The King Hunts Robin
Picture, the site of Robin Hood's birthplace.
The Gest tells how the knight Sir Richard at the Lee protected Robin and his men from the sheriff of Nottingham by barricading them in his castle. The sheriff determined to get the better of Robin and Sir Richard went to London Town to see the king. “My king,” he said, “the knight told me he supported everything he did to protect the outlaws. He will make you my king powerless in your northern kingdom.” When the king heard this he said, “I intend going to Nottingham and will take care of Robin Hood and the knight when I get there.” Putting words into action, King Edward hosted an extravagant hunting party at Bestwood in Nottingham and Lancashire in 1364 where he entertained his English magnates plus King John of France and the hostages captured at Poitiers. (Dobson and Taylor).
The king angered by the lack of deer as the royal party travelled through the pass of Lancashire1 to Plumpton Park dismissed Rad. De Strelley, for making false returns in his keepership of the forest (John Granby). Robin, meanwhile in Lancashire herded and killed the deer at will. Determined to capture Robin Hood, the king told Sir Richard at the Lea, “Whoever cuts off the knight’s head and brings it here will have the knight’s lands.”
After spending half a year in Nottingham without finding Robin Hood, a proud forester told the king, “if you want to meet good Robin, you must follow me. Bring five of your best knights, wear monks robes2 and I will lead you to Robin Hood this side of Nottingham,” i.e., Lancashire. With that, the king put on abbot’s clothing while the others wore monks’ habits. As promised, the king met with Robin, who mistakenly took them for churchmen. After serving his guests with a fine meal of venison, they shot arrows together. Robin twice split the wand as did Good Gilbert with the white hand. When the outlaws discovered the abbot’s true identity, Robin, and Sir Richard at the Lea looked into the King’s face. Robin said, “My Lord the King of England, I love you true! Of thy goodness and thy grace under your trysting-tree, I beg for my men and me! Yes, for God. Please God, he saves me! Mercy, I pray my lord the King, and for my men, I crave.” In June 1369 King Edward III granted a special pardon to all outlaws.3
Then, the King spoke to Sir Richard at the Lee and returned his land, bidding him loyal be. Robin, on one knee, thanked his comely king who commanded him to live in his court. This Robin did, but with his money and men all gone except for Little John and William Scathelock. Robin returned to his beloved Barnsdale.
1. The route King Edward took along the Pass of Lancashire possibly followed the old Roman Road to York. It started near Blackpool on the west coast, then diverted south to Great/Little Plumpton near Westby, then followed the Calder, Ribble and Wharfe river valleys and continued east to the southern edge of the Forest of Bowland, noted for its wild boar. Within the Forest of Bowland is the Forest of Gisburn. At that time the land belonged to King Edward's son John O Gaunt so presumably the hunting was fit for a king.
2. Edward III often wore disguise. In 1341 he competed against 250 others while disguised and trounced them all. Three years later Edward disguised himself again and won the prize as the best knight in the royal household on three consecutive days. When his son John of Gaunt married in 1359 he celebrated with a tournament, competing against his four eldest sons plus 19 nobles dressed as the mayor and aldermen of London and again, he beat the field with honour. In one tournament he wore Thomas Breadstone’s coat of arms and in 1348 he fought incognito at Calais under the command of Walter Mauny. (M. Prestwich)
3. (Charles R. Young, The Royal Forests of Medieval England (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1979), p. 147.)
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