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Robin Hoods

The Forest Of Sherwood

Robin Hoods

Some are convinced: Robin Hoods was a real thief, so famous that even when he was alive songs were written about him. In these ancient ballads, Robin Hoods is designated as a yeoman, a peasant who owns his land, which partly explains his popularity. Far from being noble, Robin Hoods embodied, on the contrary, the struggle of the people against feudal lords. Some local names of the area which were perhaps the theaters of his exploits testify of the antiquity of this popularity. A small Yorkshire fishing village bears the name of Robin Hoods' Bay; nearby are two small hills called the Robin Hoods' Butts.

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Robin Hoods and his legend

If Robin Hoods became an outlaw in 1322 after the failure of Lancaster uprising, then he did not only spend a year in the Sherwood Forest until the King granted him his pardon. The story of the Royal Forgiveness seems true as is his appointment as a gentleman of the chamber. From there, it is not forbidden to imagine that the service of the king’s room had unforeseen requirements and very little of Robin Hood’s taste, even if at that time Edward was rather infatuated with Hugh Despenser the younger. Robin Hoods returned to his forest and it was then that he began to forge his legend.

It is not known whether he really became the sworn enemy of the sheriff of Nottingham; it is certain that the sheriff, who was in charge of policing the region, could hardly tolerate a gang of poaching outlaws living in the king's forests. Yet, if he had really given himself the means, he would probably have overcome Robin Hoods even though he had the support of most farmers. Support rather understandable: thousands of hectares of forest, once communal property, were now reserved for royal hunts even as the peasantry was starving.

There may be another explanation for the relative impunity of Robin Hoods. During his stay at the court, he had certainly met the future Edward III. The latter was then a fourteen-year-old, exactly the age where a young boy can become infatuated with a famous outlaw. This is pure speculation but that could explain why Robin Hoods was able to challenge authorities for another twenty years.

Robin Hoods identified?

The Robert or Robin Hood (Robin was the diminutive of Robert in the Middle Ages) are not lacking in medieval records. However in 1852, historian Joseph Hunter announced to have fallen on a character likely to be at the origin of the legend. The man was named Robert and he was the son of a certain Adam Hood, a ranger of the Earl of Surrey. Robert was born around 1280; On January 25 1316, he and his wife Matilda paid two shillings for the right to cultivate a plot on the Earl's estate at Bickhill (or Bitch-hill) in Wakefield. The plot was about ten meters by four and its annual rent was sixpence.

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Robin Hoods joins the Maquis

Robin Hoods

After the failure of the Lancaster rebellion, his followers were outlawed and their property confiscated. The documents mention, among these seized property, a five-room house located in Bickhill. It could be the house of Robert Hood ; proscribed, he would have taken refuge in the forest of Barnsdale (adjoining that of Sherwood) where he became a brigand.

He does not stay long. In 1323, the king went hunting in the forest of Knaresborough. He found rare game; the fault, he learned, was incumbent on Robin Hoods. A forester suggested Edouard to cross the forest transvestite as an abbot traveling in the company of monks. Outlaws intercepted the group but Robin Hoods recognized the king; Seduced by the charm and good manners of the brigand, Edward forgave him and took him to his service, as chamberlain. The king returned to Westminster in February 1324; house accounting books attest the payment of a month's wages to a certain "Robyn Hod" in the month of April 1324.

According to an old medieval ballad, after a year at the service of the king, Robin Hoods obtained permission to return to Barnsdale for a week. But he never returned to the court; Having gathered his merry companions again, he lived in the forest for the next twenty-two years. If the song is true, he would’ve died in 1346 at more than sixty-five years of age.

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The circumstances of his death

Established powers always find a way to take their revenge. According to the Sloane Manuscript kept at the British Museum, Robin Hoods became ill and went to find his cousin, the prioress of Kirklees, so that she would administered a bleeding, a common remedy at the time. Evil took him because the pious nun, determined to avenge numerous clerics stripped by her cousin, bled him to death.

Robin Hoods was buried on the grounds of the priory near its enclosure. The Grafton's Chronicle (1562) mentions that he lay beneath an engraved stone. In 1665, Dr. Nathaniel Johnstone came to draw the grave; it also appears in engraving in Gough's Sepulchral Monuments of Great Britain, published in 1768. But it was destroyed in the early nineteenth century by workers building a railway line. Thus disappeared the last material trace of the real existence of Robin Hoods. The tomb of the Prioress of Kirklees, Elizabeth Stainton, was still visible in the eighteenth century in the ruins of the priory. It was reminiscent of Robin Hoods'.

What gives the character of Robin Hoods all its historical significance is the fact that he lived at a time when peasants were more and more resistant to their condition. This discontent, forcefully expressed in John Ball's revolutionary preaching, exploded during the peasants' revolt of 1381, not long after Robin Hoods' figure appeared for the first time in a written work, the Piers Plowman of poet William Langland. The peasants revolt marks the end of the Middle Ages in England, but Robin Hoods ballads were already showing a state of mind announcing the extinction of medieval mentality.

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