Jonas Armstrong as Robin Hood
Nottinghamshire legends: Robin Hood
A new book finally names who Robin Hood was and that he used to be friends with the Sheriff of Nottingham.
For generations people have been asking who the real Robin Hood was. Now a Forest Town, Mansfield author claims to have unearthed definitive proof.
Brian Benison says his book, Robin Hood: The Real Story, is the best researched.
"It's the only book where I track his life from the day he became an outlaw to the day he died, purely by using the public records. In other words, no myths, just public records."
Brian says Robin Hood was a nickname, much like Billy the Kid referred to a real person, William H. Bonney.
Using this as a basis, he's used public records to see what the historians of the day wrote about outlaws who lived like the Robin of legend.
From this he's deduced the tale begins in 1265 and that Robin Hood was Roger Godberd.
He served under Simon de Montfort, the 6th Earl of Leicester, as well as two other barons. When all three were killed in a clash with the monarchy, Roger assumed the leadership.
This put him at odds with the royals so, according to Brian, in October 1267, he settled in Sherwood forest. He lived there for four years defying the authorities. He could call upon 100 men but was eventually caught in 1272.
The truth of the legend
Brian says Roger / Robin wasn't around during the time of Richard the Lionheart. The monarchs were Henry III and his son Edward I.
"The authorities were terrified," says Brian. "The king sent a message to Nottingham folk expressing his concern about the number of robberies taking place and how it wasn't safe."
Such was the concern that the king supplied extra men and wooden barricades to ensure Nottingham castle wasn't overrun by Roger and his men.
Brian Benison and his book
Roger and the Sheriff
The legend tells us the Sheriff of Nottingham was the great enemy of Robin Hood. But according to Brian Benison, in the early days at least, there was a healthy relationship between Roger Godberd and Reginald de Grey (the sheriff).
"They were quite friendly at first. The sheriff is a man the people should be proud of.
"He was one of the youngest ever sheriffs and was a great military leader for his country. He helped Edward I conquer Wales. He was a dedicated parliamentarian."
They used to go hunting together and there's a record of when they were charged with stealing the king's deer.
But the good times didn't last.
"The parting of the ways came at the time of the barons revolt. You were either on the barons side or the royals side. Roger supported the barons, the sheriff the royals."
Imprisonment and death
Fans of the Robin Hood legend might be shocked to hear but, according to Brian Benison, it was the Sheriff of Nottingham who caused Roger Godberd's downfall.
Roger was first captured in the grounds of Rufford Abbey. He was taken to Nottingham castle but managed to escape.
That prompted drastic action.
"He (the sheriff) was given money to raise the finest army in the land to finally defeat the outlaws," claims Brian Benison.
Roger was eventually captured and sent to jail. He was kept in three different prisons over three years while awaiting trial. That took place at the Tower of London where he was pardoned.
He returned to his farm and lived there until his death, never heading down the outlaw road again.
Sadly, for romantic lovers, Brian debunks the idea of Roger being involved with a woman called Marian and marrying her in Edwinstowe.
He says that before he became an outlaw he was married with two children and there's no evidence to support a relationship with anyone called Marian.
Get the book
Robin Hood: The Real Story is available at the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre, Edwinstowe and Nottinghamshire tourist information centres.
Find out more about the region's legends on BBC East Midlands Today, from 18:30 on BBC 1 every weekday.
last updated: 02/04/2009 at 12:26