The Death of Robin Hood
After the Peasants Revolt, Robin moved to Wakefield away from Gisborne’s restrictions, and life returned to normal. He lived 22 years more until one day after hunting the Dunne deer Robin felt weak, unwell and could not eat. In desperation, he sought help from his cousin, the prioress who would lett his blood. Will Scarlet said to take half a hundred of his best bowmen, but dismissing Scarlett’s advice, Robin rode there with only Little John for company. As they got near the priory an old woman, kneeling on a plank over black water banned Robin and lamented is death. When Robin asked why the bann, she explained, We women have no venison to give Robin Hoode. We weepen for his deare body that this day his blood be lette.
Entering the convent, Robin gave his cousin £20.00 in gold coins saying to spend it while it lasted, then she shall have more. (Edward III introduced gold coins in 1344.) Despite Robin’s generosity, his wicked kinswoman, the prioress of Kirklees, betrayed him for the love of her special lover. Much evil did she, when with the knight Sir Roger of Doncaster, they plotted in secret how best to kill poor Robin. By their foul play, they betrayed noble Robin Hood.
His lifeblood dripping away and realising his end was nigh Robin said, give me my bent bow and a broad arrow I will let flee. Where it falls, there shall my grave dug be. Lay me a green sod under my head and another at my feet. Lay my bent bow by my side. It was my music, sweet. Make my grave of gravel and green most right and meet. Let me have length and breadth enough with a green sod under my head, so they may say when I am dead, here lies bold Robin Hood. These words, they readily granted him. It did, bold Robin please and there they buried bold Robin Hood, within fair Kirkleys. Dear Christ, have mercy on his soul.
With head bowed low Little John, who may have been suffering from the same contagious disease as Robin, went to his relatives at Hathersage. He dug his own grave under the old Yew tree. The Lyttle Gest of Robyn Hode concludes by saying, he (Robin) did poor men much good.
THE HISTORICAL SETTING
BANN: from Old English bannan means to proclaim or to announce a forthcoming event, as in marriage banns.
The old woman kneeling on a plank over black water may have been dying cloth. Woad turns water black and smells vile causing Queen Elizabeth to decree that dyers (litsters) should not engage in their trade within five miles of where she was staying.
When the woman saw Robin she announced or 'banned' Robins forthcoming death, perhaps recognising his symptoms from earlier outbreaks of the plague that came to England from Calais in 1348. Fresh outbreaks occurred at York in 1361, 1369, 1375, 1378, 1390 and 1400. Rat fleas living in cloth carried the bacterium pests. Robin dealt in cloth, and York was a seaport. Outbreaks continued until the Great Plague of London in 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666. Robin’s death was inevitable regardless of anything the prioress and/or her lover did. Little John died soon after, perhaps also dying from the ravages of the Black Death?
According to the ballad of Robin’s death, the prioress, a member of the knightly Mounteney family was the daughter of Robin’s aunt.
Robin is said to have given to the poor, and in York was a charitable organisation known as the guild of Our Lord Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary located in the Merchant Adventurers Hall, it provided for destitute widows and orphans of their deceased members. The Hall was home to several guilds, including hosiers, potters, tanners, drapers, and dyers. Robin was a master dyer and a freeman of York, so he may well have given to the needy, like other merchants, hence his reputation for being a friend of the poor?
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