King Richard Meets Robin Hood
King Wears a Disguise
Up spoke his old faithful knight, William Marshal: 'Ah, my liege lord, there is one thing I should tell you. No man may hold the knight's lands while Robin Hood rides and walks and carries a bow in his hand. Give them to no man you wish well, my lord, unless you want him to lose his head. Robin Hood goes about as he pleases, hiding in secret places, or openly in the hills, slaying the King's deer and doing with them whatever he likes.'
A forester who was attending the King also spoke up: 'My lord King, if you want to see Robin Hood, you must do what I tell you. Take five of the best knights in your company, walk down to yonder Newstead Abbey and there disguise yourselves in monks' habits. I will go with you and lead the way, and I swear that before you return to Nottingham you will meet up with good Robin Hood. I'll lay my head on it - if he is still alive.'
So the King and five of his knights changed into monks' habits. Our king, wearing a big cowl and broad hood upon his crown, looked like an abbot; though truth to tell, he was still wearing his stiff boots as he rode singing into the greenwood leading his five knights all clothed in grey. As a temptation to outlaws, a baggage-horse and great pack-horse followed behind.
Robin Hood Greets an Abbot
The party had travelled barely a mile through the trees when, lo and behold, they came upon Robin Hood (pictured top left) with some of his bold archers blocking their way. Quickly grabbing the King's horse, Robin said: 'Sir Abbot, by your leave, you must linger awhile. We are yeomen of this forest who live on our King's deer, for we have no other way to live. You have churches and rents and great stores of gold, so give us some of your money for Saint Charity.'
At once, our comely King replied: 'I have brought no more than £40 into the greenwood with me for I have been staying at Nottingham for the past fortnight with our King and have spent all my money entertaining great lords. Though I have but £40 with me, I would vouchsafe £100 to you, if I had it.'
Robin took the £40 and gave half to his men, telling them to make merry. The other half he courteously returned to the King, gainsaying: 'Sir, keep this for your expenses; we shall meet another day.'
'Gramercy,' said the King. 'I bring you greetings from Richard our King who sends you his seal and bids you to Nottingham to enjoy his unstinting hospitality.'
Taking out his great seal (pictured right), the King showed it to Robin who, well aware of the rules of courtesy, sank down on one knee: 'I love no man in all the world as well as I do my King. Welcome is my lord's seal and welcome is the monk for bringing me these tidings. For the love of my King you shall dine with me today, sir abbot, under my trysting tree.'
Robin blew loudly on his great horn and seven score stout fellows came running up and kneeled down before him. The King said to himself: 'By Saint Augustine, here is a seemly sight. Methinks his men are more at his bidding than my men are at mine!'
|King Takes Part in an Archery Contest
Robin then led our comely King courteously by the hand while many a deer was slain and dinner hastily made ready. Robin Hood and Little John generously served the King themselves, setting before him lean venison, good wastel bread, fine red wine and clear brown ale.
'Good appetite, Sir Abbot,' said Robin. 'For good charity and for bringing me these tidings, blessed you must be. Before you go, you shall see what kind of life we lead so that you may inform the King when you see him.'
Suddenly, the outlaws leaped to their feet and drew back their bows. The King looked aghast for a moment thinking they meant to hurt him, but instead they set up two rods as targets each fastened with a rose garland. The King remarked they were too far away - by fifty paces.
'Whoever shoots outside the garland, no matter how close, shall forfeit his tackle and yield to the winner,' said Robin. Then he added with a glint in his eye: 'No man shall be spared so drink your ale or wine and be ready to receive a buffet on the head.'
Twice Robin split the rod in two as did Gilbert of the White Hand. The best archer in the North of England, Robin Hood, did not spare Little John nor Will Scarlet when they both failed - he gave each of them a hefty thump. But the last arrow that Robin shot missed the garland by three fingers or more. 'Master, you have lost your tackle,' said Gilbert.
'Come forward and take your pay.' Robin answered: 'If it is so, then let it be - Sir Abbot, I give you my tackle and I pray you sir, give me my blow.'
'Even by your leave Robin, it is not fitting for my order to strike a yeoman for fear I should injure him,' said the King.
'Strike boldly,' said Robin, 'You have my fullest leave.'
With that, the King rolled up his sleeve and gave Robin such a buffet that the outlaw fell full length on the ground.
'I swear to God you are a stalwart brother,' exclaimed Robin. 'There is strength in your arm and I have no doubt that you can also shoot a bow very well.'
|Robin Finally Recognises the King
Robin Hood looked our comely King intently in the face; Sir Richard at the Lee did likewise and they both now recognised their lord King. Outlaw and knight both kneeled before him; and when those wild outlaws saw their leader kneel, so too did they sink to their knees before their King. 'My lord, the King of England! Now I know you well!' exclaimed Robin.
'Then I must ask you mercy under your trysting tree, Robin, of your goodness and your grace for my men and me,' said the King.
'I grant it and God save me, my lord King,' said Robin. 'I ask mercy and a pardon for all my men and me.'
'Yes, I grant it, for that is the reason I came to the greenwood,' said the King. 'But you and your men must leave the greenwood and come to live with me at court.'
Robin replied: 'It shall be so, my lord. I will come to court to serve you and bring seven score of my men. But I ask a boon - unless I like your service, I will return to Sherwood Forest to shoot the brown deer.'
King Richard agreed and then asked Robin: 'Have you any green cloth to sell me?'
'Of course, 30 yards and more.'
'Sell some of that cloth to me and my men.'
'Yes, but for free; on another day you can provide me with a livery for Christmas.'
The King and his knights cast off their grey cowls and dressed themselves in Lincoln green. 'Now we shall go to Nottingham,' the King said. And off they went with bows drawn and shooting all the way as though they were all outlaws.
The King and Robin rode together, shooting against each other as they went with a knock each time for the loser. Many a buffet our King received that day from Robin Hood who spared him nothing. 'So God help me,' said the King, 'I shall never learn this game. I wouldn't win a single blow if I shot for all the year.'
When the people of Nottingham saw nothing but green cloaks coming across the fields they cried: 'The King is dead and Robin Hood is coming to town. He must have killed them all.' And they all ran, including yeomen, servants, and even old wives hobbling on their crutches until the King laughed heartily and commanded them all to come back.
Inside Nottingham Castle everybody celebrated, eating and drinking and cheerfully singing the high notes. The King pardoned Sir Richard at the Lee, returned his lands to him, and bid him to be a good man. Robin, well pleased, knelt before the King to thank him for this favour.
Leading his merry men, Robin Hood and his betrothed Marian Fitzwater accompanied King Richard on his journey to Southwell where they met William the Lion, King of Scotland, who had journeyed south to attend the King's crowning ceremony at Winchester. Tavelling together, they all spent Easter at Northampton.
|Tales of Robin Hood