plans were not shelved or abandoned completely is an indication of their importance. Between 1205 and 1209, work began on an extension of
In the Legend, he [Robin] met Richard I in Spring 1194 during the attempted rebellion led by his younger brother - Prince John - and declaring his loyalty to the king and entering his service as a retained archer, gained a Royal Pardon. He served abroad with Richard I for some time before retiring once again to Sherwood where he married or re-married a girl named Marian, Mary or Matilda. When his wife died some years later he built a chapel to her memory and stayed close by it. As an old man, he went to a female relative for medical aid but died - either murdered or from natural causes - and was buried by her in an unmarked grave. But - that's just one version of The Legend of Robin Hood.
Similar names appear in medieval records all over
The last week of March to the first week of April, A.D. 1194
On Richard’s return from the Crusades
Richard attacks the only place to offer him any real opposition :
In his novel Ivanhoe this is the time-period chosen by Sir Walter Scott for Robin Hood to meet Richard I (though for a great portion of the time they are together Richard is in disguise and the outlaw doesn't name himself Robin Hood but calls himself 'Robin of Locksley'). Locksley and The Black Knight are the joint leaders of the attack on the castle - a re-named
In the oldest stories of the meeting between the Outlaw and the King, Robin Hood meets the King in
But - no records of a real person named Robin Hood living in the vicinity of
After the assault and capture of
The famous painting Robin Hood entertaining King Richard the Lionheart in Sherwood Forest by Daniel Maclise currently hanging in Nottingham Castle Art Gallery (The Long Gallery) depicts the meeting between Richard I and Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest. In the picture, the initial formalities have obviously having been dealt with and both men are seen amidst scenes of drinking and feasting under broadleaf trees surrounded by woodland folk, all paying great attention to Robin Hood and King Richard though one of the audience in particular in the foreground looks decidely dodgy. 'Little John' looks Herculean in style and carries a deer over his shoulder ; Marian sits demurely at the base of nearby tree crowned with woodland flowers. Robin himself - looking a little worse for drink - postures in front of the king whilst Richard sits in mail armour covered by a white surcoat attended by a Moorish page with his armoured guards standing in the background (one of whom appears to be taking the opportunity of secretly knocking back a pint of ale). Very much the 19th century Victorian-period 'romantic ideal' of the relaxed proceedings after the initial meeting between the two men.
A meeting between Richard and Robin could have been arranged by a go-between prompted from either side. Large numbers of itinerants in Sherwood Forest - not all of them robbers or outlaws - had existed for years and would be a valuable source of trained military manpower if tapped (Edward I later recruited skilled longbow-men from
Richard left Sherwood in 1194 to greet his friend King William of
It's not recorded anywhere outside the Legend that Robin Hood was present at the storming of Nottingham Castle in March 1194 or at Runnymede for the signing of Magna Carta and The Charter of the Forests in 1215. Robin Hood - if you add up the evidence in years within the Legend - supposedly lived on in the greenwoods for over forty years until 1247, making him a real veteran when he died at an age between eighty and ninety years old when despite several premonitions and warnings, Robin Hood left the safety of Sherwood and at Church Lees, Kirkesley, Kirkby, or Kirklees - different names are given in the oldest stories - passed into legend in a final blaze of glory
No story of Robin Hood is complete without its setting, Sherwood Forest which in
Robin's time covered about 100,000 acres . . .
place of safety from the Sheriff's, men . . . Today,
Richard I was born at
If Robin was alive in the 13th Century, he would have been a product of a violent and repressed society. Most people lived the life of peasants and corruption and exploitation by those charged with upholding the law was rife. Thus, for the likes of Robin and his men, it was better to risk life as an outlaw than face a justice system open to bribery and intimidation.
As an outlaw of the most "most wanted" variety, Robin would know that a Royal Pardon represented his only real chance of redress. Given the plight of most people in 13th Century
The first Franciscan friars, named after St. Francis of Assissi, arrived in
Friars did not belong to any particular monastic house but to a general order, working in the secular world as individuals.
Robert Hod appears in court records.
In 1936, L.V.D. Owen put forward another candidate for the identity of Robin Hood. This theory is based on records of the
Whilst there is no other evidence for this Robin Hood candidate, he was clearly an outlaw who had fled the juristriction of the court and remains the earliest reference discovered to date who might just be the man who sparked the legend we know and love today.
The eldest son of William de Kyme, Robert de Kyme was of Saxon blood. He was outlawed in 1226 for robbery and disturbing the King's peace and pardoned in 1227. According to
According to Lees, Robert de Kyme had claim to the pretended earldom of Huntingdon through ownership of land. Lees gives credit to Stukeley for being on the right trail to the identity of Robin Hood but claims to have uncovered new evidence for the family pedigrees which points conclusively in Lees's opinion to the de Kyme connection rather than that of fitz Ooth.
Robert Hod becomes "Hobbehod" in the records.
A.D. 1247 – or is it A.D. 1347?
According to the legend, Robin journeyed to Kirklees Priory where he was eventually killed by his cousin the prioress and Sir Roger of
It is at Kirklees Priory that the supposed grave of Robin Hood can still be seen to this day.
Sadly, much of Kirklees Priory is now ruined but roughly 600 metres from the gatehouse a medieval gravestone was found bearing a partial inscription "here lies Robard Hude..."
"Syr Roger of Donkestere
by the pryoresse he lay
and there they betrayed good Robyn Hode
through theyr false playe.
Cryst have mercy on his soule
That dyed on the rode!
For he was a good outlawe
And did poor men much good"
~ Final verses of "A gest of Robyn Hode"
In 1261, records show a William de Fevre was made an outlaw and one year later in 1262, a royal official renamed him on case records to "William Robehood" or "Robinhood".
Royal records show William Robehod's name changed to the nickname "Robinhood." . . . . The significance of this is that as early as 1262, Robin Hood had achieved such fame throughout the region that other outlaws were starting to be named after him. Thus, Robinhood was becoming a generic nickname for outlaws of the time.
William de Grey - Sheriff of Nottingham, in conflict with outlaws in
Another interesting reference came to light in the 1850's with the discovery of a historic document giving details of a forester, Robert Hood, the son of Adam Hood. He was born in 1280 and lived with his wife Matilda in
There are at least 8 people before 1300 [A.D.] who were given the "Robinhood" nickname, at least 5 of whom were outlaws or people accused of criminal activity. One could speculate that this was a period of time where the activities of the real Robin Hood were well known.
Robin Hood named in folio 103 of registrum premonstratense.
Marriage of Matilda Hood to Robin Hood mentioned in the Wakefield Court Rolls.
Robin Hood was actually Robert Hood who appeared in the Wakefield Court Rolls in 1316 and 1317.
In 1317, the Earl of Lancaster began to form his own army gathered from tenants of the Manor of Wakefield to fight King Edward and his favoured nobles.
Robert Hood became an outlaw not through theft but through his support for Thomas, Earl of Lancaster who rebelled against King Edward II. at the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322.
Robert Hood was born at Loxley near
In 1322, the army attacked Royalist forces at Boroughbridge and was defeated and consequently executed. All men loyal to
Robyn Hood mentioned as a porter to "jornal ole la Chambre" of King Edward the second.
John Fordun, the canon of
Piers the plowman published.
The earliest reference to Robin Hood is in William Langland's poem
"The vision of William concerning Piers Plowman" which was written in 1377.
The poem says:
"I do not know my paternoster perfectly as the priest sings it.
But I know the rhymes of Robin Hood and Randolph, earl of
John Gower has the characters of Robin and Marian in his poem.
Clearly, for the Gest of Robin Hood to be compiled by 1400, the stories must have been in circulation well before that date.
Original chronicle of
Robin Hood and the Monk published
Robin Hood and the Sheriff Published.
Robin Hood and the Potter Published.
A.D. 1508, 1548, and 1594
The little geste of Robin Hood and his meyne, and the proud Sheriff of Nottingham by Wynken de Worde published; based upon four separate oral ballads.
A major development in Robin's story came in 1510 with the publication of a poem entitled "a Lytell Gest of Robin Hood". This document gives any researcher seeking the identity of Robin a wealth of clues and information with its references to
John Major's History of Great Britain places Robin Hood in the time of Richard the Lionheart.
William Tyndale publishes his New Testament, giving the world a clearer English than
A play makes Robin a nobleman, the Earl of Huntingdon. 16th century Maid Marian is May Queen in the May games.16th century Evidence that Robin was born at Loxley.
In 1746, Dr. William Stukeley put forward the theory that the true identity of Robin Hood was Robert fitz Odo (or Fitzooth). According to Stukeley, he was born at Loxley and lived for 87 years. Robert fitz ooth was outlawed in the 12th. Century with his lands being transferred to Ranulf, Earl of Chester, the name associated with Robin Hood in the "Vision of Piers the Plowman" ie "I do not know my paternoster prefectly as the priest sings it, but I know the rhymes of Robin Hood and Randolph, earl of
This theory has come in for strong criticism by Professor J.C. Holt who believes that Stukeley confused the whole family pedigree to fit his theory and arrived at a wholly ficticious and fanciful account of this particular claim to the identity of Robin Hood. However, this did not prevent another researcher called Jim Lees following up Stukeley's claims and providing a new candidate for Robin's identity.
Robin is found as a character in "Ivanhoe" by [Sir Walter] Scott.
In 1852, Joseph Hunter's examination of historical documents led to the postulation that Robin Hood was actually Robert Hood who appeared in the Wakefield Court Rolls in 1316 and 1317. According to this theory, Robert Hood became an outlaw not through theft but through his support for Thomas, Earl of Lancaster who rebelled against King Edward II. at the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322.
Release of the famous film "The Adventures of Robin Hood" starring Errol Flynn.
Release of "Robin Prince of Thieves" starring Kevin Costner.
For an opportunity to buy some Robin Hood items, please visit our ROBIN HOOD STORE