London, Mar 10: The real-life inspiration for Robin Hood lived near Tunbridge Wells, not Sherwood Forest, according to a historian.
The legend says that he robbed from the rich to give to the poor, resisted “bad” King John and hid out in Sherwood Forest.
But new research suggests Robin Hood actually preyed on French invaders, fought in support of the King and – most shocking of all – came from near Tunbridge Wells, in Kent, the Telegraph reported.
Sean McGlynn, an academic at the University of Plymouth and the Open University, has amassed evidence suggesting Robin Hood is based on William of Kensham, a largely forgotten 13th century forest bandit, who went by the alias Willikin of the Weald.
Using medieval chronicles, he has investigated the life and career of the renegade and, despite those differences, has unearthed remarkable parallels with the folk hero, including his tactics, his band of men, his forest hideout and his popular acclaim.
Crucially, William was living at just the time when the Robin Hood legend is believed to have emerged.
There have been other contenders put forward by historians as the inspiration for Robin Hood, but none have been universally accepted and the exact source of the legend has been fiercely contested.
As part of his research, McGlynn, a specialist in medieval history, has also analysed these alternative candidates and believes William’s claim is by far the strongest.
The academic dismissed the rivals as “squalid criminals”, while arguing that William more closely reflects the true English hero of legend.
Most significantly, William is the only one to have wielded a longbow, the weapon most associated with Robin Hood.
William’s claim to be the inspiration for Robin Hood rests on his daring ambushes against an invading force under Prince Louis of France in 1216 and 1217.
William and his band of 1,000 men had taken to the forests of the Kentish Weald – the area between the North and South Downs – after the French invaded southern England at the invitation of barons opposing King John.
Before the invaders finally left in 1217, William and his resistance army harried them so effectively that the chronicler ‘Anonymous of Bethune’ wrote that Prince Louis “feared” sending men into the Kentish forest.
William’s men became skilled at raiding the French forces and MrGlynn believes they may have returned property which had been stolen from the locals, giving rise to the legend that Robin Hood robbed the rich to give to the poor.
Although he was operating in southern England, William does appear to have had some links with Sherwood Forest and Nottingham, suggesting a possible way in which the legend relocated from the home counties to the East Midlands.
The findings are published in the journal History Today. (ANI)