Robin Hood and Edward II

I have recently posted about the ground breaking discoveries of Joseph Hunter which were first published in his book ‘The Great Hero of the Ancient Minstrelsy of England, Robin Hood his Period etc. Investigated and Perhaps Ascertained’ in 1852. This generated a lot of interest, so below is a complete list of the entries to Robin Hood, the Valet of the King’s Chamber during the reign of Edward II (1307-1327).

Included is an account discovered by Sir James Holt in the 1980’s, which was in a fragment of a day-book of the chamber, for the period 14th April to 7th July 1323. Under ultra-violet light it reveals that this Robin Hood was already in Edward’s service before he visited Nottingham in November 1323. This discovery by Holt partly dismantles the coincidence of detail between the ballad and historical fact that Joseph Hunter based his book on, but interest still remains amongst modern day historians. After Edward II's execution of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, in 1322, the earl's supporters committed wide-spread acts of vengeance, including the pillaging of the king's deer in the royal forests, as in the ballad ‘ A Gest of Robyn Hode’ (C.1500) Edward II himself travelled to the area to investigate these disturbances.

In the Geste, ‘comly’ King Edward hearing of the death of the Sheriff and that his deer in his forest have been killed, visits Sherwood disguised as an abbot. Eventually Robin recognises the king and asks for mercy for himself and his followers. But the king will only grant them a pardon on condition that they leave the forest and come to court:

"Yes, for God," than sayd our kynge,
"And therto sent I me,
With that thou leve the grene wode,
And all thy company,

"And come home, syr, to my courte,
And there dwell with me."
"I make myn avowe to God," sayd Robyn,
"And ryght so shall it be.

"I wyll come to your courte,
Your servyse for to se,
And brynge with me of my men
Seven score and thre."

Edward II's Chamber Accounts

A day book surviving from the Royal Chamber between 14th April to 7th July 1323 mentions on 27th June a Robyn Hode received wages as porter of the king’s chamber from 5th till 18th June. In the fragment of the Account book, £6 is paid out to thirty four, including Robyn Hod, Simon Hod, Wat Cowherd and Robin Dyer.

In P.R.O. E101/380/4 there are payments of 3d a day starting on the 25th April 1324 to ‘Henri Lawe, Colle de Ashruge, Will de Shene, Joh. Petimari, Grete Hobbe, Litell Colle, Joh. Edrich, Robyn Hod, Simon Hod, Robert Trasshe.......... (And nineteen others).’

On May 17th 1324: ‘ To Robert Hod and thirty one other porters for wages from the 22nd April to May 12th , less five days for Robert Hod when he was absent.’

On June 10th 1324: ‘To Robyn Hod twenty seven days wage less one day absence deducted for absence.’

On June 30th 1324: 'Twenty Six porters received their wages but Robyn Hod received nothing.'

On July 22nd 1324: ‘To Robert Hood and six other valets being with the king at Fulham by his command from the 9th day of June arrears of wages at 3d a day for twenty one day’s pay.'

August 21st 1324: ‘Robin Hod had eight days pay deducted for non-attendance.'

October 6th 1324: ‘Robyn Hod received full pay.'

October 21st 1324: No pay to Robyn Hod, absent altogether.

From October 21st to November 24th 1324 the Clerk of the Chamber paid Robyn Hod for 35 days, but deducted seven days because of absence.

November 22nd 1324: ‘To Robyn Hod formerly one of the porters, because he can no longer work, five shillings as a gift by commandment.'

In the ‘Geste’ Robin has spent all his money on entertaining and on gifts to knights and squires. Only two of his men, Little John and Scathelock, are left with him. Robin longs to go back to the greenwood, and begs leave of the king to go on a pilgrimage to a little chapel in Barnsdale that he had built:

Robyn sawe yonge men shote
Full ferre upon a day;
"Alas!" than sayd good Robyn,
"My welthe is went away."

"Somtyme I was an archere good,
A styffe and eke a stronge;
I was comted the best archere
That was in mery Englonde."

"Alas!" then sayd good Robyn,
"Alas and well a woo!
Yf I dwele lenger with the kynge,
Sorowe wyll me sloo."

"I made a chapell in Bernysdale,
That semely is to se,
It is of Mary Magdaleyne,
And thereto wolde I be".

We know now that this Robert Hood/Robin Hood was already in the King’s service before his visit to Nottingham; perhaps he was given the five shillings because he was too old and sick to work. But whatever way you look at it, this is indeed a remarkable coincidence between ballad and historical fact. What do you think?

I would like to thank Kathryn Warner for the use of her picture of Edward II’s Chamber Journal of 1322. She has a fantastic blog dedicated to this much maligned king at 

Edward II may have met the Robin Hood!


Clement of the Glen said...

"Robin Hood and Edward II"

Robin Hood Porter in King Edward's Chamber 1323/1324

Joseph Hunter

Special thanks to Kathryn Warner

Kathryn Warner said...

Fascinating, Clement, and many thanks for the mention and the kind compliment! Hehehe, I love the name Grete Hobbe (you may remember that I mentioned him on my Facebook page not long ago). Big Rob! :-) Love the thought of Edward knowing the Robin Hood.

Avalon said...

Brilliant find! It is tragic that with the hands of time and neglect of historians we have lost so much history.

I have always thought there were two Robin Hoods, father and son or perhaps grandfather and grandson, but this is just my theory.

Clement of the Glen said...

Thank you Kathryn. Grete Hobbe, yes I wonder if he was a forerunner for 'Little John'?

Avalon, there is no reason why there couldn't have been two Robins that inspired the legend. There were a whole family of Hoods in Wakefield during the fourteenth century, some called Robin, that may have contributed to the story.I will post on them in the future.

Albie said...

This could be most likely a forerunner of the legends we know today, which seem to me a collage of stories from different eras. The legend we normally hear speaks of King Richard and Prince John. However, during this period of 1189 to 199 (Richards death) and on to 1216 (Johns demise) there was no Sheriff of Nottingham. The office of Sheriff of Nottingham was not created until the late 1200's. Also there were no friars at that time, again the 1st appearing in England around the reign of Edward II.

As for Grete Hobbe, I've heard the name before (Grete I suppose being 'Great' today rather than an actual christian name). Also the name of Robert/Robin Hood/Hode/Hod was quite common during the whole period the legends come from.

I've always believed the legends are an amalgamation of stories over maybe 500 years, but this is one of the most plausible of the historical parts of them.

Yes Avalon, much has been lost to history as you say. It happened here in Walesby a good couple of hundred years ago. One cold night, the local priest had (allegedly) drunk too much to keep warm and ended up putting all the Parish records into the fire as well!! Some of those probably went way back into the12/1300's, lost forever I'm afraid.

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