The Many Robin Hoods 6

Robert Fitzooth

In 1746 Dr William Stukeley produced a false pedigree or family tree, in which he indicated that Robert Fitzooth was commonly called Robin Hood, pretended earl of Huntington.(1) This was the result of confused information he had obtained from William Dugdale’s Baronage of 1675, itself  not completely accurate. Stukeley also had the Fitzooths as lord of Kime, their pedigree is well established, but the family of Fitzooth has never been traced.

In 1795 Joseph Ritson in his Robin Hood, followed Stukeley, he writes; ‘His extraction was noble, and his true name Robert Fitzooth, which vulgar pronunciation easily corrupted into Robin Hood. He is frequently stiled, and commonly reputed to have been earl of Huntingdon’. Ritson also followed the Sloan manuscript with his statement, ‘Robin Hood was born at Locksley in the county of Nottingham in the reign of king Henry the second, and about the year of Christ 1160’.

In his book The Quest for Robin Hood(1987) Jim Lees used Stukeley’s pedigree to connect Robin Hood with  Robert de Kyme, a knight who was outlawed in 1226 and again in 1265, after the battle of Evesham.

1. Palaeographia Britannica, No. 11, p. 115.

Robert Fitzodo

J.R. Planche published his paper, A Ramble with Robin Hood, in 1864. Planche believed that Stukeley had confused the name Fitzooth with  Fitzodo, a family which appears in Dugdale’s Baronage. This family apparently became lords of Loxley, a village in Warwickshire.  Planche believed that Robert Fitz Odo, lord of Loxley Manor from the reign of Henry II until 1196, was the original Robin Hood. The name is not only recorded in Dugdale’s Baronage of 1675, but also appears in the Book of Fees, the deeds from the priory of nearby Kenilworth. In the contemporary Book of Fees Robert Fitz Odo, knight of Loxley Manor, is recorded as selling 120 acres of his land to the canons of Kenilworth in the late twelfth century. The word Fitz means ‘illegitimate son of’ and, in the early Norman period, many nobles continued to incorporate the affix to show their descent from some famous or landed figure. The Fitz Odos, seem to have been descended from Bishop Odo, William the Conqueror’s half-brother, who died in 1097. Using the name Fitz was not considered belittling, but an indication that the claimant had noble blood. Sometimes an individual might drop the ‘Fitz’ part of the name, as it could draw attention to the fact that his line of descent was not legitimate, and he might therefore have no legal claim to titles or estates. Robert could therefore have been known simply as Robert Odo, or Robert Ode during his lifetime, and he was living in Loxley.

According to the contemporary Curia Register (Register of Arms) he was no longer a knight in 1196. Although this may indicate his death, Planche discovered evidence that Robert Fitz Odo was still alive in 1203, as Dugdale records a Robert Fitz Odo in nearby Harbury in that year. This Robert of Harbury is also mentioned in the Feet of Fines. If these Roberts are the same person then, in 1196, he was stripped of his knighthood. Moreover, he appears to have been disinherited; according to Dugdale, Robert’s son-in-law, Peter de Mora, inherited most of the estate in that year. (This is known from a reference in the Feet of Fines in which Peter’s grandson bequeathed Loxley Manor to Kenilworth Priory in 1253.) It appears then that Robert Fitz Odo was disinherited during the reign of Richard I, although it is impossible to say if he is the Robin Hood referred to by John Major in the early sixteenth century. With all his research, Planche failed to prove that Robert Fitz Odo was ever an outlaw, or in any way associated with the  Robin Hood of legend.

This section on Robert Fitzodo contains information found in Robin Hood the Man Behind the Myth, (Phillips and Keatman, 1995, pp.135-137). See also; Victoria County History: A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3: Barlichway hundred, Philip Styles, pp. 129-134 (1945).

Robert Lynley has suggested that Robert Fitzodo of Locksley may have lost his lands as a result of a connection to William Peverel (the Sheriff of Nottingham) and Ranulf Earl of Chester. When Duke Henry landed in England in 1153 he granted Ranulf (II), earl of Chester, the lands of William Peverel, ‘unless in my court he is able to clear himself of charges of wickedness and treason’ (Reg. RAN, 3, no. 180). The reference is to the charge that Peverel had earlier attempted to poison Ranulf of Chester while a guest in his house. Ranulf did die later in the year. Peverel’s lands were forfeit in February 1155 when Henry, by now king, marched against him. Peverel, who had earlier taken the cowl in one of his religious houses, probably Lenton Priory, fled the area, and was not heard of again. Robert Fitzodo or similar appears in the following records:  

1. Ranulf Earl of Chester was given the whole fee of Robert Fitz- (or son of) Odo, and the whole fee of  William Peverel (the Sheriff of Nottingham)  by Henry Duke of Normans, afterwards King Henry II. (The 1797 edition of the History of Nottinghamshire by Robert Thoroton)

2.  Robert fitz Odo of Lochesley? witnessed a deed for Nicholas de Stafford and his son Robert de Stafford in 1130. (The Staffordshire Chartulary, Series II, Number IV, c. 1130) Robert Stafford is named in the 1797 edition of the History of Nottinghamshire as having his land taken by Ranulf Earl of Chester along with William Peverel and Robert fitzodo.  

3. Robertus son of Odo is listed as owing a pledge of half a mark, and there is a mention of the archbishop of Canterbury holding the lands of certain men in custody. (Pipe Roll 8, Richard 1, Mich 1196)

4. Robert son of Odo of Loxley is described as a ‘plunderer’ who made reparations in the form of movable property. This is known because land he leased to the priory of Stone in return for the stock needed for reparations remained permanently with the priory (BL Additional MS 47677, fo. 252b; King Stephen’s reign (1135-1154), by Paul Dalton, Graeme J. White). ‘Robert had long been under anathema, nor did he have enough to hand to provide satisfaction so that he could earn absolution. The Canons of Stone at the intercession of Ralph their prior, brother of Robert handed over 340 sheep and 3 horses to restore the damages for which he was excommunicated and Robert by way of recompsense grants the rest of his land of his demesne of Loxley whatever he could not cultivate with his ploughs.’ (Provided by Robert Lynley)

The grave slab in Loxley churchyard (Warwickshire Churches) which has an inscription in memory of Constance, a member of the Cove Jones family, the owners of Loxley Hall in the late nineteenth century. Graham Phillips (Robin Hood the Man Behind the Myth) has stated that ‘The stone, however, is very much older and the unusual style of the cross is exactly the same as the Nathaniel Johnston drawing, as are the relative dimensions of he slab itself’. Phillips offers four possibilities: (1) Robert Fitz Odo may have been buried in a grave originally marked by the stone (2) The Loxley grave is a later copy of the Kirklees grave (3) The Loxley grave is the grave in Nathaniel Johnston’s drawing (4) The Kirklees grave slab was removed and relocated in Loxley churchyard. There is however, no way of knowing who the grave slab was originally intended for, and there are several examples of cross slab grave covers from the 12th through to the 15th century, which have a similar design. (see Medieval Cross Slab Grave Covers in West Yorkshire, Peter Ryder, 1991). Furthermore, in the Loxley grave slab, the shaft extends to the bottom edge of the slab, but in Johnston’s drawing the shaft has a stepped base (see Robin Hood’s Grave 7). The remains of a raised cross can still be seen on the peice of stone in the enclosure at Kirklees, and it seems more likely that this is the remains of the grave slab drawn by Johnston in 1665.