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The Legend of Robin Hood (1975)

PRINCIPAL CAST - Robin Hood - Martin Potter, Maid Marian - Diane Keen, Little John - Conrad Asquith, Will Scarlet - Miles Anderson, Friar Tuck - Tony Caunter, Much - Richard Speight, The Sheriff of Nottingham - Paul Darrow, King Richard - Michael John Jackson, Prince John - David Dixon, Sir Guy of Gisbourne - William Marlowe.

Thanks to the tireless campaigning of Peter Watson and support of all the fans of this mini series around the world who wrote to the BBC and signed our online petition this series is now available to own as a Region 2 PAL DVD.

The following text is provided courtesy of Peter Watson who was kind enough to let me share a viewing of the series he had arranged with the B.F.I. in late 2004.  Here he provides an in depth written description of each of the six episodes in the series.  Hopefully this will bring back memories for those who had forgotten the show and encourage new viewers to seek it out.

THE LEGEND OF ROBIN HOOD

Part One

The present Earl of Huntingdon (Anthony Garner) speaks in quiet tones regarding his future plans for his infant child, who will be destined to succeed him as the future Earl of the Huntingdon Estate.  He implores Father Ambrose (David King) to provide a safe haven for his offspring, to guide him well and teach him Latin until the time is right for the boy to be presented to the King as the heir to the Huntingdon lands.

He gives Sir Cedric Usher (Michael Fleming) a ring with the Huntingdon crest engraved upon it plus a sealed letter confirming his son’s true identity, requesting that they be stored away safely until the time comes.

Many years later Robin (Martin Potter) has become proficient with the longbow and is pleased with his progress under the watchful eye of John Hood (Trevor Griffiths). He tells Robin that the newly crowned King Richard I (Michael John Jackson) will be embarking on a crusade to the Holy Land and he, Robin, must seek an audience with the king to claim his inheritance as the long lost Earl of the Huntingdon Estate as his father’s heir.  Reflecting on the title, Robin then realises why his father once insisted that he learn Latin.

Some time later Robin is made aware of the cruel injustices which are dished out by their Norman oppressors when he encounters two mounted foresters with a bound captive.  His crime was stealing berries off the bushes on Sir Guy of Gisborne’s (William Marlowe) land.  Robin tries to stop them, claiming his father is the King’s Forester.  At that point John Hood arrives on the scene and tells Robin that he has no jurisdiction over Sir Guy’s land and must allow the foresters to continue on their way with their captive.  Furthermore, Robin has not yet been invested with his new title and has not yet seen the King.

In Nottingham Prince John (David Dixon) ponders over the likelihood of his becoming Regent of England during his brother’s proposed absence.  He discusses this possibility with the Sheriff of Nottingham (Paul Darrow) who sees in John one whom he can easily manipulate to further his own ends.  John sees his brother’s absence as an ideal opportunity to increase his own power.

Sir Kenneth Neston’s (John Abineri) niece, Marian (Diane Keen), is being escorted through the forest on her way to see Sir Guy of Gisborne to whom she is betrothed.  However, the shaft of the litter in which Marian is travelling breaks and causes alarm.  When Robin arrives on the scene he helps to repair the broken shaft and sees Marian for the first time.  Their eyes meet and there is a mutual attraction.  He is transfixed by her beauty and fails to spot the old crone (Sheelah Wilcox) appearing from behind the trees.  She predicts that he will never die, save by a woman’s hand.  Having uttered this prophecy she disappears as mysteriously as she came.

Later, when Marian sits alone with her uncle, she declares her condemnation of Gisborne.  She is aware of his cruelty, his scheming and his deception.  Her uncle, however, is in favour of the marriage since it will help to narrow the diversity between the Norman and Saxon races.  Marian’s disapproval does not rest easily with her uncle.

As news of the marriage spreads, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy of Gisborne air their views on it.  Gisborne harbours doubts about going ahead with it, despite the fact that he is set to inherit 20,000 acres of land as a result.  The Sheriff is quick to remind him however that Sir Kenneth Neston’s Estate forms a barrier between Nottingham and that governed by Gisborne.  A marriage to Neston’s niece would see the barrier broken.

The following morning Robin arrives at the tavern where Marian and her entourage had been staying whilst on their journey to Nottingham.  He discovers that they had left early and heads off towards the forest road.

Some time later Robin encounters the party being attacked along a forest track by robbers (Robert Russell) and Robin goes to their aid. He impresses the travelling party who are grateful for his assistance.  Gisborne arrives to meet the party, and on hearing what has taken place is thankful for Robin’s aid, throwing him a coin in recognition of his prowess.  Robin immediately throws it back at Gisborne, telling him his berries are too expensive.  However, Sir Kenneth Neston, Marian’s uncle, tells Robin that he would be happy to have him serve in his own army if he does not find his fortune in London.

Back in London there is growing resentment between King Richard and John, whom he suspects of having stolen money from the war chest.  Prince John is convinced that he should be Regent of England during the King’s absence, but Richard condemns his brother as a fool with dubious friends who is quite unfit to be trusted to oversee affairs of state.  John’s animosity grows.  Longchamp (Geoffrey Russell) only adds to Richard’s concerns by stating that the money required for the crusade is responsible for tax protests.

Robin, soon to become Earl of Huntingdon, seeks an audience with the King, providing the ring with the family crest and the sealed letter which Sir Cedric Usher had had safely stored.  King Richard remembered Sir Cedric, who had died eight years previous, but was still not convinced with Robin’s proof of identity.  He tells Robin to remove his shirt, knowing that the genuine Earl of Huntingdon has a birthmark just below his left shoulder.  On seeing this, the King is satisfied and gladly welcomes Robin to court.

Meanwhile, Marian’s entourage have reached their destination at Gisborne’s estate and the latter continues to try all he can to win favour with Marian Neston.  Such an alliance would be advantageous to Gisborne as he is well aware that he would eventually acquire the Neston estate through marriage.  Sir Kenneth Neston also seeks such a union recognising a need to integrate the Saxon and Norman races and declaring marriage better than spilled blood.

King Richard and Robin, Earl of Huntingdon, engage in swordplay on the castle green to enable the King to assess Robin’s ability in combat.  The King, soon to depart for the Holy Land, chooses Robin to be his squire for the Crusade.  Robin, though honoured, declares his concern for justice in England while the King is away, claiming that there will be no peace in England whilst the King is absent.  Worried about Marian’s proposed marriage to Gisborne, Robin offers to remain behind but the King informs him that, as Earl of Huntingdon, it is his sacred duty to go with his King to the Holy Land.

Sir Guy of Gisborne seeks royal approval for his marriage to Marian Neston.  King Richard is aware of Gisborne’s claim to Neston’s land on his marriage to Marian and being aware of possible treachery tells Gisborne to cool his ardour.

The Abbot of Grantham’s (David Ryall) monetary misdemeanours have meanwhile come to light.  He has lost money to a moneylender.  He is told to relinquish his estates but to keep silent by the Sheriff who has plans of his own.

Eleanor, the Queen Mother (Yvonne Mitchell), has expressed her wish for Marian to be one of her ladies in waiting.  She awaits the King’s permission to be married but intends to play a waiting game with Gisborne, much to his chagrin.

After spending time with King Richard at court Robin rides out to visit his estates in Huntingdon as the newly appointed Earl.  He rides out into the forest of Sherwood and all seems still.  However, he fails to see a group of outlaws who lie in wait for him, unaware of who this lone horseman is.

Part Two

Robin, Earl of Huntingdon, is attacked by outlaws who waylay him in Sherwood while he is journeying to his newly acquired estate.  He resembles a member of the baronage and the outlaws have no idea of his true identity.  However, when they discover the ring with the Huntingdon crest they realise that he is not a rich Norman but a Saxon Earl on a mission for the King.  They refuse his purse and take nothing from him.

Will Scarlet (Miles Anderson) tells Robin that they would never have attacked him if they had known who he was.  He remembers Robin, declaring that they had met at an archery contest at Lincoln Fair several years before.  Will tells Robin that his father was the Steward of the Huntingdon Manor 

Will Scarlet accompanies Robin on the road to Huntingdon and learns of the Abbot of Grantham’s cruelty.  Will informs Robin the Abbot owned church property and dues to the crown.  He also had unpaid debts to a moneylender.  When Robin arrives to claim his inheritance he finds the contents of the Manor gone.  The Abbot, on orders of the Sheriff, had looted the Manor and departed with the spoils, storing them away.  It is now a question of what belongs to the Earl of Huntingdon.

Sir Kenneth Neston and Lady Marian discuss her forthcoming marriage to Sir Guy of Gisborne.  Neston tries to persuade her that such a marriage would be to her advantage, but Marian has grave misgivings. She is certainly not deceived by the manners of Gisborne and tries to delay matters.  In the meantime, Gisborne rides north to his estate to await further developments.

Queen Eleanor has by now received news of her son’s proposed departure for the Holy Land and of all the preparations which are being undertaken.  She has met the Lady Marian who reluctantly seeks permission to marry Gisborne at the insistence of her uncle.

Robin, Will Scarlet, Ralph Gammon (Stephen Whittaker) and a few other outlaws have by now discovered the whereabouts of the stored spoils of the Huntingdon Manor which the Abbot of Grantham had seized.  Deep in the forest there is a barn which belongs to the Abbot, with six men-at-arms guarding it.  It is here where the stolen goods are sorted.  Will Scarlet had had it watched. The outlaws surround the barn whilst hidden from cover and set fire to it with flaming arrows.  In the confusion they attack and kill the men-at-arms and retrieve the gold plate.  In jest, Robin declares that mother church adopts the Huntingdon goods.

 Back at court, the Queen Mother hears all about the simmering brotherly conflict between King Richard and Prince John.  The King declares that John is not fit to be regent of England.  He has developed a deep distrust of John, and rightly so.  He states that John is easily led by his dubious friends, not to mention what will become of the Royal Exchequer during Richard’s absence.

The Queen Mother insists that Richard is being too harsh and distrustful of John, but Richard retorts that he will have his own exchequer and six counties, including that of Lancaster.

Shortly after the barn raid the Abbot of Grantham is apprehended by Robin Hood.  He accuses the Abbot of being no more than a common thief, confiscates what the Abbot is carrying on his person including his new gown and sends him back to Nottingham on the back of an ass.

Meanwhile the Sheriff of Nottingham, eager to enhance his own position, discusses with Prince John the impending situation which is likely to manifest itself with the King on Crusade.  Prince John is resentful of Longchamp’s favour with the King and informs the Sheriff that the crown is promised to him (John) if the King does not return.  Prince John gives the impression that he hopes the King does not return.  The Sheriff declares that John ought to create his own rival court to Longchamp.

In the tavern it is revealed that Much’s (Richard Speight) father has been hanged by the Sheriff in Nottingham, but the reason for this is not known.  News of the Abbot of Grantham’s loss is also reported, but as the Abbot is violating his position no-one has any sympathy for him.

The Earl of Huntingdon is angered by this apparent injustice and hastens to Nottingham to speak with the Sheriff himself.  The Sheriff, hiding his suspicion, tells the Earl of Huntingdon that he himself signed the warrant for the hanging, but refuses to go into any details.  The Earl retorts that with powerful nobles in charge of affairs of state, there will be little hope for sound administration and fair justice once the King has departed on crusade.  The Sheriff even covers up for the Abbot’s carelessness and the Earl of Huntingdon departs, knowing he has made an enemy of the Sheriff.  The Sheriff, for his part, realises only too well that the Earl of Huntingdon has become a thorn in his side.

The Earl of Huntingdon later rejoins King Richard on the castle green where he mentions the hanging. He is very distrustful of the Sheriff, Gisborne and Prince John and uneasy about how the affairs of state will be conducted.  However, King Richard has faith in Longchamp whom he has appointed as Regent of England and does not see why Robin should have the need to worry, especially as he will be going with the King as his squire on the crusade.

The King sees this as an opportunity to introduce the Earl of Huntingdon to Prince John who is evidently resentful of Robin’s standing with the King.  When he is told that Robin is to be his brother’s squire he retorts by declaring “It seems fortune smiles on both of us!”

When Robin gets the opportunity to speak to Marian again she is still very uneasy about her impending marriage to Gisborne and is against the whole idea.  She is well aware of his cruelty and violence.  Robin urges her to speak to the King before he departs England’s shores.

Later that day the Sheriff, Gisborne and the Abbot of Grantham debate over the rising tide of resentment generated over the hanging of the peasant.  The Sheriff is well aware of trouble brewing and tells his lieutenant Alaric (Frank Vincent) to have Robin Hood watched.  He also advises the Abbot to leave the country for his own safety. The Abbot, heeding these words, prepares to travel to London.  Sir Guy of Gisborne makes it known that he wishes King Richard to sanction his marriage before the King departs for the Holy Land.

Richard informs John that he has decided to appoint his mother Eleanor as co-regent with Longchamp which only serves to make John more subordinate and pugnacious.  By now Eleanor is well aware of the situation regarding Marian’s forthcoming marriage and of Robin’s role as the King’s squire. The King is also aware of Robin’s interest in Marian and his intentions towards her.  However, the King for the moment, approves of Gisborne’s betrothal to Marian. 

The Abbot of Grantham, bound for Chinon in France, has reached London, but ill luck befalls him.  He is stabbed on his way to chapel and mortally wounded. His death-bed confession is overheard however, by Robin, Earl of Huntingdon, who has followed him, suspicious of his intentions.  The Abbot tells of a plot to kill the King as he sails from Dover to Normandy.  A monk is to be smuggled on board ship carrying a knife.

Robin realises that King Richard’s death will provoke an uprising in England.  However, Robin himself is being watched by Alaric who has been told to kill Robin Hood on the orders of the Sheriff.  Having heard the Abbot’s dying words Robin knows too much and is taken prisoner and confined in a locked cell.  He is in a difficult dilemma, knowing that his own life is now in danger and he cannot reach the King to warn him of the threat to murder him on board ship.  However, Robin is not alone.  Will Scarlet has accompanied Robin on his quest and rescues Robin from his cell by donning the guise of Robin’s confessor and attacking the monk who has been assigned to guard him.

Meanwhile, Robin’s antagonists do all they can to soil his name and destroy the King’s faith.  Prince John seizes the opportunity to denounce the Earl of Huntingdon as a traitor.  Sir Kenneth Neston reluctantly thinks the same and even persuades Marian to believe it.  The Sheriff, always eager to discredit Robin, tells the King that Robin has renounced his title of Earl of Huntingdon.  King Richard, by now is convinced of Robin’s treachery and prepares to depart for the Holy Land without his chosen squire.

At the last moment Robin arrives at the King’s court without warning and declares emphatically that he is no traitor to his king.  He informs Richard of the attempt on his life and of his own confinement after hearing of the Abbot’s confession and subsequent death.  He has a difficult task convincing the King of his loyalty, who is quick to denounce Robin as a coward for failing to appear before the assembled nobles of the realm.

Eventually Richard decides on a whim that he no longer wants the Earl of Huntingdon as his squire, but realising that he cannot dismiss his services out of hand tells the Earl of Huntingdon to remain in England and serve him there.

As Robin departs, the King tells his guard to kill any monk if found with a dagger on board ship.

Part Three

The episode opens with three mounted Sheriff’s men pursuing three outlaws who are on foot.  Once the outlaws reach the shelter of the trees on the edge of Sherwood they are more easily able to throw off their pursuers.  By now patrols of men-at-arms assigned to Gisborne and the Sheriff of Nottingham have increased and the Earl of Huntingdon, known as Robin Hood has become the principal enemy.  All those loyal to him are also sought.  The forest seems to crawl with Normans.

By now Sir Guy of Gisborne has been reunited with Maid Marian.  He informs both Marian and her uncle, Sir Kenneth Neston, about the proposed marriage arrangements.  The ceremony is to be conducted by the saintly Earl of Durham (Bishop) (Malcolm Rogers) and Gisborne, on toasting their health, declares that King Richard’s wedding gift shall be the Huntingdon Estate.

Marian, aware of the cruel irony, refuses to be married at Huntingdon.  She considers it a joke since Robin of Huntingdon has been branded an outlaw by King Richard.  Gisborne, convinced that she will eventually have a change of heart, has already had the foresight to combine the black amulets of the Neston coat of arms with chevrons of his own, both entwined upon the Huntingdon crest.

Robin, by this time, has been accepted as one of the outlaw band and chosen as a worthy leader.  Will and Ralph Gammon introduce him to the hermit, Friar Tuck (Tony Caunter), who dwells in a cave deep in the forest. Robin informs the friar that he (Robin) has been banished from the Huntingdon Estate and is now an outlaw.  Friar Tuck is happy to offer his abode to the outlaws.  Robin sees this as a welcome sanctuary from the Abbot of Grantham and those who follow him, and sets about removing the wine from the Huntingdon cellars to the cave.

Soon after, Alaric, the Sheriff’s lieutenant, and a group of men-at-arms, discover Tuck at the entrance to the cave where the outlaws are hiding.  When he sees a sword hidden beneath the friar’s robes his suspicions are aroused and immediately orders his men-at-arms to search the cave for outlaws.  The quick thinking friar picks up a dead snake, informing the Sheriff’s men that vipers have made their home there.  The men-at-arms decide against the risk of searching the cave and depart to search for outlaws elsewhere.  Robin, Will and Ralph have a lucky escape, but realise only too well that they are now hunted like animals and must always be on their guard.

Robin has now become a danger to the Sheriff and Sir Guy because of the Abbot of Grantham’s deathbed confession.  Back at Nottingham Castle Alaric informs the Sheriff that the Earl of Huntingdon has taken refuge in Sherwood Forest and joined up with other outlaws who have made it their home.  The Sheriff retorts that he is to be hunted down as the wolfshead he has now become.

The Sheriff is by now also keen on the idea of Prince John taking a tough line with the Queen Mother (Eleanor) and informs him likewise.  He regards Nottinghamshire as Prince John’s provincial domain and urges him to increase his jurisdiction in his administrative district.  John also required more labourers which he can use at an old Roman settlement in the west, another of his devious schemes.

In the forest it comes to light that there are two separate bands of outlaws thriving independently.  When two of Robin’s band are attacked on the edge of the forest and robbed of the deer they are carrying it becomes clear that Robin will have to join forces with them if there is to be any chance of defeating the Normans, since Robin is now very much a wanted man. 

Back at the cave Will and Ralph mention to Robin the name Little John (Conrad Asquith), whom they are told hunts in a large part of Sherwood which they declare their own.  Robin, angered over the stolen venison, vows to meet up with Little John to set matters to right.

Some time later, Robin encounters Little John on the far side of the stream and warns him to stay away from his part of the forest and not to rob his men as they scarcely have enough food to go round.  Little John challenges Robin to a duel with the quarterstaff in which they both end up in the water after an evenly matched contest.  They both gain mutual respect for each other and an alliance of sorts.

Robin learns that Marian and her uncle are lodged at Huntingdon Manor. He dons a disguise and goes off to seek her out, keen to inform her that he is no traitor and furthermore let it be known that he has averted an attempt on the King’s life.  He is also in love with her, despite her betrothal to Gisborne, and wishes to make his feelings known.  However, a renegade outlaw has informed Alaric of Robin’s plan.  Robin is subsequently captured whilst entering Huntingdon Manor at the very gateway and Gisborne has him locked in the tower and sentenced to be hung.  Gisborne declares that the former Earl of Huntingdon has saved himself and the Sheriff the trouble of having to hunt him down.

Marian is out hawking with her uncle and is unaware that Robin has been captured.  Robin espies her when she returns and signals to her with the aid of the sun’s reflections off a ladle which he has with him from the kitchen below.  She soon learns of Robin’s imprisonment in the cell above the kitchen and of his intended fate.  She persuades one of the cooks to let her take food up to him in his cell, and, once there, is told about the discovery of the attempt on King Richard’s life in Dover, the confession by the Abbot of Grantham and of Robin’s steadfast loyalty to King Richard.  For the first time, Marian realises that Robin is no traitor to the King, which is what Gisborne and the Sheriff had wanted all to believe in order to tarnish his name and discredit his title as Earl of Huntingdon.

Her uncle, Sir Kenneth, questions why Robin has come to Huntingdon Manor, but Marian declares nothing.  The Sheriff is soon party to the welcome news that Robin Hood is Gisborne’s captive and sends Alaric to guard him.

Marian wastes no time in getting a message to Much and informs him of Robin’s capture.  She tells him of Robin’s exact location, a cell in the gatehouse tower above the kitchen.  The outlaws form a plan.  In disguise, they arrive at Huntingdon Lodge with a cart-load of flour intended for the kitchen.  Alaric watches the goings on from the battlements above the gateway.  All seems innocent enough as the cart is situated beneath the level of the kitchen and the men begin to unload the sacks of flour.  But it is all a ruse, which becomes clear when Alaric sees a sword lying beneath the sacks of flour on the back of the cart.  He shouts to the guards to stop these men in their tracks having realised their intentions.  The outlaws, numbering no more than four, call out to Robin to jump onto the back of the cart where the bags of flour will cushion his landing.  This he does, as a handful of guards appear on the scene, eventually followed by Alaric who had seen the situation developing from his vantage point above.  After a dogged skirmish the outlaws affect their escape.  Alaric ends up covered in flour when the sack he is attempting to throw is sliced in two by one of the outlaws from the back of the cart.

In this state Alaric reports the outlaw’s escape to Gisborne who is naturally furious that Robin Hood has been allowed to escape from under his nose.

Robin by now is anxious to discover who had betrayed him and is keen to speak with Little John, whose hiding place is in a ruined village.  When he reaches Little John’s camp he all but accuses him of informing Alaric of his visit to see Marian.  He is convinced that either Little John or someone in his camp is responsible for his betrayal.  Little John informs him, however, that suspicion fell on Robin’s band after Roland’s (Sidney Kean) body was discovered in the river.  Roland was one of Little John’s band.  Robin informs him that neither he nor any of his men had anything to do with Roland’s death and the matter is then laid to rest, with suspicion falling on those outside the band.

Marian has since declared her love for Robin and dislike for Gisborne and makes this clear to her uncle.  However, she tries to forget her feelings since she is aware that her uncle is trying to bring Normans and Saxons together through her marriage to Gisborne, and her uncle fails to see reason.  She goes to see the Archbishop of Durham (Malcolm Rogers) who tries to give her comfort and solace.

Some time later Prince John is seen riding west through the forest accompanied by Sir Baskin of Cornwall.  Robin is curious and the friar tells of a woman (Pamela Binns) who lives alone in a cave close to the plague village to the west.  The friar goes to speak with the woman and takes her food which she is in need of.  She is thankful for the meat, though fearful for her safety after what had happened. She tells of the village being burnt by the Sheriff’s soldiers and of the villagers who were being led away towards the old Roman settlement in the west.

Robin and his followers ride west to discover what ill is afoot.  They find, in a deep gorge, a silver mine in which the men and women from the village are being forced to work as slave labourers.  This treasure cave of silver is being used to line Prince John’s royal coffers.  Robin vows to free the slaves and the men-at-arms who are guarding the slaves below are quickly felled by Saxon bowmen who have surrounded the area.

Robin confronts Prince John and warns him against taking villagers as slaves.  The Prince declares that they are well paid but Robin will not listen.  He states that the slaves are free and there must be no reprisals.  The outlaw leader takes 30 bars of silver, to be divided equally between those sorely in need and King Richard’s Crusade which the country had been heavily taxed to finance.  Prince John swears to get even with Robin Hood after this outrage against him.

Part Four

Three mounted men-at-arms in the service of the Sheriff of Nottingham are seen scouring the forest in search of outlaws and anyone whom they suspect is in league with the exiled Earl of Huntingdon.  They search a wide area but the outlaws remain hidden from view.  The Sheriff’s men are aware of this which does not improve matters when they reach Nottingham.  The Sheriff is an impatient man and Alaric has allowed Robin Hood to escape from their clutches once before, much to Gisborne’s annoyance.

Gisborne is waiting for Prince John to strike and insert his authority, but the Sheriff is already playing for higher stakes.  He proclaims Prince John’s word ‘as law’, insisting that King Richard has no jurisdiction in Nottingham.  With this in mind, the Sheriff tells Gisborne to double the patrols in Sherwood Forest and informs Alaric to continue the search for Robin Hood, who has become a thorn in their side.  At that moment, a well wisher arrives from the North in the form of a Military Prior (Roy Marsden) who is an ally of the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy of Gisborne.

At the outlaw camp Will Scarlet reports that the forest is crawling with foresters and Sheriff’s men.  The outlaws are hungry and they risk capture as they venture out to forage for food. Will knows of a village, two miles north, where they may be able to obtain food to distribute to the rest of the men.  He suggests that they venture there, despite the risks.

Whilst the outlaws journey to the Saxon village, Friar Tuck is surprised to see a desperate man running towards his cave dwelling.  He is apparently being chased through the forest by two of the Sheriff’s men and the friar recognises the mark on his neck as rope burns.  He questions the Sheriff’s men and they inform the friar that the man is wanted for not paying his taxes and that he has escaped the hangman’s noose.  The men-at-arms start laying into the man but the friar is enraged at such treatment and he in turn attacks the two men-at-arms leaving them for dead.  The friar is suddenly remorseful on discovering that he has killed two men and proclaims that his hands are now stained with blood.  At that point Ralph Gammon arrives with Robin and Will and recognises the dead prisoner as Thurkill (William Simons), a friend from the Saxon village.

Moving off in the forest the outlaws come across a group of women from the village washing linen in a stream.  As Robin and his men make towards the stream the women depart hastily.  “We’re as welcome as wolves at lambing time!” declares Robin regretfully.  Ralph Gammon is sure the women assumed they were going to be robbed.  He discloses to Robin that there is sickness in the village – hunger sickness.  He is aware that some of their food had been taken by the Sheriff’s men and Gisborne’s troops had helped themselves to what was left.  No food had been left for the villagers.  Some of the men of the village had been branded and sold as slaves. The situation is dire and Robin is gravely concerned for the villagers.

He goes to seek out Marian who is residing with Sir Kenneth on his estate and arrives in disguise in case he is recognised by her uncle.  Robin is still not sure where Sir Kenneth’s loyalties lie and is unsure of his reaction to the visit.  Robin explains all to Marian regarding the fate of the children from the starving village and she, moved by their suffering, readily agrees to take them in.  Upon hearing of the children’s predicament Sir Kenneth approves of Marian’s actions.

Later, on a further quest to find food, Robin and Ralph Gammon have to cross a wide stretch of water to reach a wooded tract on the opposite side.  Hidden amongst the trees on the ridge overlooking the stream are a number of Sheriff’s men headed by Alaric, who are on the lookout for outlaws.  The men-at-arms manage to surround the outlaws, cutting off Ralph’s escape.  A fight ensues in which Ralph is injured by three of the Sheriff’s men until Robin intervenes and slays their oppressors.  Robin’s skill with sword and longbow serves him well before he drags Ralph clear of the water.  Alaric, watching the action from above, yells orders at the one remaining crossbowman to loose his arrow.  Fortunately for Robin and Ralph, an arrow from an unknown source strikes the crossbowman in the neck, killing him instantly.  Only Alaric remains, thwarted yet again, as Robin and Ralph effect their escape.

Back at the cave and lucky to have escaped, they realise that this latest incident had been too close for comfort.  Robin agrees with Ralph that the Normans kill for sport.

On hearing the news that Robin Hood had escaped the net yet again, the Sheriff doubles the reward for the outlaw leader’s capture.  At the same time he doubles the taxes until the capture of Robin Hood is assured.

The following day a group of outlaws notice a travelling merchant taking the Nottingham route through Sherwood.  The merchant was none other than the Cellarer (John Malcolm) to the Abbot of St. Mary on his way to the Sheriff, laden with packs of food stuffs which comprised of cheese and ale in the main.  The outlaws insist on exacting a toll for the use of the road through the forest before confiscating the goods.  Friar Tuck reassures the others that the Cellarer would not have been robbed of his goods had he been a godly man.  The outlaws return the goods to the food store in the cave and plan to distribute their gains to the starving villagers on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest, with Robin proudly proclaiming that it was all taken from the Abbot of St. Mary and the Sheriff of Nottingham, for whom it had been destined.

Sir Richard of the Lea (Bernard Archard) arrives at the outlaw camp a few days later.  He is a somewhat impoverished knight, claiming to have known Robin’s father. He claims he is on his way to see the Abbot of St. Mary who is staying in Nottingham.  He owes a debt to the Abbot of 400 crowns, with the threat of losing his lands hanging over him should he fail to pay the Abbot his dues.  Robin takes Sir Richard to the cave and loans him the sum of 400 silver crowns with which to pay the Abbot.

On the appointed day, Will Scarlet accompanies Sir Richard on his journey to see the Abbot and pays the debt in full.  Sir Richard is grateful to Robin Hood.  He is able to retain his lands and is free of his debt to the Abbot of St. Mary.

In Nottingham the Sheriff informs the Abbot of St. Mary that he is keen to see him raised to the status of Archbishop of York.  He is also desirous for the royal exchequer to remain in Nottingham, insisting that it is one of the safest places in England.  It is abundantly clear however that the Sheriff’s scheming is purely designed to increase his own status by elevating those powerful enough to aid him in his quest for personal authority.

The Abbot of St. Mary is informed, whilst residing in Nottingham, of Maid Marian’s solemn oath taken before the Archbishop of Durham.  With the insistence of Gisborne, the Abbot of St. Mary tries to persuade Marian to renounce her vow to refrain from marriage until King Richard enters Jerusalem.  The Abbot insists that her decision goes against royal command but Marian will not entertain such a notion and holds firm, implying that she cannot go against her own conscience.  Gisborne is running out of patience.

The Abbot of St. Mary returns north through Sherwood with his convoy accompanied by Alaric, Gisborne and a number of armed retainers, some of whom are disguised as monks, for protection.  Robin has been kept well informed of the Abbot’s plans however, and fully intends to waylay the party as it rides through Sherwood.  He is well aware of the gold and other treasures which the Abbot will be carrying on the road to York and devises a clever ruse.

The outlaws lie in wait using the cover of a tree-lined embankment alongside the route the convoy headed by Sir Guy and Alaric is taking.  The convoy takes the left hand path upon the instruction of the scout who is actually one of Robin’s men in disguise.  Suddenly Friar Tuck appears ahead conveying the impression of being lost and confused.  Gisborne declares him to be a kind of priest, unaware of his true identity or where his loyalties lay.  The friar indicates that he has become lost in the forest whilst searching for herbs.  Gisborne tells him to join the convoy at the rear but not to lag behind else they would have to leave him.

A short while later two bodies are seen lying along the forest track.  The convoy halts, wondering what has happened and whilst temporarily off their guard the outlaws attack.  The friar attacks the monks at the rear of the party and others join in the attack from the cover of the trees.  A tree is also pushed into the gap between those at the front and those at the rear of the convoy. Gisborne and Alaric with their troops are also set upon by another group of outlaws waiting in ambush further up the track, cutting off their immediate escape.  In the resulting furious encounter, Robin kills Alaric and most of the men-at-arms are also slain. Sadly however, Will Scarlet is killed when he intercedes between Robin and the mounted Guy of Gisborne, with the latter bearing down on the outlaw leader.  Gisborne dispatches Will with a mortal blow of the axe and escapes in the confusion.

With all the Abbot of St. Mary’s gold and treasure taken by Robin and his men, Richard of the Lea’s debts are repaid in full, but the death of Will Scarlet weighs heavily.

Part Five

News reaches Nottingham concerning King Richard’s capture by Duke Leopold of Austria.  Longchamp informs Richard’s mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine of the bad news.  Explaining that the 150,000 gold marks needed to release the King from captivity will be opposed by a country already heavily taxed to finance his holy wars.

In the heart of Sherwood, Little John and Friar Tuck ponder the current state of affairs in the realm.  The friar claims that he is there for the good of his soul whilst Little John reflects on the eight years which he spent working in Nottingham Castle.

Presently two travellers (Anthony Heaton and William Ridoutt) come into view riding palfreys.  They are Dominican friars on their way from Peterborough to Nottingham laden with the King’s taxes.  Little John and Friar Tuck question them at length and discover they are in possession of a parchment containing news of King Richard’s capture.  The outlaws exact a confession from the monks who, at pain of death, reveal that the Bishop of Peterborough has been ordered to send all collected taxes to none other than the Sheriff of Nottingham himself.  This is open treason since it is clear enough that the taxes will not be used to buy Richard’s freedom.  The monks are robbed of all the coin they are carrying and told by Little John that the taxes will be given to the poor on the authority of none other than Robin Hood, the outlawed Earl of Huntingdon.

Prince John is clearly uneasy.  He informs his mother Eleanor that he wishes Longchamp to be dismissed.  In his current state of mind he believes that there is a plot against him.  He clearly resents Richard being his mother’s favourite, and she can readily see that brotherly opposition is giving way to bitterness and resentment.  Queen Eleanor labours under the pretence of being seemingly unaffected by Prince John’s temperamental disposition and manages to persuade him to help raise the ransom for Richard’s release.  Prince John, for all his guile, is not as discerning as his mother who is well versed in such situations.

Robin meets up with Marian in secret and gives her a trinket in the form of an ornate bracelet.  She realises it has been stolen, a fact Robin cannot deny, and so refuses to accept it with a heavy heart.  Despite their meetings Marian claims she owes a debt to her uncle.  She does not like Robin’s way of life.  There is a conflict of interest between the two of them and she believes that there is no future in marriage to Robin Hood the outlaw.  Robin insists that on King Richard’s return he will have his title and lands fully restored.  He reminds Marian that he has been forced to take to the forest due to his opposition to the Normans and his loyalty to King Richard.  Robin is also in conflict with Sir Kenneth’s mad scheme to marry Saxon with Norman, unaware that at that very moment her uncle has received a visitor, Sir Guy of Gisborne, who is impatient to see Marian for himself.  Gisborne questions Sir Kenneth regarding Marian’s whereabouts but Sir Kenneth knows nothing.  Gisborne realises he has a rival for Marian’s affections and in a state of growing agitation leaves without seeing her.

Realising that Longchamp is aware the collected taxes are hoarded at Nottingham Castle Prince John demands to know the informants name but Longchamp declares he knows of no direct informant.  John then orders Longchamp to procure the overdue taxes which are still outstanding and is suspicious of the regent’s complicity.  The Sheriff proposes offering a bribe to Leopold of Austria in order to keep Richard a prisoner.  Prince John is not averse to plotting against his brother in order to further his own interests but declares he will not have blood on his hands.  He does insist however that the money destined to pay for his brother’s ransom must be intercepted at all costs.

At Huntingdon lodge Sir Kenneth Neston, having witnessed Gisborne’s anger, begins to have doubts about the proposed marriage to his niece.  To Marian’s relief he confirms he has not promised her hand to Sir Guy.  He admits that he is unable to bring about peace between Norman and Saxon.

In Sherwood, Robin, who has not seen Marian for several days, fights with a new recruit to the band to test his ability in combat.  Dissatisfied, he tells his men to send the recruit back to his village, but Robin’s anger is born out of frustration rather than discontent through not seeing Marian.

Word finally reaches Robin that Sir Kenneth wishes to speak with him urgently.  He suspects a trap but on arrival finds Sir Kenneth sitting alone.  The summons is genuine and Sir Kenneth tells Robin to swear on the cross by oath not to declare to anyone what he is about to hear spoken.  This done, the Queen Mother and Lady Marian enter the room and the Queen Mother thanks Robin for saving King Richard’s life and declares that there is now enough money collected to pay off Richard’s ransom.  Yet Robin informs her that all the loyal friends of King Richard are away on the crusade and those opposed to the King will try and ensure that the ransom is withheld.  He further states that the Sheriff of Nottingham is intentionally hoarding taxes bound for London and the money stored in his stronghold could save King Richard.  Eleanor tells Robin that if the outstanding amount were to be collected he is to take it to the merchants road on her recommendation.

At the castle, Gisborne is furious; by now well aware that Marian is seeing Robin Hood behind his back.  The Sheriff is also annoyed that the proposed tax ransom which he himself had been eager to covet to further his own interests, had been taken by the outlaws from the monks of Peterborough.  He suggests to Gisborne that the taxes in their possession at the castle might best be stored at Peterborough to prevent further interventions by the outlaws loyal to King Richard, and gives Sir Guy the task of seeing that it is done.

Unknown to Sir Guy and the Sheriff, Robin is already making plans to relieve them of the taxes.  Little John knows the castle well from his time spent there before he became an outlaw.  He tells Robin of the existence of a secret door hidden by bushes which gains access to the castle.  He produces a map and undercover of darkness the outlaws break in.  They find Longchamp counting the money in the storeroom. They have no quarrel with him, as he is the King’s nominated regent, but the Sheriff and Gisborne are overpowered in the adjacent room and each is tied to a chair and the taxes seized. Robin promises to put an end to Sir Guy of Gisborne but will not kill a man who is tied to a chair.  However, he does warn Sir Guy that “when I kill you, you’ll have a sword in your hand!”

After the outlaws have made their escape from the storeroom, the Sheriff manages to call out to one of his servants who comes to release the pair.  The Sheriff is furious and calls out to his guards to pursue the outlaws as they make their way from the secret tunnel and after a brief skirmish in the fading light, Little John is captured.  The remainder make good their escape, unaware, at first, of Little John’s plight. 

Prince John is naturally furious with the Sheriff for not placing an adequate guard on the tax money, thereby allowing the outlaws to break into the storeroom and affect their escape with it.  However, they have Little John captive who will either talk or hang.

Little John is taken to see the Sheriff but the audience is brief.  The Sheriff, not wishing to procrastinate, informs Little John that he has until noon on the following day to disclose the information which is required, namely the destination of the stolen taxes.  Little John looks blankly at the Sheriff and says precisely nothing before being taken back to the dungeon.

Meanwhile Sir Kenneth Neston sits deep in thought clutching his sword and brooding over the impending state of affairs.  By now Marian is well aware of her uncle’s admiration of Robin Hood and his growing dislike of Sir Guy.  Suddenly Sir Guy barges into the room accompanied by two of his men-at-arms.  He angrily demands to see the tax money stolen from Nottingham Castle which he believes was carried out on Sir Kenneth’s recommendation.  He also suspects Sir Kenneth’s involvement, albeit indirectly, in much of the lost tax revenue on route to Nottingham owing to his suspicion of Sir Kenneth’s involvement with the outlaws.  Sir Kenneth, mindful of Gisborne’s anger, retorts that the money collected and bound for Nottingham would never have been used for King Richard’s ransom.  Seeing Gisborne enraged, Marian tries to intervene but Gisborne tells her to get out of the way.  A fight ensues but Sir Kenneth, who has not long recovered from a drinking bout, is no match for Gisborne who quickly despatches his opponent with a dagger thrust to the neck after a one-sided broadsword duel.  Gisborne turns to face the distraught Marian and declares, “Your friend Huntingdon will not die so quickly!”

The following day at noon Little John is brought outside the castle gate to be hung.  The Sheriff gives the outlaw one last opportunity to reveal where the stolen tax revenue is hidden, but Little John, in one final act of defiance, tells the Sheriff to look at the end of a rainbow when next he sees one.  The Sheriff wastes no more time and promptly summons the hangman who, unknown to the Sheriff, is none other than Robin Hood who had arrived o the scene in the guise of one of the Sheriff’s men-at-arms.  Also involved in this rescue ploy are Ralph Gammon and Much who enter the gateway disguised as Saxon women.  At this point one of the Sheriff’s men-at-arms, fooled by the disguise, approaches the pair and starts to ask questions.  Much, trying to look convincing, tells the guard that they have arrived with butter and cheese for the Sheriff.  The guard asks who the other woman is and before Ralph can give an answer Much explains that it is his sister Elsa.  The guard seems to be deceived by their disguises but at that point a knife which Much had been trying to conceal beneath his sleeve falls to the floor, alerting the guard.  Ralph, regaining his composure, quickly explains that they have the need to protect themselves from robbers and outlaws who roam the forest.

At that point the guard is distracted by what is happening at the gallows.  The hangman, Robin himself, has mounted the scaffold and cuts the rope which binds Little John’s wrists.  He tells his comrade to quickly mount the horse which stands close by.  Confusion ensues.  The Sheriff, clearly not expecting such a daring and elaborate rescue bid so close to the castle walls, is totally unprepared for such a situation.  With all the attention focused on the pair escaping on horseback Ralph and Much manage to fight their way past the remaining guards with the weapons which they had concealed.  They make their escape back to the forest, leaving the Sheriff thwarted yet again.

Back at the cave the outlaws’ relief and elation is short lived. Tom (Austin King) arrives and informs all present of Sir Kenneth Neston’s death at the hands of Sir Guy of Gisborne.  Now unopposed, Sir Guy has taken Marian, by force to Huntingdon.  With Prince John threatening to seize power in England at any moment, all seems lost.

Part Six

Robin is both shocked and angered when he hears about Neston’s death.  He learns from Tom that Marian is held as a virtual prisoner at Huntingdon.  Much arrives and confirms this. Robin, fearing for Marian, vows there and then to avenge the death of her uncle by killing Gisborne himself. He calls to Ralph Gammon to deliver a message to Gisborne.

Sir Guy is initially concerned for Marian’s welfare but she maintains her distance from her uncle’s murderer.  She shows him nothing but contempt.  Sir Guy, sensing this, goes to his sister (Patricia Franklin) in desperation.  She is a nun and he explains to her his wish to marry Marian.  By now she merely wishes to be left in solitude but Gisborne tells her to stop grieving.  Marian retorts by telling Gisborne that she will not bend to his will.  Gisborne, worried for Marian’s well-being, arranges for his sister to be Marian’s companion.

The Archbishop of Durham returns to Nottingham amid much acclaim after visiting the poor.  The Sheriff and Prince John survey the scene which unfolds before them.  Prince John tells of the Archbishop’s loyalty to King Richard.  The Sheriff informs Prince John that a King who is absent is no King at all.  Unappeased, the Prince declares grudgingly that he cannot move without the blessing of the Archbishop.

Ralph Gammon is as good as his word and delivers Robin’s message to Sir Guy of Gisborne.  It states quite clearly that Robin challenges Gisborne in a duel to the death.  Gisborne retorts positively, declaring, “I do not duel with vagrants!”  Marian, sitting silently and alone, speaks up, “You can tell Robin Hood that Sir Guy is afraid!”

Vexed into action by this affront to his pride Gisborne accepts Robin Hood’s challenge and dons his scabbard.  He has many debts to settle with the outlaw leader.

Robin, followed by Little John, make their way towards the chosen location for the duel.  Little John is pensive.  “Robin, you’re too confident!” he exclaims. 

“It’s my sword against his!” comes the reply.  “Remember the prophecy that I would never die except by a woman’s hand!”

“Or because of a woman’s hand!” retorted Little John.

Marian remains at Huntingdon while the two combatants square up to each other in the forest clearing, with Marian’s fate being decided by whoever emerges the victor.

The duel is doggedly contested within a boulder strewn area where a fallen tree proved hazardous for both opponents, beginning with sword against axe and shield and ending with sword against sword until Robin finally defeats Gisborne.

After their leader is slain the three men-at-arms who had accompanied Gisborne to the appointed place head back to Nottingham, unsure of what to do next. Robin returns to Huntingdon with those who had given their support.

With the death of Gisborne, Robin is finally able to avenge the death of Marian’s uncle, Sir Kenneth Neston.  Robin is reunited with Marian who had remained in silent solitude at Huntingdon.  He informs her that he had killed Gisborne and that her uncle’s murder is avenged, but Gisborne’s sister overhears what is said.  Robin departs from Huntingdon and returns to Sherwood.

In Nottingham Prince John informs the Archbishop of Durham of Longchamp’s irregularities, but the Archbishop does not believe Prince John’s claims.  The latter blames the churchman for getting in the way of all of his dreams of power.  The Sheriff and Prince John lose an ally when news reaches them of Gisborne’s death and it weighs heavily with them.

The Sheriff devises an evil plan to get rid of the Archbishop without directly involving himself.  He offers one of the felons imprisoned in the castle a free pardon in return for the murder of the Archbishop who is to take the forest route on the way to a council meeting. The felon, accompanied by another prisoner, is to carry out this deed whilst in the guise of outlaws.  The Archbishop’s fellow travellers, namely Brother Bertram (Roy Spencer), are left alive to spread the news of the Archbishop’s murder by who they suspect are outlaws.  A gold crucifix is also taken from the victim.

With the Archbishop out of the way Prince John gains the support of Sir Brian of Champfleur (Tony Steedman) and with his guidance Longchamp is dismissed.  The Sheriff, for his part, orders his men-at-arms to hang on the spot any outlaws which they manage to apprehend.  He feels justified in doing this to further discredit them for their part in the murder of the Archbishop of Durham.  Much and Ralph Gammon are summarily seized and hung on the outskirts of the forest for a murder they knew nothing about.

Prince John confronts Longchamp with a trumped-up charge of treason.  Longchamp denies these accusations but Prince John produces a secret document detailing false allegations.  At an assembly of the great council it is requested that Longchamp be removed from office as Regent of England. Consequently, King Richard’s Regent is sent to the tower.

The outlaws had disbanded since they had been implicated in the foul murder of the Archbishop of Durham.  Robin had deemed this wise since declaring that “every man’s hand is against us!”  Robin, Little John and Friar Tuck maintain the cave as their base.  However, there is sickness in the region and Friar Tuck becomes ill with the fever.  He leaves the others resting in the cave and journeys to find the meadow flower, the bedstraw juice of which is used as a kind of remedy.  Out in the open fields the friar is over-come with the fever.  He thrusts his sword into the ground to steady himself but slumps to the ground beside it to rise no more.

With the Archbishop no longer a thorn in his side, Longchamp in the tower and Richard still absent, Prince John takes it upon himself to assume the role of King.  At that moment Queen Eleanor enters the room and tells him to stop playing silly games.  He is surprised to see his mother and is ordered to undo the damage he has done.  Discerning as always, the Queen Mother is well aware that her son has been led astray by power hungry nobles who have used him to fashion their own ends.

Enter King Richard, back in England at long last, the brother which Prince John had hoped would remain absent from England’s shores.  Richard is no fool.  He notices the absence of the Sheriff of Nottingham.  “Where’s my Lord Nottingham?  On another self-improving scheme?”  he declares.

As Robin and Little John sit drinking in the tavern they see the Archbishop of Durham’s murderer empty a gold crucifix onto the table to pay for ale.  Robin leaves Little John to extract a confession from the felon.

King Richard sends a warrant to the Sheriff informing him to place himself before the king to explain matters.  Shortly after, Robin and Little John arrive with the felon who murdered the Archbishop of Durham at the Sheriff’s bidding.  He is made to confess to the King himself that the Sheriff gave money and a free pardon to have the Archbishop murdered thereby placing the blame on the outlaws to ensure that every man’s hand would turn against them.  The Sheriff’s power has now gone!

King Richard admits that he was wrong to question Robin’s loyalty to the crown and declares that he is glad that the outlaw leader lived through the bad times.  He is now eager to bring the Sheriff to justice. 

In one final act of loyalty to his sovereign Lord Robin and a few of his men hurry to Nottingham Castle where, as expected, they catch the Sheriff trying to make his furtive escape through the secret tunnel which leads from the castle. 

The King is disposed to have the Sheriff hung, but the Sheriff states that his rank entitles him to die by the axe.  The King declares that this shall be so and has the Sheriff led away.

King Richard turns to Robin and informs him that he shall receive the royal pardon wit the King’s blessing.  Robin thanks him before leaving the presence of his King.  He is clearly feeling unwell and the King, noticing this, tells Robin to go and rest, unaware that he will never see him alive again.

Robin tells Little John to ride to Huntingdon Hall and tell Marian to await him there.  Robin goes on foot, feeling too weak to ride.  He arrives at the hall, sick with the fever.  Marian is not there, only Edric (Dennis Bond) and the prioress. Robin declares he has the fever and the prioress discerns this only too well.  She sends Edric away to collect the bedstraw juice from the meadow flower. When Edric returns Robin has grown feverish and the prioress orders Edric to give her the potion which she disappears with in order to prepare it. Unknown to Robin she mixes the potion with the juice of crushed berries which contain poison, and administers it to Robin, telling him that she has a calling to tend the sick.

Robin manages to drink the bitter potion as she waits to tell him the awful truth.  “You killed Sir Guy of Gisborne,” she declared.  “He was my brother!” She further tells him that the medicine contained poison and within four or five hours he would be dead.

Robin makes it as far as the open meadow and then collapses.  A small boy comes his way.  “Are the soldiers chasing you?” asks the boy.

“No, not this time!” gasps Robin.

“Are you an outlaw?” the boy enquires.

“Not any more!” came the reply.  Robin summons up all his remaining strength to speak to the boy one last time.  “Run to the village and find a big man and a pretty lady.” he implores with his strength ebbing away.  The boy departs to do as he is bid.

A little while later Maid Marian is seen kneeling, head bowed in silent prayer.

Little John fits an arrow to Robin’s bow, uttering the words, “Where this arrow falls, there he’ll lie!”  The arrow flew through the air, and the legend was assured. 

The End

Written by Peter Watson

 

 

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