Sir Richard at the Lee

Sir Richard KneelsThis page tells the story of penniless Sir Richard at the Lee who had to Mortgage his entire estate to the abbey of St. Mary's, and unless he could pay the 400 due payment, he would forfeit it all.

At the last hour the knight came up with the money though he was unwilling to reveal his source. It is believed the outlaw Robin Hood loaned him the money to have the Debt Repaid.

His Lady Wife later confirmed that the source of his money was indeed Robin Hood.


Misfortune overtook Sir Richard two years ago when his only son accidentally slew a knight and a squire from Lancashire in a joust. After spending all of his money on lawyers defending his son, he had to mortgage his entire estate to the abbey of St. Mary's.

With payment due last Friday, the abbot of St. Mary's, the Sheriff and one of the Chancellor's justices waited gloatingly at the abbey, fully expecting the knight not to pay his due and so forfeit his lands to the abbey. The abbot looked confident - the justice had been bribed as had the chief justice and many more who would profit from the knight's misfortune. 'Unless Sir Richard repays us today then he'll be disinherited,' the abbot coldly confirmed.

'He won't come today,' said the justice, but to all their sorrow, Sir Richard at the Lee did arrive.

Debt Repaid

At St. Mary's abbey, the abbot gloated over Sir Richard's plight: 'It is twelve months since Sir Richard at the Lee borrowed 400 from us and unless he pays us today his inheritance will be ours.'

The prior showed more charity than the abbot towards the unfortunate Sir Richard: 'It is early in the day; there is still time for the debt to be honoured; we must give the knight every chance to redeem himself. It is a wicked injustice to take his land with so light a conscience. He may be enduring cold and hunger and we ought to give him 400 rather than take anything from him.'

The abbot retorted: 'By God and St. Richard, you are always in my beard! He is already dead, I'll swear to it.'

The fat-headed high-cellarer piped up: 'I agree with you, we shall see neither hide nor hair of him this day. He is either dead or hanged, and having his lands we will have more to spend.'

At that moment the knight and his squire, a big man who looked remarkably like Little John, were at the gate changing into the tattered clothes that they had brought with them.

'Welcome, Sir Knight,' greeted the porter and whistled in admiration at the quality of the knight's horse. 'That's the best courser I've ever laid eyes on.'

The lords were dining in the abbot's hall when the knight entered with his squire and kneeled down in front of the illustrious company (pictured top right). 'Greetings Sir Abbot, I have come to hold my day,' he said courteously.

'So, you have the money?' the abbot asked coldly.

'Alas, not one penny. '

'Then you are a cursed debtor,' answered the abbot. 'If you haven't brought my money then why are you here?'

'To pray for more time to pay.'

The justice coldly told him: 'The day has gone; it is too late; your lands are lost.'

'Good Sir Justice, be my friend and defend me from my enemies,'' the knight pleaded.

'I am beholden to the abbot in both cloth and fee,' answered the Justice.

Turning to the Sheriff, the knight appealed again: 'Then good Sir Sheriff, be my friend.'

'Not for God!' the Sheriff harshly replied.

Sir Richard made a final appeal to the abbot: 'Good Sir Abbot, for courtesy's sake, hold my land in your hands till I can make satisfaction. I will truly serve you till you have my 400 good and free.'

The abbot swore a great oath. 'By God that died on a tree, get the money for the land where you may, but you will get no help from me!'

The knight could suppress his anger no longer: 'I swear by all that is sacred unless I regain my lands then someone is going to suffer . . . it is best to test a friend before he has need of him.'

Looking on him with hatred, the abbot pointed his finger and ordered: 'Out, you false knight, speed you out of my hall!'

Angrily, the knight rose to his feet. 'Your lies do me a great dishonour, Abbot. By the God that made us all, I was never a false knight. In jousts and tournaments I proved my mettle. You are a liar in your own hall and to suffer a knight to kneel so long you cannot be acquainted with good manners.'

The Justice, taken a little aback at the knight's outburst, turned to the abbot. 'How much are you prepared to pay the knight for him to release all claims to the land? You may never hold the land in peace otherwise!'

'100,' offered the abbot.

'Give him 200,' suggested the Justice.

The knight erupted: 'No, by God, you will not get it so cheap. Though you would offer a thousand more it would not be enough - neither abbot, nor brother, nor justice shall ever be my heir.' It was then that Sir Richard called on his squire to reveal a money bag from under his tunic and the knight shook exactly 400 in gold out of the bag on to the table, saying: 'Here is the gold that you lent me, Sir Abbot, I would have added interest if you had been more courteous.'

The abbot stared in disbelief, his head slowly sinking into his shoulders.

The knight added smilingly: 'I take my leave of you Sir Abbot, and you gentlemen of the law. Now that I have honoured my bond, the land is mine and there is nothing you can do about it.' With that parting shot Sir Richard and his squire departed from the hall.

After changing back into their good clothing, knight and squire rode away, whistling merrily and Sir Richard returned to his lady wife.

Lady Wife

When Sir Richard arrived home at Wyresdale, his lady wife met him at the gate. 'Welcome, my lord,' she grimly greeted him. 'Have you lost all of your possessions?'

'Be merry, my lady,' he said joyfully. 'The abbot and I are in agreement now that I have repaid his gold. A good yeoman of the forest lent me the money and saved my day.'

Sir Richard's good wife later confided: 'Robin Hood helped us out of our distress. If it had not been for his charity, we would now be beggars. I bless him for his generosity and kindness.'

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