King Richard hearing of the pranks
Of Robin Hood and his men,
He much admired, and more desired
To see both him and them.
So goes an ancient English ballad, and most of us would like to think that Richard the Lionheart did in fact encounter history’s most famous outlaw, Robin Hood.
Most historians believe Robin Hood is a sort of composite figure of several different medieval outlaws, while some believe he is complete fiction. But maybe – just maybe – the old ballad is right.
What we know for sure is that on 2 April 1194, King Richard stopped overnight in Clipston Palace, on the edge of Sherwood Forest. This fact and Richard’s known love of high and noble drama can maybe just about give some underpinning to the legend that he met Robin here. As every schoolboy knows, Richard went into the forest disguised as an abbot, met Robin and his men and engaged them in sports, outwrestling Little John but yielding to Friar Tuck’s superior prowess with the sword. The King then revealed his true identity and, after much swearing of loyalty, king and oudaw dined together in the forest.
Venison and fowls were plenty there,
With fish out of the river;
King Richard swore, on sea and shore,
He ne’er was feasted better.
So who knows ? Maybe it did happen!