by Mick Baker, 3 January 2010
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
in which hapless peasants - largely Saxon - continued to suffer under
the tyranny of their cruel Plantagenet overlords, worthy successors
of Norman ruthlessness.
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
Robin, and so on.
Films and television have contributed to the legend.
On tv there has been Errol Flynn's definitive Robin in the 1950s,
Robin of Sherwood, played stiffly by Jason Connery and, before
him, superbly by Michael Praed, the long-running television series
starring Richard Green, and a similar twenty-first century effort,
Robin Hood, starring Jonas Armstrong, not to mention perhaps the
most accurate portrayal - The Legend of Robin Hood (a tv series
of 1975) starring Martin Potter. On the big screen, Sean Connery played
an ageing Robin in Robin and Marian, Russell Crowe put in a
steadfast appearance in Robin Hood (2010), and then there was
Kevin Costner's unwatchable Prince of Thieves, There have
even been parodies - Men in Tights, Up the Chastity Belt,
Maid Marian and her Merry Men, and numerous comedy sketches.
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, 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 aforementioned
Gallery: Rochester Castle
RULERS OF BRITAIN:
Robin Hood Resources Online
Sherwood Forest Nature Reserve
An artist's impression of the
historical Robin Hood (click on image to read more
on a separate page)
The first mention of a Robert Hod or Hood comes
from 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, sheriff of Yorkshire, 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 attend the army being send to
fight 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, the fictitious earl of Huntingdon,
may be identified with one Fulk Fitz Warine of Shropshire, who was born
in 1170 and who became lord of Whittington. Outlawed on charges of
treason, Fulk was pardoned in 1202.
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.
The character of Robin Hood
||Sources / comments
||Birth of Robin Hood
||According to John Major, writing in
1521. He states that Robin was outlawed between 1193 & 1194.
|Robert Hod(e) The Fugitive
|Sometimes called 'Hobbehod'. Royal
justices headed by Robert de Lexinton held assizes at York where
penalties at the Exchequer (Michaelmas 1226) included thirty-two
shillings and sixpence 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 1203.
||Robert Fitz Odo of Loxley
||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 because 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. So it is quite easy to see a relationship
between Robert Fitz Odo (Ode) and Robert Odo, Ode / Hode.
|1316 / 1320s
||Robert Hode of Wakefield
||Robert 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 fined three
shillings. 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
||Robert Hode of Newton
||First appears in court rolls in 1308.
He or his son, also called Robert, dies in 1341-1342. They are
preceded by Adam, who appears in the first surviving court roll of
1274. He lives until at least 1314. There are also two John Hoods.
All are tenants of the manor at Wakefield and surrounding townships,
such as Newton, Stanley, and Alverthorpe.
|24 March - 22 November 1324
||Is employed as a vadletz de la
chambre - a royal valet or porter in the king's service. He leaves
the king's service in November and then disappears from history.
||Robert Hood, prisoner at Rockingham
||Awaiting trial for offences committed
in the forest of Rockingham.
||Robert Hood, 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
|Recorded in 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
||Robert the Grave, of Wakefield
||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 Sowerby
||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.
||Eustace de Folville
||Gang leader, 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
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 and Derbyshire
in the same period.
||Sir John Molyns
||Terrorised Buckinghamshire and took to
kidnapping and organising murder in revenge for his dismissal from
|1387 & 1392
||John Lord Fitzwalter
||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
||Death of Robin Hood
||According to John Major.
||Death of Robin Hood
||According to the Geste.
||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.
||Robin of Redesdale (Mend-all)
||Used as an alias by Sir John Conyers,
when, in 1469, malcontents took the field against the Yorkist
government in Northumberland.
||Robin of Holderness
||Used as an alias by Robert Hillyard
The supporting characters
||Sources / comments
1323 - 1325
|Sheriff of Nottingham
(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 Folville.
|1209 - 1224
||Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire
|1209 - 1217
1221 - 1224
1233 - 1234
|Chief Forester Notts & Derbyshire
Chief Justice of the Forest
Sheriff of Yorkshire
(Brian de Lisle)
|1225 - 1226
1232 - 1233
|Sheriff of Yorkshire
Deputy Sheriff & Forest Justice
for the North of the Trent
Sheriff of Nottinghamshire
(Eustace of Lowdham)
|When deputy 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 versus evil or, more likely, spring, represented by Robin in
Lincoln green, defeating winter, represented by the brown-clad
||French pastoral 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; therefore 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 becoming intertwined
during the sixteenth century.
(probably Matilda Hode of Wakefield)
|According to one account, she and
Robert of Wakefield changed their names to Robin and Marian.
||'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
|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 in 1680.
||Much the Miller (putative)
||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 of him.
||Much, the Miller's son
||Is his name 'Much', or is he the
nameless son of Much the Miller? - (it depends upon whether one
places a comma after 'Much'). Maybe both he and his father were
named (nicknamed) Much.
|Will Scathlock (Scarlett)
||A William 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.
||A modern addition, Nazir was a Moor,
recruited from the Holy Land following an exploit of Robin's in
The original tales / source material
||Title of ballard
||Characters / comments
||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.
||Langland's Piers Plowman
||Mentions Robyn Hood. Earliest mention
of Robyn Hood, suggesting that rhymes about him were already extant
in the last quarter of the fourteenth century.
||Robin Hood & The Monk
||Robin, Little John, Much the Miller's
||Robin Hood & The Potter
||Robin, Little John, The Sheriff.
|1492 - 1534
||A Geste of Robyn Hode or
A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode
|Robin, Little 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 as 1400.
||Robin Hoode His Death
||Robin, Will 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
||Robin Hood & Guy of Gisborne
||Robin, Little John, Guy of Gisborne.
Also contained in the Percy Folio (published 1650).
||Robin Hood & the Curtal Friar
||Robin, the Friar. Also contained in the
Percy Folio (published 1650).
|1325 - 1340
||Fouke le Fitz Waryn
||Robin, Will 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
||Says that Robin and Little John were
renowned in the thirteenth century.
||Walter Bower, 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
||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 historical figure.
||John Major - History of Greater
||Scottish writer 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.
||John Leland, Collectiana
||Henry VIII's chief antiquarian, refers
to a Robin Hood as an historical figure.
||Richard Grafton's Chronicle
||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.
||Martin Parker's The True Tale
of Robin Hood
||The Downfall 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 Sloan Manuscript.
||Robin Whood Turned Hermit
Robin Hood & The Bishop
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
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
||Robin Hood's Garland
||Features Sir Robert of Loxley.
Collection first published by the printer, C Dicey of London.
||Joseph Ritson's Robin Hood
||Account 'savaged' 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.
||Mr Hunter's Critical and Historical
Tracts. No IV. The Ballad Hero Robin Hood
||Joseph Hunter 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 circular route.
||Yorkshire Archaeological Journal No 36
||J W Walker stated that Robert and Matilda
Hode changed their names to Robin and Marian.
||Plus original ballads.
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 (click on
image to read more on a separate page)
Text copyright © Mick Baker. Images copyright © Dan Shadrake
and used with permission. An original feature for the History Files.