The Hunt for Robin
In 1363, King Edward hosted an extravagant hunting party at Bestwood where he entertained his English magnates along with King John of France and the hostages captured at Poitiers. (Dobson & Taylor). The Geste tells us the impoverished knight; Sir Richard Vernon was among their number, captured by the Sheriff of Nottingham while hunting along the river bank. His crime was sheltering Robin and his men, thereby preventing the sheriff from doing his duty and here he is a prisoner of the king.
Disturbed by the lack of deer as the king and his retinue travelled through the pass of Lancashire* to Plumpton Park, the king dismissed Rd. De Strelley, for making false returns from his keepership of the forest. Vowing 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 see good Robin, you must come with me. Take five of your best knights, wear monks robes* and I will lead you to Robin Hood this side of Nottingham i.e. Lancashire. Unaware King Edward was the monk attired in abbot’s clothing, the outlaws served the company a fine meal of venison.
Afterwards, while shooting arrows together Robin twice split the wand as did good Gilbert with the white hand. When the outlaws discovered the abbot’s true identity, they knelt, pledged allegiance and asked forgiveness. (Geste) This the king did in June 1369 when Edward III “granted a special pardon to all outlaws, doing this in recognition of the great aids’ the Parliaments granted him.”*
* 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.
* 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)
* (Charles R. Young, The Royal Forests of Medieval England (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1979), p. 147.)
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