J. W. Walker2 determined that Robert Hodd of Wakefield was married to a Matilda and that these two may have become outlaws in Barnsdale together following the defeat of Thomas Plantagenet, earl of Lancaster at the hand of forces loyal to the king at Boroughbridge. Thomas had been resident at Pontefract Castle which lay to the North of Barnsdale. This Matilda, Walker surmised was the "Maid Marian" first alluded to in Munday's plays as Matilda Fitzwater* (a corruption of Fitzwalter?), later his "Fair Maid Marian". In Munday's play, The Downfall of Robert, Earle of Huntington it gives Marion as the daughter of Sir Hugh Lacy, after line 781 this becomes Matilda§ the daughter of Lord Fitzwater. Compare the Fitzwalter coat of arms with that of the Shire-reeve of Nottingham.
In fact, Munday was onto something and he seems to have been incorporating
common knowledge at the time into his plays. In 1283 Adam De La Halle
produced a pastoral poem in French titled 'Robin et Marian'+
but there is no evidence that the writer was referring to Robyn
Hode, indeed I find that this poem was not referring to the inspiration
for the English ballad hero at all. This is another straw-in-the-wind which
has led down another path of futile research. The truth has been well buried
to 'protect the innocent' and perhaps the not so innocent.
Matilda Fitzwalter of Little Dunmow.
During an 'off' time Robert's young daughter,
Matilda FitzWalter, the "Fair Maid", had in tradition drawn the attention
of the licentious John. His advances towards her were rebuffed and
it appears from a prison record that she was locked in the 'White Tower'
[The keep of the castle of London]. She was then supposedly killed after
eating a poisoned egg given to her under King John's orders. Her body
was conveyed to the Priory Church at Little Dunmow where she was interred
beneath her effigy. Phillip Morant the Essex historian recorded another
legend of the fair Matilda :
From this time Matilda Fitzwalter was woven into the spoken
Robin Hood stories, but was specifically included in Anthony Munday's
written plays as Matilda the daughter of Lord 'Fitzwater'. This
of course is a phonetic for 'FitzWalter', who by the 1600's as Robert
FitzWalter, had entered the hall of famed personages, a result of
his opposition to King John. Again I find that this time reference is
a fabrication par excellence. It places the inspiration for
the ballad hero falsely into the reign of King John. If one were suspicious
one might suspect a conspiracy, but there is an equally less innoccuous explanation
which has yet to be announced.
de Lucy of Diss
| | |
Maud de Luvetot
Sir Walter FitzRobert
* =Leader of the barons against King John
Certainly the aspects of both the title 'Earl of Huntingdon' and
the "Fair Maid", Matilda FitzWalter became integrated
into Munday's plays, introducing the fictitious forest name of
'Fair Maid Marion' from both the Dunmow babblings and the May Games.
We might also note the similarity of names for Robert FitzWalter's
sister, Lady of Hallamshire and his daughter. We might question
whether there has been a muddling of the person with the name and
Matilda Vavasour aka FitzWalter/Butler/FitzWarine
In about 1199, Theobald I FitzWalter, styled Pincerna, the first butler of Ireland, married Maud/Matilda Vavasour. She was the daughter of Robert Vavasour, a sheriff of Notts. and Derbs. for two years [1235-1236]. Upon being widowed as 'Matilda FitzWalter', wife of Theobald, she now married Fulk III FitzWarine. Fulk was a lord of Whittington in Shropshire who lived in the time of King John. During John's reign, Fulk was outlawed in the period 1200 -1203. Fulk FitzWarine has often been seen as a model for Robyn Hode in the Geste. Fulk in history supported Robert FitzWalter of Little Dunmow and the baronial revolt in 1215 in opposition to King John.
The Fulk FitzWarine romance, set in King John's time, was probably written during or after this reign. It is certainly earlier than the predicted authorship of the Geste by some one hundred years at least.
There are many similarities between the FitzWarine poetic romance, Fulke le FitzWaryn, and the Geste. Just some of these similarities are:
It would seem that the compiler of the Geste borrowed from the Fulk FitzWarine romance as did the Gamelyn poems and much later in ~ 1600 by Munday in his plays. One difference between the historical Fulk and the romantic version is that the historical Fulk married Matilda Vavasour whilst the romantic Fulk married Maud/Matilda De Cauz [of Laxton] who in the romance was a lady desired by King John for her great wealth. However, in reality Matilda De Cauz married Birkin and secondly Richard de Lexington, father of Robert de Lexington, the itinerant justice who was to try Rob. Hode [Hobbehod] at the York assizes in 1225. Due to his non-appearance for the trial, Robert was declared a fugitive.
* The assumption is, that the ballad concerns Robyn Hode, although the second part of the name nor any variant of it is used.
Recent findings have shown that indeed the person who was the inspiration for the ballad hero 'Robyn Hode' did have a wife and a large number of children. This finding will 'put to bed' the scurrilous speculation that the real life hero 'batted for the other side'. In fact I find very strong evidence for the exact opposite for this assertion, the results of which are yet to be announced. The epithet 'Maid Marian' I find has descended from the place of her burial in the English countryside which became a site of pilgimage. I have © copyrighted photographs of her beautiful tomb effigy that is hidden away in a little corner of England that is forever green. This however is not the falsely claimed site at Little Dunmow, which in itself has a very interesting re-interpretation.
1. Munday, Anthony. The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntington, 1598 - Munday changed the venue from Barnsdale to Nottingham & Sherwood and names Robin Hood as the Earl of Huntington#. He also moves the time to Richard I and King John. He introduces Maid
Marian perhaps from the May Games.
2. Walker J. W. The True History of Robin Hood, Wakefield, 1973.
3. A Brief History of the Village and Priory, Little Dunmow. Dunmow Design and Print.
4. Bellamy, John. Robin Hood: An Historical Enquiry, London,1985, p.80 5. Phillips G. & Keatman M. Robin Hood The Man Behind the Myth. Michael O'Mara Books, 1995.
*Fitz = "illegitimate son of the royal blood line" as in FitzWilliam/FitzWalter etc. Fitz is a corruption of Filii "of the family" (see seal above).
# = There are only two places named Huntington in England, one is N.E. of York City, the other in Herefordshire.. Huntington may be interchangeable with Huntingdon given the phonetic provincial spelling.
§ = Matilda is synonymous with Maud.
+ = Marian in French, Marion in Scots & English.
© Tim Midgley 2000, internal links revised July 2023.