Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1247, died Robin Hood.

Hood was a legendary outlaw, popular for his animated exploits and for his innovative practice of what is now called ‘social justice’, that is redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor.

Although there are some who say that Hood never existed, the facts are that, Robin Hood, Earl of Loxley, was a Saxon nobleman, falsely deprived of his lands by corrupt Norman churchmen, who was obliged to inhabit the woodlands. He had about him ‘seven score’ (140) Merry Men, notably Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet and others, and he had a romantic attachment with Maid Marion. His arch nemesis was the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, the lackey of Prince John, who misruled England while good King Richard was away at the Crusades.

We know all this due, firstly due to the ballads, which were circulated by wandering minstrels in the century after Hood’s death. These tell of a shadowy figure, who lives in Sherwood Forest who attacks rich churchmen and delivers the proceeds to the needy serfs under their control.  There are many written versions of these ballads extant. We know that they were well known at the time because of written references as in Langland’s Piers Plowman (1377), Sloth the priest says ‘I ken rimes of Robin Hood’.

In the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, more written material is published, based on the old ballads. These stories are more structured and tell complete versions of Hood’s adventures. In one he faces the evil Guy of Gisbourne and defeats and kills him. In others, he rescues Maid Marion from the clutches of the Sheriff of Nottingham and frees serfs from their bondage.  All the stories tell of an honourable Robin Hood, fighting villainy and helping the ordinary people while remaining loyal to England and the true king.

In the Nineteenth Century, Sir Walter Scott brings Hood into his novel, Ivanhoe. King Richard, hearing of his exploits, ventures into Sherwood Forest and congratulates him, naming him ‘King of Outlaws’. Richard forgives all his crimes, which were done on behalf of the king’s true subjects and against villains who are trying to usurp Richard’s throne, and restores him to his land and titles.

In the Twentieth Century, Hollywood exaggerated and embellished previous versions, all based on fact, and produced a tacky version, totally lacking in credibility.

In 1247, Hood was taken ill and went to recuperate at Kirklees Priory. There the evil Prioress, a lackey of the rich abbots who Hood had harassed, betrayed him by draining his blood while pretending to nurse him to health. With his last breath, Hood shot an arrow from the priory window, giving instructions to Little John to bury him where the arrow fell. His grave can now be found within sight of the former priory. [Kirklees Hall, Kirklees, Brighouse, Yorkshire, HD6 4HD. (not open to the public but occasional tours conducted by Calderdale Tourist Office)]

For another true British legend, click on the monster!

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