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March 2004
Did Robin Hood ever meet King Richard?
'Robin Hood entertaining King Richard the Lionheart in Sherwood Forest'; painting by Daniel Maclise in Nottingham Castle Museum Art Gallery (permission of Nottingham City Museum).
'Robin Hood entertaining King Richard the Lionheart in Sherwood Forest'; painting by Daniel Maclise in Nottingham Castle Museum Art Gallery (permission of Nottingham City Museum).
To mark the anniversary of King Richard's attack on Nottingham Castle, Nottingham's "Robin Hood Country" guide takes a closer look at the background to the legend.

Written by Richard Rutherford-Moore
Robin Hood index

360° tour:
Nottingham Castle

Richard Rutherford-Moore has written three books on The Legend of Robin Hood, several Robin Hood feature articles on the BBC Nottingham website and starred in a virtual inter-active guided tour of 'Robin Hood Country'.

This article is based on the author's third book on Robin Hood OFF ON THE OUTLAW TRAIL AGAIN! published in Spring 2004.

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Robin Hood meeting King Richard the Lion-Heart in Sherwood Forest has often been described in story, television and film - but did it really happen? In this article, the "Robin Hood Country" tour guide and Robin Hood author Richard Rutherford-Moore brings the two men back together for a fresh acquaintance.

The 1938 feature film The Adventures of Robin Hood is a classic; it was so successfully-pitched just before the Second World War that everyone could see the real-life threat in the form of Nazi Germany reflected in the sneering faces and dastardly plots of the three main antagonists; namely Prince John, The Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy of Gisborne. The feature film is perhaps best summed-up by the writer of the musical soundtrack, who at first shied away from the job as he saw difficulty in setting to music virtually an entire film of non-stop action sequences. The writers - it is claimed in the credits - used 'old Robin Hood stories' in creating the script for the feature film ; certainly the film seems very familiar when viewed by modern audiences today, but - back in 1937 did The Legend of Robin Hood really create the film : or was it more a case of vice versa? The plot of the 1938 feature film is the exciting story of a Saxon lord named Robin - who upon hearing Prince John pronounce that he has 'kicked Longchamps out' and John himself in the absence of the King has assumed the role of Regent of England - states to the Prince that what he has done is Treason and he will to raise a revolt and oppose it. What happens then is known to practically everyone over five years in age ; Robin Hood becomes an outlaw but in Sherwood Forest raises a formidable force and proceeds to do exactly what he said he would. King Richard eventually returns from imprisonment abroad - held prisoner in Germany but this fact was deliberately omitted from the 1938 film script - just in time to prevent Maid Marion from being executed and Prince John being crowned as the new King. Robin kills Sir Guy in the classic shadow-dancing sword fight and after John gets told off by King Richard for being such a naughty boy everybody lives happily ever after. The reality of all this however is somewhat different from the film script as - it was Longchamp who was the real villain.

An artists impression of King Richard I joining Robin Hood to Maid Marian in marriage. The marriage in Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood and Maid Marian in the presence of King Richard I is traditionally held to have occurred at St. Mary's Church in Edwinstowe, but is supported by no historical evidence outside ballards and stories.
An artists impression of King Richard I joining Robin Hood to Maid Marian in marriage. The marriage in Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood and Maid Marian in the presence of King Richard I is traditionally held to have occurred at St. Mary's Church in Edwinstowe, but is supported by no historical evidence outside ballards and stories.

Part One - England, 1189 - 1194
Richard I, The Lion-Heart was crowned in 1189 ; he was a born soldier, and he assumed this calling as a way of life. When a truce was broken and unarmed Moslem merchants attacked, Saladin led his forces to defeat the Christian armies and Jerusalem was captured in October 1187 ; most of the Christian leaders taken prisoner were then executed. Richard saw himself born to become the leader of a new Third Crusade and recapture the Holy city from the Infidel. In 1187 he took the Crusader oath.

Richard I left on the 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 an 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 it over England gaining the reputation of 'an overbearing and intolerable tyrant'.

When Prince John after spending Xmas in Normandy returned to England in early 1191, he found himself the immediate focus for the baronial opposition to Longchamp. When Longchamp besieged Lincoln castle in order to remove Gerard Camville, the Constable there and replace him with one of his personal supporters, Prince John countered the attack by moving into royal Nottingham castle - a move which was completely unopposed - and garrisoning that castle and nearby royal Tickhill castle with his own supporters. 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 A fresh agreement was made on terms very favourable to Prince John.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 Messina back to England to sort it out. The Archbishop in the kings' name was to order four knights Richard had left behind to form a council and sort out the trouble. The Archbishop arranged a compromise - Longchamp left Lincoln and John gave back control of the two royal castles, returning things to the state they were before tempers flared. As soon as the Archbishop left England to report to Richard, Longchamp tore up the agreement and he ordered one of his powerful supporters named Roger De Lacy to hang the two Constables that had handed over Nottingham and Tickhill to Prince John, which he duly did. 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 Dover in late September 1191.

Geoffrey had also sworn not to travel to England in Richard's absence, and Longchamp seeing Geoffrey as a threat to the throne tried to arrest him on a charge of treason. The farce resulting in Geoffrey after a stake-out of four days being dragged out of 'Holy Sanctuary' by Longchamps' impatient soldiers led to everyone involved in the unlawful capture of Geoffrey being excommunicated by the Bishop of Lincoln and Longchamp being first denounced and then excommunicated himself and deposed by the ruling council. Longchamp locked himself in the Tower of London, but was forced to surrender to Prince John after a few days. Longchamp was tried ; his defence was he had not been disloyal or a traitor to Richard but in his zeal he may have been tactless and overbearing. He was deposed and imprisoned. On the last day of October, Longchamp was permitted to leave England - he had tried to escape earlier dressed as a woman but an amorous and impudent seaman 'felt' rather than saw through Longchamps' disguise.

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 Navarre. Because of this, a rather disillusioned Philip had left command of the joint Crusade to Richard I who remained in the Holy Land. Hearing of the recent troubles in England, Philip decided to revenge himself on Richard I and made approaches to Prince John to marry his sister Alice instead and get hold of Richard's lands in France. The fact that John was already married was not seen as a problem by either Philip or John. Queen Eleanor narrowly managed to get John barred from leaving England by the ruling council in order to clinch the deal with Philip. At the same time, Longchamp returned to England demanding a re-trial and through a go-between offering John a bribe to enable Longchamp to get his old job back : Queen Eleanor then used Longchamp to forestall John's deal with Philip. The ruling council was left in a quandary as they didn't like what they were hearing about John or Longchamp. Leaving the ruling council to fret and worry for a time, Prince John then made it known he really needed the money Longchamp was offering him and would be forced to accept the bribe through necessity - but - if the ruling council matched Longchamps' offer to him John would cheerfully accept it from them instead, which would then solve everyone's problem. As a result, the ruling council paid Prince John the money but out of King Richard's treasury and re-asserted their oaths to him to succeed Richard. Longchamp was forced to return to France to await the fury of King Richard when he returned from the Holy Land.

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. 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 £66,000 : 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 France to meet Philip 'to find out the truth'. It is often implied but never proven that the rumour of Richard's death was circulated by John and Philip in order for John to be crowned and Richard's lands shared out between John and Philip. John's offer to Normandy to defend it from the threat of a French invasion in return for their allegiance was rejected : John returned to England to recruit an army to crush any opposition to him being crowned and Philip planned an invasion of Normandy and England.

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 Holy Land were widely known and when Eleanor and the council put the problem to the people the response from them was both immediate and overwhelming in support of a tremendously popular King Richard. Prince John was faced down by the council as a result and troops raised by them to both counter John's threats and guard against a French invasion. The ransom demand would be paid if proof of Richard being alive was given.

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 as their new King a man they were currently 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.

Things in Germany weren't as bad as thought ; Richard had worked his charm on his jailer, Emperor Henry VI. Duke Leopold of Austria had arrested Richard I under circumstances that were contrary to the code of chivalry and crusading : Richard had offended Leopold in the Holy Land on a military matter and revenge was the main motive for Richard's detention. Richard had been transferred to Henry VI of Germany for safe-keeping and a half-share in the ransom but since that time Henry and Leopold had fallen out to the extent that Henry VI had used the French threat of buying Richard and holding him to ransom in exchange for all his lands in France to raise the ransom demand by fifty thousand marks but planned to give Leopold only twenty thousand marks as his share. Richard had secretly agreed a portion of his French lands would go to Philip upon his release along with twenty thousand marks if Philip kept quiet and caused no further upsets ; Henry VI then showed Richard private letters from both John and Philip offering him money to continue keeping Richard a prisoner.

On February 4th 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 March 7th he landed at Dover after an absence from England of four years. His welcome 'home' was outstanding and widespread. By comparison, Philip in France and John in Normandy were quiet : Philip had heard the news of Richard's release first and sent a warning to Prince John that is traditionally said to read simply "Look Out ! The Devil is Loosed !"

Though London threw open its doors to give Richard a hero's welcome, the gates of most of the castles controlled by Prince John remained firmly shut. Nottingham was the last castle to hold out, though invested and surrounded by troops loyal to King Richard. King Richard himself had to batter his way into the castle gatehouse, burn it down, hang the survivors and make several blood-curdling threats of what he would do to the defenders when he got into the castle itself before Prince John's two constables finally saw wisdom and surrendered, throwing themselves on Richard's mercy and blaming Prince John for everything. Richard issued a command to John from the Great Hall on the Middle Bailey of Nottingham Castle that John appear before him within forty days to answer the charges against him or "suffer the loss of all his lands and any claim to the throne". John ignored the summons and remained in Normandy. Most of the other supporters of Prince John who had incurred Richard's displeasure and knowing of Richard's plans to raise an army and immediately attack Philip of France in Normandy to get his lost castles back, paid over hefty sums to keep their positions through "the Kings' Pardon".

Richard was desperate for money, auctioning off many official posts to the highest bidder. Three sheriffs who had opposed Longchamp - including his loyal former 'northern' Justice and poor old Gerard Camville at Lincoln - were sacked by King Richard and their posts put up for sale. Richard is said to have remarked "he would have sold London had anyone been wealthy enough to afford to buy it." Richard's callous and ruthless raising of cash to raise an army was remarked upon in turn as a "return of Longchamps' tyrannical and overbearing methods." The Lionheart left Hubert Walter in charge of England and sailed for France on May 12th 1194, never to return. He and his younger brother met later in Normandy in the presence of their mother and Richard quickly forgave John "for being a child, led astray by evil advisers."

Part two -
Sherwood Forest, 1189 - 1220
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 the enigmatic 'Men of Sherwood'. In the battle of Lincoln of 1141, though both factions appealed to the same Men, it appears that not many turned out in support of a purely factional fight.

Fighting a foreign enemy for your country's sake obviously had a different appeal to these Men, though the civil war dragged on for almost twenty years and saw almost complete anarchy take over - including Nottingham Town being destroyed twice - burned by the Earl of Gloucester in 1140 and burned again by the future Henry II in 1153. The entire period of this civil war was later described as an era where 'Christ and his Saints slept' regarding the interests of common folk and the fighting, rapine and land-grabbing of aristocratic lords. It took Henry II many years to get full control of the royal lands and castles back for the Crown in areas that had become utterly lawless and bands of brigands, robbers and outlaws posing as soldiers roved the countryside preying wholesale on church, village and desmesne alike.

In 1140, a new bridge over the River Trent at Newark offered a safer passage north-south. Much of the traffic heading north to York formerly using the road known as The Kings' Great Way from the bridge over the Trent at Nottingham kept to the Great North Road and crossed the river at Newark : it avoided the expensive Nottingham bridge tolls, offered an alternative to the road in the form of seats on passage boats up-river - and avoided passing through the southern end of Sherwood Forest under the threat of robbers and outlaws. By 1190, the Forest road had seen a drop in merchant and trading traffic but a rise in travellers having a religious connection. In 1172, yet another monastery had been founded in Sherwood Forest and endowed by the King himself with the village, mill and church of Papplewick as a sort-of gift regarding the penance placed on Henry II by the Church resulting from the murder of Thomas a Becket. The new St Mary's Priory was situated in the Leen Valley roughly ten miles north of Nottingham and already in the area of Sherwood Forest lying to the north and south, east and west off The Kings' Great Way were the monasteries of : Blyth (founded 1088) Lenton (1109) Worksop (1123) Thurgarton (1140) Rufford (1146) Shelford (1154) and Felley (1156) to be followed by the founding of Welbeck Abbey (1189). The wealth of these great monasteries lay in their involvement in the wool trade ; each had outlying granges where one or two brothers or lay-monks looked after a small flock of sheep and the production of fleeces brought in a good source of revenue for the monastery concerned. From 1140, complaints were made to the Sheriff of Nottingham concerning robberies perpetrated against the monks 'by outlaws' ; by 1194 the complaints from local priors and abbots had grown something had to be done about the pestiferous outlaws.

The Leen Valley was dominated by a range of hills lying on it's western border. To the east, the ground rose - but not as prominently - before the rising and falling undulating contours of the dales here were lost in the densest part of royal Sherwood. The Kings Great Way ran north from Nottingham around the western edge of Bestwood Deer Park, through Papplewick and past St Mary's Priory on the eastern edge of the Leen Valley, disappearing into the leafy glades of the old 'keeping' of Lyndhurst with Blidworth hill to the east and continuing towards Mansfield, onto Worksop and Blyth. Richard I attacked and captured the last of his younger brothers' castles - Nottingham - in March 1194 then relaxed by hunting in this part of Sherwood Forest (resting for a time at St Mary's Priory) before meeting and entertaining his friend, King William of Scotland. If Richard heard any of the complaints about robberies from the religious houses, he would have ordered the Sheriff of Nottingham to sort the problem out - Richard needed money badly, and was looking to the Church to provide a good proportion of this though they'd already contributed a major part of his ransom. Richard I wanted the church to stay firmly in support of his reign.

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 Nottingham castle : a new fortress actually in Sherwood Forest, and placed on the western borders of the Leen Valley, built on a commanding height overlooking the St Mary's Priory. Built by the Deputy-Constable and garrisoned by soldiers, these men would patrol the area to prevent and hopefully catch the robbers - and if the robbers and outlaws weren't willing to submit, to exterminate them. The isolated fortress was not wanted by locals - obviously the robbers weren't bothering them, or they'd have welcomed the protection - but their complaints were ignored though a large part of common land was legally aforested and became the property of the Crown. The position of the new fort was too isolated and unsupported - instead of catching the robbers, the hidden robbers turned their attention to the fort and probably made life miserable for the By 1220, the new fort had been seen as such a failure it had been abandoned and the garrison paid off and disbanded, or returned to duty at Nottingham.

The 'romantic' legend ; 1160 - 1250
'Robin Hood' was born in Loxley, Locksley or Lockesley, a village in Yorkshire in the year 1160, but was outlawed after an argument for wounding his father with a scythe. The young man ran off towards nearby Barnsley rather than face judgement and punishment - when South and West Yorkshire became too hot to hold him, he made his way down The Great North Road and sought shelter with robbers and outlaws hiding in Sherwood Forest, further enhancing his existing woodcraft and skill with a bow and a sword. He rose in reputation to lead these men, but replaced their code of daily brutality with a revenge theme of targeted thefts. He 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 Mary, Marian 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.

That's one version of The Legend of Robin Hood. Similar names to Robin Hood appear in medieval records all over England from the year 1200 ; beyond that the records themselves are fragmentary. In and around Wakefield in the first half of the 14th Century, there are a cluster of such names which coupled with the Contrariants of the Lancaster rebellion against Edward II are offered as evidence that these records contain the real Robin Hood : but these have been examined several times by leading historians and found 'inconclusive'. They are also pre-dated by other references in records to a Robin, Robyn, Robert Hod, Hode or Hoode. Place-names associated with Robin Hood in attempts to date them are complicated by a possible previous ownership by woodland deities or gods named for 'Robin Goodfellow', 'The Green Man', 'The Horned God' or foreign imports such as Esus, Odin or Wotan. Before the 14th century, records of Robin Hood the Outlaw are pretty rare : manuscripts dated before 1500 down to 1330 become pretty scarce after that date. Previous historians in the 15th Century have recorded dates for Robin Hood's origins in the 12th Century, but frustratingly failed to note where their references were found.

For Robin Hood to have been able to meet Richard I, their meeting must have fallen within a period when:

1. Richard was in England (preferably within Sherwood Forest )
2. Under circumstances that Richard would not order Robin's immediate arrest or death
3. At a time using records that Robin Hood was supposed to be alive and surviving as an outlaw
4. Could there be a reason why the two men might want to meet each other …

Was there such a time?
Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire : 1189 - 1194
Richard I was born at Oxford in 1157 and crowned King at Westminster Abbey in 1189. Throughout the ten years of King Richard's reign, only a few months were spent actually in England. When he died in France in 1199, Richard's heart was buried at Rouen in Normandy, his brain at Poitou and his body next to his father Henry II at Fontevrault - England got no souvenir of Richard to bury, despite providing most of the financial means for Richard's military adventures throughout his entire reign. During one of the two periods Richard I was in England he could have met the outlaw, Robin Hood.

September - December 1189

Richard I is crowned in London in September 1189 but leaves England for France in December 1189. Did he ever come north during that period? The historical evidence available says he did not ; and there is no evidence that 'Robin Hood' ever travelled south. Richard I left France for the Holy Land in July 1190 - until March 1194 he was 'abroad'.

March - May 1194
Richard I returns from captivity and lands at Dover ; he is welcomed at London, and then heads north to deal with the last of his younger brother's castles at Nottingham. Richard I takes Nottingham castle on March 28th. By April 16th he was back at Winchester ; in mid-May he left for France and never returned to England. He died in France in 1199.

The last week of March - the first week of April, 1194
Richard attacks the only place to offer him any real opposition : Nottingham castle. He breaks into the Gatehouse after Prince John's two Constable's refuse to recognise him and order arrows to be shot at him and his mounted retinue, wounding some of them. Richard orders and immediate assault, leading it personally : they break into the wooden gatehouse, setting it on fire. The walls on the Middle Bailey are stone and these are too powerful to be attacked. Richard summons the castle to surrender, backing up the threat by hanging the survivors from the defenders of the gatehouse in full view and telling the rest of the garrison he will have them excommunicated before battering them all to death with siege engines when they arrive. The two Constable's wisely surrendered to Richard I the next day and they and the garrison were spared. Three days later, Richard I summons his younger brother to appear before him from the Great Hall on the Middle Bailey.

In the 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 King Richard is in disguise and the outlaw doesn't name himself 'Robin Hood' but Locksley). Locksley and The Black Knight are the joint leaders of the attack on the castle - a re-named Nottingham castle is featured in the novel - and as King Richard reveals his true identity to everyone so in return does 'Locksley' reveal himself as Robin Hood. Sir Walter Scott reputedly stayed at a house near Friar Tuck's Well in Sherwood Forest whilst writing notes for Ivanhoe and did visit several other associated sites (though his description of the site in the book makes one feel he visited the wrong one). It is said Scott accessed 'documentary evidence' that Robin Hood met Richard the Lion-Heart in 1194 in Sherwood Forest - but exactly what this evidence was is uncertain. Both Ivanhoe and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) contain many references to Saxon and Norman - but by the year 1200 it is unlikely that this distinction was made as a form of prejudice by one class to another. King John had far more trouble with Anglophobic or Francophile barons and clergy than from 'Saxon' peasants.

In the oldest stories of the meeting between the Outlaw and the King, Robin Hood meets the King in Sherwood Forest ; but the featured King is in disguise when they meet. Robin Hood recognises the King through his physical strength when blows are exchanged during a contest. Though the King reveals his true identity later the Kings' actual name is never given. The pair become 'friends' and set off for Nottingham where Robin Hood is seen with the King in public and a Royal Pardon is assumed to have been granted by all and sundry. It isn't likely that The Sheriff - if he ever met Robin Hood - regarded the outlaw with any feelings of friendship as previously the outlaw had embarrassed the Authorities several times and been a thorn in their side (and in one account had murdered a previous Sheriff). But - no records of a real person named Robin Hood living in the vicinity of Sherwood Forest exist before the year 1220. That such a person could have lived there many years previously isn't impossible. Only felons are recorded in the records used in evidence. If 'Robin Hood' didn't come to trial or notice under that name he couldn't have been outlawed under that name. Similar names do exist, with the earliest said to be dated to 1213. The first mention outside a local tradition of Robin Hood meeting Richard I in Sherwood Forest is in a history book of 1521. No source of original reference is given, but the statement struck a chord and was developed through a popular play in 1598 and a poem in 1632 which later became a play. These three works set the precedent for Robin Hood existing as a Saxon outlaw of noble birth persecuted by Norman overlords. When the King is named in Robin Hood stories, the name Henry or Edward is often given - never Richard. King Edward II did visit Nottingham in 1323 after crushing the Lancaster rebellion at the battle of Boroughbridge but is not recorded as having any outlaw friends in tow. With the reference published in 1377 to 'rhymes of Robin Hood' in the poem The Vision of Piers Plowman written by William Langland in 1371 and records of similar surnames in the previous century, it always 'feels' like the Robin Hood legend had an origin before the year 1250 - the average date given by two contempory chroniclers at the time of the poem being published. There are real and recorded outlaws who did Robin Hood-type things - but with the possible exception of Hereward the Wake most of their names are relatively unknown. Most of the current on-going research at several places in the United Kingdom into a 'real Robin Hood' is centred around the middle of the 13th Century. Medieval records beyond this period grow increasingly rare and contain scanty information.

"Keep your friends close by ; but keep your enemies even closer." ( An old proverb )

When King Richard wasn't fighting, deer and boar hunting or ruling his empire, one of his favourite pastimes was hawking - and the open spaces in Sherwood Forest in the Leen Valley were popular places to participate in this sport. After the capture of Nottingham castle in March 1194, King Richard is recorded as hunting for relaxation in Sherwood Forest and probably made a few 'house calls' on important personages to renew an acquaintance, receive a vow of loyalty or tap them for cash. Word would have swept through the glades by the strange ethereal means of communication that existed at the time, and a full account would have circulated in Sherwood about Richard's exploits at Nottingham castle. The King stayed or rested at St Mary's Priory as is recorded - lying on the eastern edge of the Leen Valley.

If Robin Hood had been working for Richard in the years of his absence, then if the opportunity did arise for King Richard and Robin Hood to meet, with regard to their individual characters both men would have seized it. Both men had much to gain from mutual support.

The famous painting Robin Hood entertaining King Richard the Lionheart in Sherwood Forest by Daniel Maclise currently hanging in Nottingham castle depicts the meeting between King 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 lots of people, all paying great attention to Robin Hood and King Richard. Little John looks like Hercules in style and dress, carrying a dead deer over his shoulder - a seriously grave offence under the strict Forest Law at the time. Marian sits demurely at the base of a nearby oak tree crowned with woodland flowers. Robin with a drink in his hand postures before the King whilst recounting a tale - and definitely looking a little tipsy - whilst King Richard is dressed in mail armour ( armour was not worn for hunting as it was considered both uncomfortable, unfair and unsporting ) covered by a white sleeveless surcoat attended by a strange-looking page who pours him wine from a jug. King Richard sits and smiles benevolently at Robin, with his similarly-armoured guards standing well in the background. Friar Tuck is pictured with many other background characters who have been identified as Will Scarlett, Gilbert, Much, Gamwell, Alan a Dale and so on by the eager viewers of the painting. The picture we have is very much part of the 19th century Victorian-period romantic ideal of the meeting between the two men and the steadily increasing tourist trade involving Robin Hood going on in Sherwood Forest at the same time as this image was painted. The most remarkable feature in the painting - often missed by viewers - is that Robin Hood is dressed not in green clothes, but in bright red.

St Mary's Priory would be seen by both sides as 'neutral territory', though Robin Hood's belligerent attitude to the clergy is made pretty clear. The monks there did not permit the wearing or carrying of weapons in the precincts of the Priory so a meeting between Richard and Robin could have been arranged there easily by a go-between prompted by 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 military manpower if tapped ( in the year 1138 Archbishop Thurstan of York appealed to the Men of Sherwood to help him fight a Scots invasion and Edward I later recruited skilled longbow-men from Sherwood Forest for his Welsh and Scots wars in the latter half of the 13th Century ). In addition to his military capabilities, Richard I could be charming and witty, write songs to music and when in captivity played several practical jokes on his jailers (Richard especially liked getting them drunk enough to fall over). When King Richard pleaded his case for release before the Emperor of Germany, the Emperor was so moved by Richard's eloquence he got up from his throne and embraced Richard with the kiss of peace. Though Robin Hood's pranks often went wrong in his early days, through this bravado he evolved into a clever trickster and a cunning and careful planner. That the leaders of both sides were past experts in stage-management is established ; any arranged meeting would be conducted with great care on both sides - trust had to be earned on both sides - at a site approved by both parties with a fixed number of attendants. Sherwood Forest was a royal forest and totally belonged to the King - there could be no question of a meeting on Robin Hood's territory ; on the other hand, that part of the royal forest still contains today a large number of the traditional sites having a strong association with Robin Hood - so it could perhaps be interpreted as 'outlaw country' and a balance struck if it became necessary.

Whatever else was to be said, an oath of loyalty from Robin Hood to Richard and in exchange a pardon from Richard to Robin Hood for past crimes would have occurred, enabling them to go forward from their first meeting as both men had many enemies lurking in the shadows and it would be in the interests of both men to advertise the new entente cordiale. After the initial exchanges, the charm of both men coupled with their behaviour toward each other would ease the assembled audience into a more relaxed atmosphere of social chit-chat over a drink and leading into fun and games at a woodland feast. When The Sheriff of Nottingham heard about the new deal - or if Robin Hood really did ride back to Nottingham with King Richard - might not like it but as the King's personal representative in the shire he would have to accept changes in Crown policy made by the King in public - and in private wait for an opportunity for revenge.

So our meeting could have happened - but if it did happen it must have been so memorable or emotional that nobody thought to record the epic for posterity!

King Richard after Sherwood in early April 1194 left to greet his good friend King William of Scotland for a parley. By mid-April the King was in the south of England and by the end of May in France. If Robin Hood went with him from Sherwood, it isn't recorded anywhere - but in the Robin Hood legend, Robin Hood gets a bit homesick after a year serving the King and obtains a leave of absence to go on a visit 'home' - but he never returns to court. Four years later, King Richard is dead. If you add up the evidence contained in the popular Robin Hood legend in years - he supposedly lived on in the greenwoods for over forty years until 1247, making him a remarkably old man when he died at an age between eighty and ninety years old.

King Richard's captor - Leopold of Austria - was excommunicated by the Church and ordered to pay back the ransom to England. He refused to do so : when he fell from his horse in December 1194 he broke his ankle - the foot below turned black overnight and when the limb was finally amputated three days later blood-poisoning and gangrene had spread through Leopold's entire body. In agony but having promised to pay back the ransom, Leopold died on New Years Day 1195 after being received back into the Church. When the news arrived in England, men simply said "God's Justice had been Done."

King Richard got his revenge on Philip, King of France in September 1198 at Gisors - in the retreat after the fighting in which King Richard personally unhorsed three enemy knights with one lance, as the rest of the mounted French knights crowded around their King on a wooden bridge it collapsed under their weight and the bridge, knights and King crashed down into the river below.

The man who shot the crossbow-bolt that struck Richard I and led to his death a short time later was forgiven by the King - but was flayed alive and hanged after Richard died. Upon hearing of King Richard's death, a chronicler noted "Avarice, crime, unbounded lust, unscrupulous pride and blind desire have reigned for twice five years but all these an archer lay prostrate by the skilful handling of his weapon." Within five years, the same chronicler was writing "With King Richard were buried the pride and honour of the chivalry of the West ...."

Prince John succeeded Richard I to gain the reputation today as "England's worst King". During the period of King John's reign, the standard reward offered for the dead-or-alive capture of any outlaw rose by 500 percent.

The remains of the old motte-and-bailey castle in the Leen Valley can still be seen.

King John granted the water-meadows on the River Leen to St Mary's Priory in 1205. The entire place was on the brink of bankruptcy until the mid-1500's when it was dissolved by Henry VIII and later bought by the Byron family, re-named Newstead Abbey to suit the new 'Gothic' fashion.

The spot traditionally known as "Robin Hood's Grave" was dug up in 1706 - but no remains of a grave or human remains were found at the spot.

Sean Connery had previously played an aging Robin Hood in the feature film Robin and Marian. In 1998 he was cast in a surprise cameo role to play King Richard the Lionheart in the final scene of the feature film Robin Hood : Prince of Thieves. For many British viewers it was the best bit in the entire film!

'Blacke Dickon' - the author's medieval forester character - relates the legend of King Richard The Lionheart's meeting with Robin Hood at a recent event in Nottingham Castle. (English Heritage)
'Blacke Dickon' - the author's medieval forester character - relates the legend of King Richard The Lionheart's meeting with Robin Hood at a recent event in Nottingham Castle. (English Heritage)

The author is scheduled to present "Robin Hood's Nottingham", a new guided tour for visitors based at Nottingham Castle beginning in May 2004. Details from Nottingham Castle, the BBC Nottingham website or the newsdesk of the World-Wide Robin Hood Society website. Private tours including "Robin Hood's Sherwood Forest" can be booked through Nottingham Castle. A new Robin Hood book for 2004 from the author is "Robin Hood's Nottingham Castle" detailing the exciting adventures and events that have featured in and around this historic site from creation in 1068 through to the present day.

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