RICHARD I. King of England, when befieging the caftle of Chaluze, approached too near the walls, and was killed by an arrow from a crofs-bow, on the 8th of March 1199.
During the reign of this monarch we firft find mention made of ROBIN HOOD, who hath been fo long celebrated as the chief of Englifh Archers.
The inteftine troubles of England were very great at that time, and the country every where infefted with outlaws and banditti; amongft whom none were fo famous as this Sylvan hero and his followers, whom STOW, in his Annals, ftyles RENOWNED THIEVES. The perfonal courage of this celebrated outlaw, his fkill in Archery, his humanity, and efpecially his levelling principle, of taking from the rich and giving to the poor, have ever fince rendered him the favourite of the common people.
SIR EDWARD COKE, in his Third Inftitute, page 197, fpeaks of Robin Hood, and fays, that men of his lawlefs profeffion were from him called Roberdfmen: He fays, that this notable thief gave not only a name to thefe kind of men, but mentions a Bay on the Yorkfhire coaft, called Robin Hood's Bay. He farther adds, that the Statute of Winchefter, 13th of Edward I. and another Statute of the 5 th of Edward III. Were made for the punifhment of Roberdfmen, and other felons.
Who was the author of the collection, called Robin Hood's Garland, no one has yet pretended to guefs. As fome of the fongs have more of the fpirit of poetry than others, it is probably the work of various hands : That it has from time to time been varied and adapted to the phrafe of the times is certain.
In the vifion of PIERCE PLOWMAN, written by ROBERT LONGLAND, a fecular Prieft, and Fellow of Oriel College, and who flourifhed in the reign of Edward III. is this paffage:
I can rimes of Robinhod and Randal of Chefter,
DRAYTON in his Poly-Olbion, Song xxvi. thus characterifes him :
What often times he took he fhared amongft the poor
No Lordly bifhop came in lufty Robin's way,
To him before he went but for his pafs muft pay ;
The widow in diftrefs he gracioufly relieved,
And remedied the wrongs of many a virgin grieved.
HEARNE, in his Gloffary, inferts a manufcript note out of Wood, containing a paffage cited from John Major, the Scottifh Hiftorian, to this purpofe; that Robin Hood was indeed an arch-robber, but the gentleft thief that ever was : And fays he might have added, from the Harlein MSS. of JOHN FORDUN'S Scottifh Chronicle, that he was, though a notorious robber, a man of great charity.
The true name of ROBIN HOOD, was ROBERT FITZ-OOTH, the addition of FITZ, common to many Norman names, was afterwards often omitted or dropped : The two laft letters TH being turned into D, he was called by the common people Ood or Hood. It is evident he was a man of quality, as by the annexed Pedigree, copied from Dr. STUKELEY'S Paloeographia Britanniae: JOHN SCOT, 10th Earl of Huntington, dying anno 1237, without iffue R. FITZ-OOTH, was by the female line next heir to that title, as defcended from GILBERT DE GAUNT Earl of Kyme and Lindfey. The title lying dormant during the laft ten years of his life, there could be nothing unreafonable or extraordinary in his pretenfions to that honour. The arms of ROBIN HOOD were gules, two bends engrailed or. In the old garland he is faid to have been born at LOXLEY in Staffordfhire; and in a fhooting match, made by the KING and QUEEN, being chofe by the latter for her archer, fhe calls him Loxley : a cuftom very common in thofe days to call perfons of eminence by the name of the town where they were born.