King Richard and the legend of Robin Hood

Note: This is the first entry in a series about Robin Hood

If you had asked me, as a boy growing up in the 1950s and 60s, to name some of the kings and queens of England, I probably could have come up with two. One was Elizabeth II, the then current queen (she still is) and someone whom my mother admired greatly.

The other would have been Richard I, Richard the Lion-hearted. That’s because I was addicted to the story of Robin Hood. Not only did I read the books, comic books, and the like, but there was also a television series in the mid-1950s that gave life to Robin, Maid Marian, Little John, Friar Tuck, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and, of course, the evil King (or Prince) John.

The continuing premise of the show — and the story of Robin Hood — is that everyone (except King John, the sheriff, and their minions) is awaiting the return of King Richard from the Crusades. When that happens, England will be restored to her green and happy state.

In reality, Richard I, and second son of Henry II, spoke very little English and spent only about six months in England when he was its king. The kingdom ruled by the Plantagenet monarchs consisted of much of France as well as England at the time, and many in the family were more interested in the French provinces than in England. Richard, young and handsome, was a popular figure but also a warrior king and spent much of his short life (1157-1199) conducting crusades to the Middle East.

The story of Robin Hood elevated Richard’s status to one of the great kings of England. It shows the power of narrative over fact. The legend of Robin Hood is an important one for our culture and worth exploring, which will happen in future newsletters.

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About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.
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