Friday, July 21, 2006

the Death of Robin Hood / Robin Hood's Grave

According to legend...
Evening was drawing near when, after a particularly strenuous and successful hunt with Little John, Robin Hood began to feel uncharacteristically weakened by the day's ordeal. His fever quickly developed, and Robin asked Little John to take him to Kirklees Priory where his cousin the Prioress could bleed him and relieve him of his ills. Early versions of the legend say Will Scarlet was alarmed at Robin's intention to go without a full escort of the Merry Men. But, as Robin had probably used the Prioress's medical services before, he went with only Little John to support him in his increasingly feverish state.
Upon arrival the Prioress offered Robin food and drink, but Robin was too impatient for treatment to accept it. (Early versions have Robin giving the Prioress a considerable amount of gold, with a promise that more would follow once that was spent). The Prioress then took Robin Hood to a private room upstairs in the Priory Gatehouse. Normally travellers, or the sick, were given accommodation in the Guest House situated about a quarter mile from the Priory in return for a small donation. Robin may have received special treatment due to him being a cousin, or maybe to afford him more security. The Guest House is where Little John possibly stayed the night before returning to the trees by the Priory to await news of his leader.
Upon reaching the Gatehouse room the Prioress removed her bleeding irons from their silks and proceeded to open a vein in Robin's arm. She then left him alone until noon the following day, locking the door behind her as she went. Did she lock the door with malicious intent? Or was she just protecting her famous outlaw cousin?
At this point early versions of the legend involve Sir "Red" Roger of Donkestere (possibly the Prioress's secret lover), who sneaks up on Robin via a small window whilst he is so weak, to then fatally stab him in the side before Robin in turn beheads Red Roger with one swipe of his blade.
Whatever the circumstances of those final moments, when Robin Hood realised death was near he at first attempted to climb out through a casement window, but was too faint from the loss of blood to jump. So he blew three times on his bugle horn for Little John. Little John, recognising the signal, was immediately concerned at the weakness of the blast. Fearing the worst he ran to Robin's side, smashing his way through two or three padlocks in the process.
When he found his leader dying he was so angered and distressed that he begged Robin to let him burn the Priory to the ground with all the nuns inside. Robin refused, saying that he had never harmed a woman in his life. Then, accepting his fate (and according to later versions of the legend), Robin Hood asked for his bow, and requested that John bury him wherever his final arrow should fall. It was also Robin's desire that his grave include a grass sod for comfort beneath his head and his feet; that it be of "gravel and green", so people might know who lay there; and that his bow and his sword be buried with him.
The first arrow fell in a brook which passed the Priory ground. The second arrow fell within the grounds of "fair Kirkleys" and Little John set about completing his friend's final request.

Robin Hood's Grave: Within the private grounds of Kirklees Estate (West Yorkshire), about 600 metres from Kirklees Hall, is situated what is popularly known as Robin Hood’s Gravestone. Its distance is said to be 594 metres (c.650 yards) from the Gatehouse, an impossible distance for an archer even in the best of health. However, experiments carried out by Richard Rutherford-Moore (see comments box), and which painstakingly took into account the window size and type of bow, did establish a probable landing site of 60 - 80 metres from the Priory Gatehouse. And this is where the legend becomes especially intriguing, because it was from within that specific area in the 18th century, during renovations to the building, that human bones were recovered. Were these the actual bones of Robin Hood? Is it too much of a coincidence to be otherwise? It is not known where the bones were relocated to.

Pictures are taken from Robin and Marian (1976).

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