Robin Hood search for the Truth | Robin Hood Places | Hood surname statistics | Robin Hood of Wakefield | Robert Hood of Newton | The Pinder of Wakefield Marian | Friars | Loxley and 'Huntington' | Myriads of Robin Hoods | Ballads of Robin Hood | Kirklees | The Armytages of Kirklees | Little John | Roger De Doncaster | The Penurious Knyght | Our Comly King  | Shire Reeve | Priory of Kirklees | Wakefield Rolls | Saylis of the Geste- a new site | Robert III Butler of Skelbrooke | Barnsdale and the Geste | De Lacis of PontefractAlice De Laci and John of GauntBarnsdale Gallery | A suspected compiler of the Geste | Images of Robyn Hode
                                                             A CRIMINAL OPERATING IN BARNSDALE IN THE 1290's

Following twelve years of  research into the ballad character of 'Robin Hood', it emerged that the folkloric character seemed at first a creation of a fertile imagination. Even the name Robyn Hode [Robin Hood] was found to have originated from what is now recognised as a cryptic political song A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode. This observation alone explains the difficulty of identifying such a person with this epithet and has confounded many genuine researchers looking for an historical inspiration for the ballad character.
However there was a real person living in Skelbrooke in an area commonly called 'Barnsdale' upon whom the character of the ballads at first appears to have been conceived. This young  man was convicted of  a number of heinous crimes in the Barnsdale area in the late 1200s. From research of the local families it has been recognised that they were not only understandably in direct contact with each other, but  to some extent intermarried. This is important because in a culture of criminality, these families operated within a closed network.

Henry Curtmantel Probably the most important name in the grouping is FitzWilliam of Emley and Sprotbrough. It is speculated that a member of the Le Waleys [Wallis/Walleis/Wallace] family authored the Geste. This person was possibly Sir Stephen II Waleys of Burghwallis [d.1347] a descendant of Sir Richard I Le Waleys the first rector of Burgh [Wallis] whose son Sir Stephen I is thought to be the cousin to Robert III Butler of Skelbrooke, a plunderer and murderer from 'Barnsdale. Burghwallis is a village alongside the Great North Road near Skelbrooke, what in the Geste was called 'Watling Street'.
The FitzWilliam family was anciently seated at Emley and gained Sprotborough by marriage with the De Lizours line. In the next generation the line of Plantagenet from Hamelyn Plantagenet [b ~1129] of nearby Conisbrough Castle was married to that of the FitzWilliams. Hamelyn was an illegitimate son of Geoffrey of Anjou and probably Adela [Ela] Talvas, Geoffrey of Anjou's concubine, for we see this first name in Adela Plantagenet, one of Hamelyn's daughters.

Adela Plantagenet was Robert III Butler's great grandmother whilst Hamelyn Plantagenet and Isabel de Warenne wereArms of FitzWilliam, Yorkshire Robert's great x 2 grandfather and grandmother who were buried far away from South Yorkshire in the Chapter House at Lewes, Sussex. Hamelyn was thus a half brother to Henri Curtmantel [King Henry II], one of the Norman Angevin Kings of England. Two generations later Robert II Butler of Skelbrooke appears to have been married to Agnes FitzWilliam. Their union produced Robert III Butler of Skelbrooke. This line of noble descent supports the  ideas that developed in the 1500s that 'Robyn Hode' was born of the nobility [i.e. Agnes FitzWilliam] who descended from Geoffrey of Anjou through the illegitimate Hamelyn Plantagenet of Conisbrough to his daughter Adela Plantagenet [alias Ela de Warenne]. Adela Plantagenet married Sir William FitzWilliam who descended from Charlemagne, these two were Robert III Butler's great-grandparents.

Thomas FitzWilliam [b 1205-9, d 1266] is identified as Robert III Butler's maternal grandfather. We have a reasonable amount of knowledge about Thomas for it is likely to be his Purbeck marble effigy which is found in Blyth Chapel, just across the South Yorkshire boundary in Nottinghamshire. This effigy is dated to before 1240. 

                               Showing early FitzWilliam arms Lozengy argent and gules.

In Yorkshire, Thomas is known to have held lands at Woodhall, Darfield and Barnborough besides Emley, Hampole and Sprotborough. His father,William, who married Adela Plantagenet [Warenne] probably started the line of hereditary stewards to the Lords of Conisborough. Thomas was granted a free wareren at Plumtree, Nottinghamshire, held lands at Harworth near and other lands near Blyth [Notts.] and was probably taken prisoner at the Battle of Chesterfield in 1266.1

"It is not carved like later effigies to stand out from the base slab, but is worked to only about half the usual depth. Unfortunately the effigy is in a sadly dilapidated condition, but when perfect the knight lay within a canopy, consisting of an arch over the head and shafts with moulded capitals and bases at the sides. The legs have not been crossed, and the feet, to which spurs were attached, rest on two grotesque beasts. The sword lies diagonally underneath the shield, which is placed directly in front of the body and covers almost the whole of the upper part. The position of the arms is difficult to determine, but perhaps the right lay down that side whilst the left was bent upwards under the shield. The surcoat is short and both it and the shield are charged with the knight’s arms—lozengy. To find the surcoat thus ornamented with coat armour at this early date is very unusual and the writers cannot recall a parallel instance. Another point of exceptional interest is that the figure is depicted wearing a heaume, which completely covers the head and face... The heaume at Blyth is flat-topped and belongs to a type which appears to have come into use in the reign of Richard I and continued for about fifty years. There can be no doubt that it represents a member of the great South Yorkshire family of Fitzwilliam, whose arms were lozengy argent and gules. Roger [of Woodhall, Darfield], younger son of Sir Thomas Fitzwilliam, was living about this time at Braithwell, which though in Yorkshire is no great distance from Blyth."1

                     Medieval music and singing:   Jeu Robin et Marion [Fr.] written about 1285 by Adam de la Halle [mp3]

Thomas Fitzwilliam is considered here to be the maternal grandfather of Robert III Butler of Skelbrooke, a person who may have helped to inspire the character of the ballad hero, Robyn Hode.
The Battle of Chesterfield was lost by the earl of Derby, Robert de Ferrers, styled "Earl of Tutbury" whilst fighting Henry III's forces, he was  taken prisoner after being found hiding behind sacks of grain in Chesterfield Church. De Ferrers had his lands confiscated and was declared an outlaw. He was eventually allowed to repurchase his lands but was unable to do so, dying in 1279. The De Ferrers estates eventually passed into the hands of Edmund Crouchback [Henry III's second son] which then passed to Thomas Plantagenet best known as the earl of Lancaster.  
Many have recognised the parallels between Robert de Ferrers and the balladic character of Robyn Hode. Certainly elements of  the earl of Derby's life may have been woven into the ballads at Tutbury in the 1300s during the time of later owners of Tutbury, such as Thomas Plantagenet and John of Gaunt.

Sprotbrough Castle
The site of the little known and hidden De Lizours and later FitzWilliam castle near Sprotbrough. The map is from the early 1850s with the modern A1 [M] - blue line superimposed. The motte and bailey is now hidden amongst an arm of Castle Hill wood a forgotten relic fortress of Robert III Butler's grandparents. This site is unknowingly passed every day by heavy traffic on the M1, the modern Great North Road. It is best approached from the west by walking east across the fields from Spring Lane after gaining permission. Sir William FitzWilliam de Clairfait Lord of Emley and Hampole married Albreda de Lizours ~1163 and upon the death of Albreda's father >1193, De Clairfait would have gained the estate. The 1854 map suggests that it is the 'supposed site of a castle', the modern O.S. map more boldly proclaims it a 'Castle Mound'. As with Emley and Hampole it is conceivable that Robert III Butler visited his grandparents as a child and played in the woods and fields nearby. Cusworth Hall Park to the east was probably the original estate. This estate adjoined the lands of the Butler's of Skelbrooke to the north-east at Scausby Lees. Such a close association of the lands of FitzWilliam and Butler probably helped lead to the marriage of Robert II Butler of Skelbrooke and Agnes FitzWilliam of Sprotborough. Scausby Lees lies astride the 'Roman Ridge' the ancient southward extension of 'Watling Strete' named as early as the 1200s. To the SSW lies the great fortress of  Hamelyn Plantagenet at Conisbrough

The film, 'Robin Hood' appears to be once again falsely associated with Richard I 'Coeur de Lion' and the often maligned King John. It is directed by the Englishman, Sir Ridley Scott and the script, as with the film of  'A Knights Tale', is written by Brian Helgeland but again, it is without any historical basis whatsoever. The false trail perpetrated by the film industry continues ever such.

                                                                                                 Theme Music [mp3]


This is the popular image of the ballad hero. However the arrows would have been held by the belt and it is probable that he had a more pronounced moustache as was popular throughout the earlier medieval period. Here Robyn is painted as a left-handed bowman.



A sign of the times during the G.F.C. outside Nottingham Castle. The sentimental idea of Robyn taking from the rich to give to the poor does not appear in the ballad 'A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode' unless we include Robyn giving the 'pore knyght', Sir Richard atte Lee, 800 pounds. This rather romantic image of taking from the rich and giving to the poor only gets traction after the publication of Martin Parkerís ballad,  A True Tale of Robin Hood (abt. 1630) [Childís ballad 154.] and later embellished by Joseph Ritson.
As a descendant of Henry II's father we might recognise some of the qualities of Henry in Robert Butler :
"... strongly built, with a leonine head, freckled face, red hair and a cracked voice. Tough and athletic, he possessed immense energy which enabled him to travel ceaselessly about his extensive domains. Generous to the poor, a pillar of Justice and an intellectual giant, Henry was the greatest of the Plantagenets and arguably the most able English king since Alfred" - Plantagenet Somerset Fry, Kings and Queens.

Geoffrey Plantagenet who became Archbishop of York was also an illegitimate child but of Henri Curtmantel probably by Ykenai [Hikenai]. Ykenai was born about 1131 in Westminster, Middlesex. Their child was Geoffrey Plantagenet Archbishop of York about 1151-1153 died December 18, 1212 in France, aged sixty. Others have less convincingly made another of Henri's concubines Rosamund de Clifford [FitzPonz/FitzPonce] to be the mother of Geoffrey. This was Henri's great love the "Fair Rosamund" of  the ballads. She was born about 1133 in Clifford Castle, Herefordshire and died about 1176 at Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Clifford castle lies some six miles south of a village called Huntington. Alice de Hastings was born here in 1606 and she married Sir Gervase Clifton of Hodsock 1st baronet [b 1581 d 1666]. Gervase had seven wives the first of whom was Penelope Rich of the manor of Wakefield whilst the seventh was Alice Hastings daughter of  Sir Henry Hastings of Eaton, 5th earl of Huntingdon. We have said elsewhere that we suspect that this Sir Gervase was active in promoting the idea that 'Robin Hood' was the 'Earl of Huntington' and probably encouraged the tourist trade for the legendary ballad hero at Nottingham. Rosamund Clifford's grandparents were Richard FitzPons and Maud FitzWalter. This name Maud FitzWalter and the title 'earl of Huntington' may have passed from Sir Gervase to the court of Elizabeth I then appeared in Munday's plays.

Footnote:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           In our search for a real person who modelled for the ballad character Robyn Hode, we may look to the criminal network of the 1290s in the Barnsdale area exposed by the trial of Robert III Butler of Skelbrooke. Skelbrooke is situated near where the vill of Barnsdale was sited at Barnsdale Bar. This is now marked by a round-about for the A1. However, further research leads us on to a far greater well-spring, the findings of which I hope to publish in the near future

                                                                Anglo-Norman-Welsh-Scoto-Dutch-Hanoverian-SaxeCoburg Royal lineage for England




1. Richardson, Douglas. Plantagenet Ancestry, Genealogical Publishing Co. 2004 p 330.
© Copyright Tim Midgley 2006, links revised December, 2023.

Robin Hood search for the Truth | Robin Hood Places | Hood surname statistics | Robin Hood of Wakefield | Robert Hood of Newton | The Pinder of Wakefield Marian | Friars | Loxley and 'Huntington' | Myriads of Robin Hoods | Ballads of Robin Hood | Kirklees | The Armytages of Kirklees | Little John | Roger De Doncaster | The Penurious Knyght | Our Comly King  | Shire Reeve | Priory of Kirklees | Wakefield Rolls | Saylis of the Geste- a new site | Robert III Butler of Skelbrooke | Barnsdale and the Geste | De Lacis of PontefractAlice De Laci and John of GauntBarnsdale Gallery | A suspected compiler of the Geste | Images of Robyn Hode




ANOTHER REASON TO PRESERVE ENGLISH FOREST AND WOODLAND  Here we have the brass statue of the ballad hero at Nottingham superimposed upon a background of a brook and woodland which lie within the manor where the real Robyn was born and in all likelihood where he played as a young child. The scene was taken in July with bluebells still evident before the summer tree canopy obscured most of the daylight. Note how in this case the artist has Robyn as a right-hand bowman. 


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