History is debunked

Now it's Robin and the Hoodies, as another legend dies. Cole Moreton and Ian Johnston report

So Robin Hood didn't just rob the rich to give to the poor; he robbed poor monks as well. Friar Tuck would be dismayed at yesterday's revelation that a 550-year-old Latin note hidden in the library at Eton debunks the myth of the men in green.

Brief but brutal, it trashes the reputation of the outlaw portrayed by Errol Flynn and, sadly, Kevin Costner.

"Around this time," say the words of an unknown monk in the margins of a medieval history book, "according to popular opinion, a certain outlaw named Robin Hood with his accomplices infested Sherwood and other law-abiding areas of England with continuous robberies."

The comments have been dated to 1460 and are unusual in their negativity. Dr Julian Luxford, of St Andrews University, who made the discovery, said Robin may have benefited from later rewriting of history. "Rather than depicting the traditionally well-liked hero, the article suggests that Robin Hood and his merry men may not have been 'loved by the good'," he says.

"The new find contains a uniquely negative assessment of the outlaw and provides rare evidence for monastic attitudes towards him." This note, the only historical record of Hood's life written in England (although three Scottish medieval writers also mention him), suggests that he lived during the time of Edward I.

The use of "with his accomplices" is evidence that he did indeed have a group of followers, and the mention of Sherwood is also significant. But its central message is one of hostility towards a much-loved figure.

While Robin may never have existed, this find means that he now joins the ranks of famous figures who may not be quite what we think.

Robin Hood

Daring do-gooder or arboreal bandit?

A Latin inscription written in 1460 says the folkloric hero and his band of men "infested Sherwood and other law-abiding areas of England with continuous robberies", with no mention of giving his swag to the poor.

Mother Teresa

Caring saint or dictators' friend?

Nobel Peace Prize winner and byword for goodness. But The Lancet criticised her Calcutta hospice and Christopher Hitchens pointed out her association with the Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.

King Canute

Arrogant drip or wise ruler?

Cnut the Great knew the waves wouldn't stop. His point was to get wet, proving to his courtiers that no one could take God's place as ruler of the elements. Or else a historian made it up.

Hedy Lamarr

Siren or scientist?

A film star from 1930 to 1958, playing roles like Delilah in Samson & Delilah, her brains were overlooked. Yet in the 1940s she co-invented a form of radio communication so far ahead of its time, the US military didn't use it until 1962.

Isaac Newton

Genius or sarcastic snipe?

In 1676, Newton wrote to Hooke: "If I have seen further, it is by standing on ye shoulders of giants." This takes on new meaning when you know they were in dispute over optics, and Hooke was short, hunchbacked – and very touchy.

Mama Cass

Glutton or crash dieter?

At 17-stone, Cass Elliot (of the Mamas and the Papas) is widely believed to have choked to death in 1974, while gorging on a ham sandwich. But her demise from a heart attack may have been caused by a crash diet.

Florence Nightingale

Angelic nurse or prissy bureaucrat?

She cut death rates at Scutari hospital for injured soldiers in the Crimean War, but not with her bedside manner. She was an administrator who insisted on cleanliness.


Roman fiddler or smear victim?

The extravagant emperor wanted to rebuild his capital in greater glory, so he had it burnt down. Seeing the flames made him play the fiddle in joy. Only fiddles weren't invented, and he was in Antium at the time.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before