The Many Robin Hoods 2

David Crook has discovered a record which links Robin Hood’s name to a criminal who was a fugitive. William the son of Robert Le Fevere (the smith) was indicted at Reading in 1261 for larceny. In another reference to the case in 1262 his name is given as William Robehod. Professor Holt (Robin Hood, 1982, p.52) mentions a Gilbert Robynhod tenant of the Liberty of Leicester in Sussex, recorded in a tax roll of the county of 1296; a Robert Robynhoud at West Harting, Sussex, in 1332 and another at Winchelsea, Sussex, in 1381, and a Katherine Robynhod recorded in London in 1325. Her name was almost certainly a patronymic, as she was probably the daughter of Robert Hood, the councillor of London who gave his name to the Robin Hod hostel in Vintry Ward, recorded in 1292. (see Robin Hood Place Names) While Holt admits that all these names could have originated as patronymics, he does say: ‘ this in no way diminishes their significance, for all these people, if indeed they were all children of men called Robert Hood, could have been called fitz Robert, of Robertson, or Robinson, or Hudson, or Hodson or even just plain Hood’. He therefore believed that the combination of Christian name and surname used instead, was most unusual. He goes on to say ‘It is this exceptional formation of the name as well as its rarity which make it difficult to dissociate the surname ‘Robinhood’ from the tradition of the outlaw. That in turn means that the legend was already known in Sussex by 1296′. However, these surnames, or variants of it, are not exactly rare, and in several cases it appears to be a patronymic or simply a family name, possibly held for several generations, and all seem to be in the South of England, particularly the South East; this could suggest a French influence, as Robinod, Robeod, Robbeot, and Robinot surnames occur in the same area.(1) There are a variety of surnames that contain the diminutive of Robert, however a man christened Robert could be called Robin, and a nickname for Robert or Robin, is Hob. Robert Lynley has compiled a comprehensive list, which serves to illustrate the uncertainty of associating surnames with the legend.

Robert and robber appear to be synonymous from an early date, but the origins are shrouded in mystery. In The Political Songs of England, (pp. 46-51, ed. by Thomas Wright), there appears A Song on the Times, (MS. Harl. No 978, fol. 123 V0, of the 13th cent.) which contains an early mention of a Robert described as a robber. Wright gives us a depiction of this work as ‘another bitter satire on the vices of the great, during the reign of Henry III’. The song is more particularly directed against four brothers, whose identity is uncertain. Part of it (in translation) reads:

By Robert, is very sufficiently indicated a robber;
and by Richard, with much fitness, a rich hard man;
Gilbert is not without reason called a guiler;
and Geoffrey is, if we come to the point, changed into jo frai (i.e. I will do it).


It continues with the following:

Robert fleeces, extorts, and threatens;
and Richard keeps all he gains
Gilbert deceives, and afterwards boasts of it;
Geoffrey procrastinates, and does nothing.


1. From the research of Robert Lynley.