Of all the romantic heroes of England, none has
fired the popular imagination more than fabled bowman Robin Hood,
with tales of robbing the rich to help the poor in an unjust society
where hapless peasants - largely Saxon - continued to suffer under
the tyranny of their cruel overlords, worthy successors of Norman
We have all become familiar with the story of the
archery contest; Robin's conflicts with the Sheriff of Nottingham
and Sir Guy of Gisborne; the famous quarterstaff battle with Little
John; Robin's persuading Friar Tuck to carry him over the stream;
the romance with Maid Marian, wicked Prince John's ward; Alan a'
Dale, the minstrel; Much the Miller's son: Will Scarlet; the
robbers' den in the heart of Sherwood Forest; the return of the
disguised King Richard Coeur de Lion, to reinstate the disinherited
Films and television have contributed to the
legend. Errol Flynn's definitive Robin in the 1950s, Kevin Costner's
'Prince of Thieves', 'Robin of Sherwood', played by Jason Connery
and before him, Michael Praed, the long-running television series
starring Richard Green, not to mention perhaps the most accurate
portrayal - 'The Legend of Robin Hood' (TV series 1975) starring
Martin Potter. Sean Connery played an ageing Robin in 'Robin and
Marian' and more recently there has been yet another TV series
featuring Keith Allen as the Sheriff. There have even been parodies
- 'Men in Tights', 'Up the Chastity Belt', 'Maid Marian and her
Merry Men', and numerous comedy sketches etc.
Robin has been variously identified as Robert Hood
(or Hode) the Fugitive; Robin of Loxley (in Warwickshire); Robyn
Hode, the archer, Robert, the dispossessed earl of Huntingdon etc,
and so on. In fact, no less than thirteen 'Robin Hoods' can be
identified. The legend was set in the 1190s onwards.
The truth is both complex and mundane. It would
appear that Robin Hood is an amalgam of several of the
The first mention of a Robert Hod / Hood comes in
1225, when he is named as 'fugitive'. He is named on two further
dates - in 1226 and 1228 He is known to have owed Brian de Lisle,
the Sheriff of Yorkshire 32/6d (thirty-two shillings and sixpence),
and he also owed money to the Church. De Lisle had formerly been
Justiciar of Sherwood, so it is easy to see the threads of the
legend taking shape.
Robyn Hode, the yeoman archer, was possibly Robert
Hood of Wakefield, who with his wife Matilda moved to Bichill in
1316. In 1318 he received a summons to fight in the army in
Scotland. He refused to go and was fine three pence. He was summoned
again in 1322 to fight for his lord, the earl of Lancaster, in his
rebellion against the king. Hode wasn't fined for not going this
A certain Robyn Hode was also listed as a
valet/porter in the king's service in 1324
Robert, fictitious earl of Huntingdon, may be identified with one
Fulk Fitz Warine of Shropshire, who was born in 1170 and became Lord
of Whittington. Outlawed on charges of Treason, Fulk was pardoned in
Meanwhile, in 1746, William Stukeley added a
spurious pedigree to the fictitious earl of Huntingdon - the
invention of Anthony Munday in his plays (named below) - by
distorting information from Dugdale's Baronage, adding a completely
fictitious family, the Fitz Ooths, making them the Lords of Kime in
Lincolnshire. In time, after many tenuous links and tortuous
connections, the 'Earl of Huntingdon' became 'Robin of Loxley'.
Locksley is in Yorkshire. However, as stated above, Fulk Fitz Warine,
Lord of Whittington, is closer to this incarnation.
Later research though, has come up with one Robert
Fitz Odo, a resident of the village of Loxley in Warwickshire, who
was disinherited in 1196 and pardoned, we assume in 1203, for his
name is then mentioned in the nearby settlement of Harbury. The
similarity between the fictitious Robert Fitz Ooth (sometimes Fitz
Othe) and the genuine Robert Fitz Odo is unmistakeable, and it takes
no great leap of faith to see the translation from Robert Fitz Odo
to Robert (Fitz) Ode, Hode etc, Robert Fitz Odo of Loxley in
Warwickshire would seem therefore to be yet another contender.
According to John
Major, writing in 1521. He states that Robin was outlawed between 1193 &
Robert Hod(e) The
'Hobbehod'. Royal justices headed by Robert de Lexinton held assizes at York
where penalties at the Exchequer (Michaelmas 1226) included 32/6d for the
chattels of Robert Hod. The following year the account recurred, indicating
that the debt was due from the Liberty of St Peter's York. Hod must,
therefore have been a tenant of the archbishopric.
Fulk Fitz Warine
Becomes lord of
Whittington in 1197. Outlawed on charges of treason in 1200, pardoned in
Robert Fitz Odo
In 1196 loses his
estates in Loxley, Warwickshire. Recorded in Harbury in 1203. Hitherto, the
only mention of Loxley (Locksley) had been in Yorkshire. William Stukeley,
in his Paleographia Britanica, in 1746, claimed that a Robert Fitz
Othe was the historical Robin Hood and that the Fitz Othes were the lords of
Kime in Lincolnshire. However, this has been discredited as the Kime lords
are well-documented. It now seems likely that Stukeley had mistaken Fitz Odo
for Fitz Othe [Brythonic/Middle English use of 'th' / 'd' sounds as in
Gwynedd. 'Fitz' indicates an illegitimate connection in the bloodline, and
whilst some people chose to retain the affix to indicate consanguinity,
others chose to drop it for similar reasons. Thus it is quite easy to see a
relationship between Robert Fitz Odo (Ode) and Robert Odo, Ode / Hode.
1316 / 1320s
Robert Hode of
Hode and his wife buy a plot of land at Bichill in 1316. In 1318, he is
summoned to fight in the army against Scotland. He fails to appear and is
fine 3d. In 1322, he is summoned to fight for the earl of Lancaster, in his
rebellion against the king. No fine is imposed for non-attendance this time!
Robert Hode of
First appears in
court rolls in 1308. He or his son, also called Robert, dies in 1341-1342.
They were preceded by Adam, who appears in the first surviving court roll of
1274. He lives until at least 1314. There were also two John Hoods. All were
tenants of the manor at Wakefield and surrounding townships, such as Newton,
Stanley & Alverthorpe.
24 March - 22 November 1324
Is employed as a
vadletz de la chambre - a royal valet / porter in the king's service.
He leaves the king's service in November and then disappears from history.
prisoner at Rockingham
for offences committed in the forest of Rockingham.
servant of Alexander Nequam, abbot of Cirencester
He had slain
Ralph of Cirencester in the Abbot's garden sometime between 1213 and 1216.
Common Councillor of London
London in 1325, one finds a Katherine Robynhod, which is almost certainly a
patronymic, for she was probably the daughter of Robert Hood who died in
1318, and gave his name to a London inn in Vintry Ward. Recorded in 1294
(Hostel Robin Hod).
Robert the Grave,
Penalised in 1309
for breaking the Lord of the Manor's fold at Alverthorpe. Possibly identical
with Robert Hode of Wakefield or Robert of Newton.
Robert Hood of
A Richard Hood
was active in 1274, when he was at odds with the foresters of Sowerby Chase.
He was succeeded by his son, John (1296-1297) and his sons - both apparently
called Robert(!), one of whom first appears in the court rolls in 1308. Both
were active from 1313.
pardoned in 1333 after five charges had been laid against him, on condition
he made himself available for royal service when required. Richard de
Folville had shot and killed one of his pursuers, and injured others as they
chased him into his church at Teigh, Rutland. Richard was dragged out and
beheaded. Perhaps some of this real-life criminal's exploits became tacked
on to the pantheon of Robin Hood legends. Associated were the Cotterel
brothers who marauded in Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire in the same period.
Sir John Molyns
Buckinghamshire and took to kidnapping and organising murder in revenge for
his dismissal from royal service.
1387 & 1392
Led a gang of
ruffians in Essex, levying blackmail on the citizens of Colchester.
Organised a band
based in Knaresborough Forest in Yorkshire which remained active in 1392,
two years after Beckwith's death.
Death of Robin
According to John
Death of Robin
According to the
Used as an alias
by Roger Marshall of Wednesbury, when he led a band of a hundred men in an
allegedly lawless affray in Willenhall.
Used as an alias
by Sir John Conyers, when, in 1469, malcontents took the field against the
Yorkist government in Northumberland.
Used as an alias
by Robert Hillyard of Winestead.
The supporting characters
1323 - 1325
(Henry de Faucumberg)
De Faucumberg has
a history of stealing wood before becoming Sheriff. Fined in 1313, 1314 &
1315. Becomes Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1325-1327 and 1328-1330. In 1326 de
Faucumberg is instructed to track down an outlaw gang led by Eustace de
1209 - 1224
Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire
1209 - 1217
1221 - 1224
1233 - 1234
Notts & Derbys
Chief Justice of the Forest
Sheriff of Yorkshire
(Brian de Lisle)
1225 - 1226
1232 - 1233
Deputy Sheriff & Forest Justice
for the North of the Trent
Sheriff of Nottinghamshire
(Eustace of Lowdham)
Sheriff of Yorkshire, it was Eustace who had to collect and account at the
Michaelmas Exchequer of 1226 for the penalties imposed by Robert of Lexinton,
who sat in judgement on Robert Hod, the fugitive.
Sir Guy of
Gisburn / Gisborne
Features in one
original ballad, Robin Hood & Guy of Gisborne, in which he is
brutally slain and mutilated by Robin. This may be seen as a morality play,
Good vs Evil or, more likely Spring, represented by Robin in Lincoln Green,
defeating Winter, represented by the brown clad Sir Guy.
play entitled Robin & Marion, 1283 (by Adam de la Halle) - (no
resemblance originally, in any respect apart from the names) - in which the
shepherdess Marion, loyal to her lover Robin, successfully resists the
advances of a knight. The story contributed to the May Games in France, and
was taken over by an English poet, John Gower in a long poem of 1376-1379 on
virtues and vices, in which the eponymous heroes participate in rustic
festivals; thus the names of Robin and Marion (Marian) were associated with
such festivals quite early on and in view of this, it is remarkable that
there is no mention of Marian in the earliest stories of Robin Hood. Two
independent traditions therefore - Robin Hood and the Robin of the
pastourelle - developed side by side and became intertwined during the
Matilda Hode of Wakefield)
According to one
account, she and Robert of Wakefield (viz.) changed their names to Robin and
Queen of the
Shepherds - a much later addition to the legend. According to the song, she
was linked with Robin at Tutbury (Titbury) and was supposed to marry him.
1417 & 1429
A royal writ
refers to trouble with a renegade Sussex priest who was robbing merchants
with the help of a band of armed men. He is referred to as Robert Stafford,
the chaplain of Lindfield, known as Friar Tuck. A further point of interest
is that Lindfield is the next parish to Fletching, where the surname 'Robynhod'
was first recorded in 1296. If it is correct to think of Fletching as a
centre from which the legend spread in Sussex, it is easy to see how it came
to embrace Friar Tuck. He was still at large in 1429.
According to one
source, this was not an ironic nickname - he really was about four feet
tall. Referred to by Andrew Wyntoun as being active with Robin Hood in the
1280s. The earliest reference to Little John's grave at Hathersage appears
Much the Miller
According to one
source it was he rather than Little John who was the giant of the Merry Men,
but generally - depending on the placement of a comma - there is no mention
Is his name
'Much', or is he the nameless son of Much the Miller? - (it depends if one
puts a comma after 'Much'). Maybe both he and his father were named
Will Scathlock (Scarlett)
Scathlock is listed as being a monk at St Mary's Abbey in York in the late
thirteenth century. He was expelled from the abbey in 1287.
According to a
later ballad writer, Robin Hood helped Allen, a villager whose intended
bride was kidnapped by a rich old knight.
addition, Nazir was a Moor, recruited from the Holy Land following an
exploit of Robin's in the Crusades.
The original tales / source material
Title of ballard
A document of
this year refers to a 'stone of Robin Hood' in Yorkshire, suggesting that
the ballads - if not the actual man - were well known by that date.
Earliest mention of Robyn Hood, suggesting that
rhymes about him were already extant in the last quarter of the fourteenth
Robin Hood & The
John, Much the Miller's son.
Robin Hood & The
John, The Sheriff.
1492 - 1534
A Geste of Robyn
Hode or A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode
John, Much the Miller's son, Will Scarlock, The Sheriff.
There were five versions in all, deriving from a single source, which has
been lost and its author unknown, but which may have been composed as early
Robin Hoode His
Scarlett, Little John.
One of the manuscripts in the Percy
Folio (published 1650), rescued from destruction in the mid-1700s. This
manuscript, however, is much earlier.
Robin Hood & Guy
John, Guy of Gisborne.
Also contained in the Percy Folio (published
Robin Hood & the
Robin, the Friar.
Also contained in the Percy Folio (published 1650).
1325 - 1340
Fouke le Fitz
Scarlett, Friar Tuck.
The Sheriff Fragment of twenty-one
lines, which duplicates part of Guy of Gisborne and The Curtal Friar.
Andrew Wyntoun -
Original Chronicle of Scotland
Says that Robin
and Little John were renowned in the thirteenth century.
continues John Fordun's fourteenth century Scotichronicon
He wrote about
'the most famous cut-throat Robin Hood... whom the foolish multitude are so
extravagantly fond of celebrating'. He dates Robin's activities to 1266.
Sir John Paston's
letter to his brother
Refers to 'Robin
Hood Plays' in which he paid a servant to act as Robin. He also refers to
Barnsdale as Robin's base, implying that he considered Robin to be an
John Major -
History of Greater Britain
Major places the Robin Hood story in the 1200s, recording a date of 1160 for
his birth, and 1247 for his death. Major asserts that Robin Hood was
outlawed between 1193 & 1194.
chief antiquarian, refers to a Robin Hood as an historical figure.
Claims to have
discovered an 'old and authentic pamphlet' recording Robin's life.
The later tradition
Including nineteenth century author, F J Childs' collection of 33 Ballads
(marked in green) - 1663 & 1670.
The True Tale of Robin Hood
of Robert Earl of Huntingdon by Anthony Munday
The Death of
Robert Earl of Huntingdon by Anthony Munday & Henry Chettle
A Short Life
of Robin Hood
Also known as the
Robin Hood &
Robin Hood's Golden Prize
Robin Hood & The Bishop of Hereford
Robin Hood Rescuing Three Squires
Robin Hood Rescuing Will Stutly
Robin Hood & Queen Katherine
Robin Hood's Progress to Nottingham
The Golden Arrow
Robin Hood's Chase
The King's Disguise & Friendship with Robin Hood
Robin Hood & The Valiant Knight
Robin Hood Newly Reviv'd
The Bold Pedlar & Robin Hood
Robin Hood & The Prince of Aragon
Robin Hood's Birth, Breeding, Valor & Marriage
The Noble Fisherman
Robin Hood & Allen a'Dale
Robin Hood & Little John
Robin Hood & The Pinder of Wakefield
Robin Hood's Delight
Robin Hood & The Ranger
Robin Hood and the Scotchman
Little John a'Begging
Robin Hood & The Shepherd
Robin Hood & The Pedlars
Robin Hood & The Tanner
Robin Hood & The Butcher
Robin Hood & The Tinker
Robin Hood & The Beggar
early 18th C
Robert of Loxley. Collection first published by the printer, C Dicey of
in 1846, by Thomas Wright, who argued that Robin Hood was entirely mythical,
being no more than a variant of 'Robin of the Wood'.
Refers to Robert
Locksley in South Yorkshire, who becomes acquainted with Little John, whose grave
is at Hathersage in Derbyshire.
Critical and Historical Tracts. No IV. The Ballad Hero Robin Hood
completely refashioned the whole question of Robin's possible identity. He
identifies him as Robert Hood of Wakefield who then takes service as a
porter with King Edward II after the latter's royal progress in 1323,
finally leaving to return to his haunts in Barnsdale in 1324. This is no
more than conjecture. Hunter sought to verify the Geste by recorded fact,
but on finding none, had to use the Geste to corroborate his hypothesis! - A
Archaeological Journal No. 36
J W Walker
stated that Robert and Matilda Hode changed their names to Robin and Marian.
Extract from Robin Hood's Birth, Breeding,
Valour and Marriage
This battle was fought near to Titbury town,
When the bagpipes bated the bull;
I am king of the fiddlers, and sware 'tis a truth,
And I call him that doubts it a gull.
For I saw them fighting, and fiddled the while,
And Clorinda sung, Hey derry down!
The bumpkins are beaten, put up thy sword, Bob,
And now let's dance into the town.
Before we came to it, we heard a strange shouting,
And all that were in it, lookd madly;
For some were a bull-back, some dancing a morris,
And some singing Arthur-a-Bradly.
And there we see Thomas, our justices clerk,
And Mary, to whom he was kind;
For Tom rode before her, and calld Mary, Madam,
And kist her full sweetly behind.
And so may your worships. But we went to dinner,
With Thomas and Mary and Nan;
They all drank a health to Clorinda, and told her
Bold Robin, he was a fine man.
Robin Hood's territory: Sherwood and Barnsdale in the Middle Ages