Robin Hood kneels before Richard the Lionheart
Although Richard I does not appear in the existing medieval ballads of Robin Hood, it was only a matter of time before the two legendary characters came together in English myth. Today, Richard the Lionheart and Robin Hood are now inseparable in countless film and television productions of the outlaws adventures in Sherwood Forest. The Lionhearted king has always had a fascination for me and particularly his siege of Nottingham Castle in 1194. It was during this period in Richard's return to England that we come closest to the moment when the two legendary characters 'might' have met.
Robin Hood and Richard the Lionheart.
Due to the unrest at home and the threat to his lands in Normandy, caused by his brother John's alliance with Philip of France, Richard uncharacteristically had to turn his back on the Crusade in the Holy Land and return to England. Unfortunately his journey home was a disaster, culminating in his capture and imprisonment by Duke Leopold of Austria in December 1192. The Duke then sold Richard to Henry VI Emperor of Germany in March 1193. Meanwhile his trecherous brother Prince John, toured England, telling anyone that would listen that, King Richard was dead.
On Richard's departure to the Holy Land, John had not been given Nottingham Castle as part of his estates. But it was partly re-built in stone and held by Prince John along with several others,when news reached England of Richard's imprisonment and ransom of 150,000 marks (£100,000). This huge sum was twice the annual revenue of the English crown. Although, as Richard was master of the provences of the Angevin empire, the sum would eventually not only come from England, but also Normandy, Britanny and Aquitaine.
John had offered the Emperor 80,000 marks to keep Richard I imprisoned until Michaelmas, or a proportionate sum for every month he kept him captive beyond it. But the Holy Roman Emperor stood by his word and Philip sent a message to his ally, Prince John, "have a care, the devil is un-loosed." The Lionheart was a free man again, having been captive for one year, six weeks and three days. It was said that the castellan of St. Michaels Mount in Cornwall dropped dead of fright when he heard of Richard's return. Immedialtely Prince John escaped to France and lay low in Normandy.
On the 20th March 1194, King Richard landed in Sandwich in Kent, from where he hastened to Canterbury, declaring that he did not want to visit any other church in England until he had visited the seat of St.Thomas Beckett. He then made his way to London via Rochester where a thanksgiving service was held in St.Paul's Cathedral. After two days in London the Lionheart then rode north to Nottingham to deal with his brother. While Richard was on his way back to England, the great Council had declared all Prince John's estates forfeit and the assembled bishops excomunicated him.
Richard reached Nottingham on 25th March, "with such a vast multitude of men, and such a clangor of trumpets and clarions, that those who were in the castle were astonished and confounded and alarmed, and trembling came upon them, but still they did not believe that the king had come and supposed that the whole of this was done by the chiefs of the army for the purpose of decieving them. The king, however,took up his quarters next to the castle, so that the archers of the castle pierced the kings men at his very feet. The king being incensed with this put on his armour, and commanded his army to make an assault on the castle. "
(Roger de Hovenden, Itinerarium Regis Ricardi ).
Richard's effigy in Fontevrault, France
Ralph Murdoc and William de Wendeval were holding the castle in Prince John's name and refused to surrender.
The siege had already been started by William Earl of Ferrers, David Earl of Huntingdon (the brother of William the Lion, king of Scots) and Randulf Earl of Chester. This is peculiar because the legend of Robin Hood not only links him with the earldom of Huntingdon but also with Randulf Earl of Chester ( 'Piers Plowman' c.1377).
David, Earl of Huntingdon, took part in Richard's coronation and shortly afterwards married the sister of Randulf Earl of Chester.
King Richard according to some sources arrived with just a few hours of daylight left and as he stood watching the siege, two of those next to him were suddenly hit by arrows.The Lionheart ordered an immediate assault. Such were his military talents that by dusk the wooden gateway to the outer bailey and the barbican had been captured and burnt. But the defenders lay secure behind the high stone walls of the middle bailey and during the night deliberately burnt down some buildings.
Clothed in a simple coat of light mail, with a steel cap on his head, he [Richard] advanced as far as the gate of the castle, preceded by men bearing before them large shields.
The next day Richard ordered Master Elias of Oxford to bring stone throwing engines from London.The king decided not to make another assault on the castle till the machines were ready. Meanwhile he hung from gibbets, in full view of the defenders, some men at arms captured outside of the castle. He also summoned the Archbishop of Canterbury to excommunicate the defenders.
On the following day the Bishop of Durham brought additional forces and prisoners from nearby Tickhill Castle.
But while the king was at dinner:
Ralph Murdac and William de Wendeval, constables of Nottingham Castle, sent two of their companions to see the king; who after having seen him, returned to the castle, to tell those who had sent them what they had seen and heard respecting the king and his preperations. When William de Wendeval and Roger de Montbegum heard of this, they went forth with twelve others from the castle, and threw themselves at the king's mercy, and returned to the castle no more.
(Roger de Hovenden, Itinerarium Regis Ricardi)
But, it was not until the third day of the siege, and the mediation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, that the defenders were persuaded to surrender:
Ralph Murdac, Philip de Worcester and Ralph de Worecester his brother, and all the rest who were in the castle, surrendered the castle to the king, and threw themselves on the king's mercy, for life and limb and worldly honour.
(Roger de Hovenden)
The gates were opened and Richard entered the castle. Three days later, a Royal Council was held in the main hall. Richard sat between the two archbishops. The Queen Mother also attended the debate, which was to last for four days. They finally reached the decision to call upon Prince John to appear and answer the charges of treason whithin forty days. But due to the inter-cession of their mother, the feuding brothers were eventually reconciled.
On Palm Sunday, Richard rode off into Sherwood Forest to enjoy two days at the royal hunting lodge in Clipstone.
Roger of Hoveden in his Itinerarium Regis Ricardi, says:
Richard King of England did a view (perambulation) of Clipstone and Sherwood which of he had never seen before and it pleased him much.
We get more detail of Richard's trip by John Manwood (d.1610) in his Treatise of the Forest Laws:
“I have seen many ancient records in the tower of Nottingham Castle very badly kept, and scarce legible; in which Castle the Court is usually kept for Peverill-Fee: Amongst which it appears, that in the year 1194, King Richard being hunting in Sherwood Forest, did chase a hart out of the forest into Barnsdale into Yorkshire; and because he could not recover him, he made a proclamation at Tickhill in Yorkshire, and at several other places thereabout, that no person should kill, hurt or chase the said Hart; and this was afterwards called a Hart-Royal Proclaim’d.”
Richard then returned back to Nottingham. Sadly, we have no more information about his time amongst the beautiful glades of Sherwood and whether he met a certain outlaw in Lincoln Green. But the legend lives on.