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Robin Hood and Queen Catherin


1 A sign that this ballad is a literary invention is that the robbing of the king's "receivers" occurs in Parker's A True Tale of Robin Hood, see lines 129-36; this ballad appears to have been developed using that event as the motive for an archery competition.

6 This is presumably one of the Queen Katherines to whom Henry VIII was married. Munday's play is set at his court, while the Robin Hood games in which he was involved, mentioned by Hall in his Chronicle (see Knight, 1994, p. 110), were dated in 1510 and 1515, that is Henry's younger days when he was married to Catherine of Aragon. The ballad appears to refer to a queen of her authority and activity, rather than the young Catherine Howard, who was executed after being queen in 1540-42, or Catherine Parr who tended the aged Henry from 1543-47.

23 These are very large quantities of wine, though they may be thought of as sums of money; a courtier like Chaucer -- and like the Poet Laureate to the present day -- was rewarded with stipulated amounts of wine, which could be commuted into cash at recognized rates.

26 Dalum Lee is not a known place name: the closest resemblance is Dalham, a small town about five miles east of Newmarket in East Anglia, but Dallow Moor, in North Yorkshire, may be a more probable original, as many Robin Hood connected place-names come from this area.

32 This does not appear to be a reference to a specific person, though like other elements in the Robin Hood tradition, the surname is associated with Yorkshire, as in Stephen Patrington, Bishop of Chichester, who died in 1417.

35 While to travel post is associated with eighteenth-century activities, the OED records usages from the early sixteenth century; it means to have fresh horses "posted" at intervals, so the traveller, or the mail, can keep moving at a fast pace.

41 Stanza 14, lines 53-56 is written here out of place in the manuscript before stanza 11, lines 41-44, but the stanza numbers in the left margin give it correctly as 14, a sign of careful editorial checking after the scribes had completed their work.

51 Presumably he was resting his horse when he ran. The line is also in the Wood versions.

57 The manuscript has The, which may well be a scribal error for Then, but the scribes make few simple errors of that kind and it is likely that the original might have read Tho, the older form for Then.

60 The London location of the ballad's creation is suggested by the idea that Nottingham is in the far North. The city was usually regarded as the beginning of the northern or highland zone of England, but is effectively a Midland town, so this seems a rather extreme idea, perhaps meant as a local joke by the yeoman.
The manuscript reads contie, which is presumably an error for contrie, the form printed here, rather than a spelling for "county"; "the North county" is not a known phrase.

79 The earliest Wood version reads "London court" here which could be taken as a better, because harder, reading than "London towne," but, as it rhymes with "sport," that argument seems to have little force (though it is the first of the two rhyme-words).

86 Robin's sending of a Lincoln green mantle to the queen appears to be a conscious memory of the king's choice of such a robe in the Gest.

92 The manuscript reads Heel will, but there is a correction point below the second e of Heel. The scribe at first wrote a contracted form of "He will" and the editor presumably marked the error, as with the stanza misplacement at lines 53-56.

93 This stanza sounds like the traditional opening of a Robin Hood ballad; the action is beginning now after the explanatory preliminaries. It seems proper to mark this as a new fitt, though the manuscript has no such indication.

97 Robin's wearing of red both makes him stand out as leader in a way suitable to a generally gentrified context, but also links with a number of early references to red as the outlaw's color. To this day hunters often wear a bright color in order not to be shot themselves in the woods. The earliest texts do not mention the famous "Lincoln green" or its occasional variant "Kendal green." It could be that wearing green is a semi-pastoral reworking of an earlier tradition in which the outlaw's clothes were not described (unlike Chaucer's yeoman and his devil-forester in the Friar's Tale, who do wear green) or were a more probable bright color.

100 The word lovly is inserted above the line in the same scribal hand.

102 The manuscript reads sugar, an obvious error for silver. This suggests that the scribe is copying from an original written in a late gothic hand, when v was written somewhat like an elaborate g.

109 Scathlock is one of the older names of this outlaw; however, it is used in Munday and so is no sign of antiquity in this ballad.

111 Renett Browne is elsewhere unknown, though his Christian name is presumably a version of Reynold, a name which does occur at times as a minor figure or alias, including that of Little John in the Gest.

116 At this point the broadside texts begin to become confused about how many archers came with Robin and who they were. All but the last version of the Wood texts reads "yeomen three" here. Child felt that "yeomandry" as in the 1663 garland and the last Wood text must be right, and the Forresters' evidence supports his judgment. However, even Child (like all the versions except Forresters, and presumably except Percy, though it is too damaged to judge) appears to have misunderstood the outlaws' aliases, a confusion which seems based in thinking that Robin came with three archers, itself deriving from this misreading or mishearing of yeomandrie as "yeomen three."

137 As the action changes place here, it seems a natural break for a fitt. The manuscript has no sign of one, however. Finsbury Fields, as Child remarks, was an open area just north of the old City of London wall which was much used for archery practice (1965, III, 197-98).

141 In the Wood version, the name is given as Tepus; while this could well be seen as a harder reading, with priority over Tempest, the origins of both names seem obscure, and it seems best to use the Forresters version.

143 The manuscript reads not instead of the necessary nor.

157 Three hundred paces, or yards, is not one of the longer distances described as being within the range of a good longbowman, though it is improbable that targets could be hit with accuracy, let alone arrows or wands be split at that distance.

165 The Queen is seeking someone to lay a bet on her side, but without immediate success. However, when Robin asks the bishop to bet in line 185, he gives in at once -- presumably a sign of Robin's innate force. The wager on the archery contest remains a basic feature of the scene in whatever version.

173 Sir Richard Lee is the name of the knight Robin helps in the Gest.

176 All the Wood texts have "Goweres blood," which Child retains, while the Percy folio reads "Gawiins blood." The fact that Forresters also reads "Gowers blood" suggests either that Percy has adapted the name in the context of its own romance orientation, or that the source of Forresters shared an error with the ballads. It seems likely that the creator of the ballad would have referred to King Arthur's heroic nephew rather than the late-fourteenth-century poet John Gower. Though he was of knightly family and had a coat of arms, Gower was entirely intellectual in his activities; he might have been known in the seventeenth century from his role as Prologue to Shakespeare's Pericles, but the reference to him seems a characteristic piece of ballad-mongering confusion, and should be emended to "Gawains."

177 The Bishop of Hereford is Robin's opponent in a ballad that names them both in its title (Child no. 144). In the Percy version, the bishop refers to this episode at this point in the plot, but all other versions give the reference later (see line 249). The other ballad also appears in Forresters, but under the name Robin Hood and the Bishop; Child's ballad by that title has been reworked into Robin Hood and the Sheriff in Forresters. The fact that the bishop refers to the action of the ballad at lines 253-56 suggests that it might have been a partial source for Robin Hood and Queen Catherin. Hereford, though in rich countryside and in the turbulent Welsh borders, is not a major see, and there may be a particular bishop at the basis of the figure's role in the ballads. It is unlikely that William de Vere, courtier and bishop (1186-99) under Richard I, is the original, as this is the period used in gentrified texts which rarely retell robbery narratives. Peter de Aquabella, bishop from 1239-68, who was notoriously corrupt and whose money was in fact redistributed among the barons under Henry III, is a possible candidate, but most likely is Adam of Orleton, opponent of Edward II, who also became unpopular with Edward III; he seems the sort of mighty cleric who might have been lampooned in the ballads that were apparently in popular circulation by the mid-fourteenth century.

190 In making the bishop count out his purse, Robin's action is reminiscent of the ballads where he robs a wealthy churchman, and effectively the compiler of Robin Hood and Queen Catherin has added that motif to the "betting on the archery contest" structure.

192 The bishop's remark is unnecessarily vague: a noble was six shillings and eightpence, and three hundred of them are exactly one hundred pounds. The Wood version has precisely the same phrasing.

205 All the broadside versions of the ballad and Forresters here have "kings"; the Percy folio has queens, which must be correct (see line 161-62). The case is the same as with "Gawains" in line 176. It is surprising that no editor or compositor corrected this obvious error.

208 The later Wood versions here read thy knee and the earliest has thy nee. This is a possibly aural error for the reading on which Percy and Forresters agree, thyn eye (spelled in Percy as ee). Presumably this refers to a proverbial sign of a supreme archer -- he could shoot out a woodcock's eye.

209 Only Forresters has a clear account of how the shooting match is resolved; the other texts omit entirely the king's archers, and also name Robin and Midge as such but leave Clifton in alias, so it sounds as if he (not in them known to be Little John) might be the king's archer. But the confusion does not seem to have been caused primarily by cutting: the Forresters sequence is only one stanza longer.

216 This appears to be the first instance of "splitting the arrow" in the Robin Hood myth; modern versions have all descended from the scene in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe in Chapter 13 when Locksley splits the arrow of Hubert, the king's archer. As there is no sign that Scott knew the Forresters manuscript, and the resemblance is so close between the two incidents, there would seem to have been a common source for the two, but it is not known.

222 In the Wood version it is Robin who shoots underhand, as a result of the text being condensed, but this appears to mean "below the target," and indicates a failure.

223 Clifton suddenly appears in the text in the Wood versions, to split the wand. The aliases are thoroughly confusing and the Percy folio is much too damaged to be of any help. Child thought he was Will Scarlett (1965, III, 197). Forresters has made things clear: Clifton is Little John (see line 105).

223 A "bearded" arrow carried longer feathers as flights and so could give more accuracy, though it required more power; it is appropriate for the giant archer Little John. Note that his achievement is the more traditional one of "splitting the wand"; in some of the very early ballads his archery skill seems greater than Robin's, but here "splitting the arrow" seems to give Robin precedence.

224 The manuscript reads williow.

225 Will appears to shoot fourth, score a bullseye, and clinch victory. Even Forresters does not have a very clear account of what happens here, though at least we know the order of shooting.

235-36 The king's notion that Robin has been killed in a gateway in the north sounds like a vague reference to the fighting in Adam Bell, lines 310-67. However, the manuscript reads "Pallarsgate" as if this were a place-name like Harrogate. If the original were "palace gate," as seems most likely (the Wood version), then the Forresters reading is probably an aural error, itself an interesting sign of the transmission of the text. But it is just conceivable that there was some other version of Robin's death occurring not at Kirklees (or its erroneous version Birklees) but somewhere sounding like "Pallarsgate" which was simplified in transmission into "palace gate." This is highly speculative, however, and the Wood reading is accepted. It is curious that the phrase "pallace gate" occurs in Adam Bell at line 449, but the context is different.

241 The king offers generous terms to the outlaws: they can travel freely for forty days in either direction without being taken, and have a parole of eighty days (one hundred and twenty in the Wood versions) for their pleasure in between.

249 Although the bishop takes his name from the ballad Robin Hood and the Bishop of Hereford, he actually refers to an incident in the different ballad Robin Hood and the Bishop, which has an almost identical stanza, lines 89-92. The latter does not appear in Forresters, though the former does -- under the title Robin Hood and the Bishop, because Child's Robin Hood and the Bishop, no. 143, the one adapted in this stanza, has been reworked as Robin Hood and the Sheriff and does not use the "tying up" stanza.

252 The texts divide on tense here: Forresters and the two earliest versions of the Wood text omit "have" in this line. The others, including the Percy folio version, have the past tense; this is probably chance, as "have bet" is an easy change from the present tense, and there is no other sign of the later Wood texts having any access to Percy's version.

257 The Percy folio and the Wood texts read and if here (an if, the more correct form, in the second of Wood's versions). Forresters' simple "if" is one of its few signs of being smoother and possibly editorial compared with the Wood texts and must be taken as a free variation. There is no need to emend Forresters.

261 The manuscript reads No nay, no nay (possibly the second is no-nay), and while it is conceivable that the Wood reading Now nay, now nay is a simplification of this highly emphatic negative, it seems more likely that the Forresters' scribe, near the end of the long ballad, simply misremembered his source (if it was written in a late-Gothic hand as suggested above, he could hardly misread it, as in that script w was a very emphatic letter).






















































Gold taken from the kings harbengers
As seldom hath been seen
And carryed by bold Robin Hood
A present to the queen.

"If that I live a year to an end,"
Thus gan Queen Catherin say,
"Bold Robin Hood, I'le be thy friend,
And all thy yeomen gay."

The king and queen to th' gardens gon,
To passe the time away,
And lovingly with one another
Till evening they did stay.

"What game, what game, my queen," he said
"For game or also for glee?"
"I'de have a shooting," she reply'd
"So please your majestie."

"Ile have a shooting for your sake,
The best in Christentie."
"Make lite the wager, sir," she said,
"And holden you shall bee."

"Ile make the wager light my queen,
For that you need not fear,
Three hundred tunn of Renish wine,
Three hundred tunn of beer.

"Three hundred of the fattest harts
That run on Dalum Lee."
"That's a princly wager," said our queen,
"Bravly holden you shall bee."

The queen is to her chamber gon
As fast as she can wend,
She calls to her her lovely page,
His name was Patrington.

"Com hether to me my lovely page,
Com hether unto me,
For thou must post to Notingham
As fast as thou canst dree.

"And when thou comst to Notingham
Search all that English wood;
Enquire of each good yeoman thou meetst
To finde out Robin Hood.

"And whan thou comst Robin Hood before
Deliver him this ringe,
And bid him post to London towne
And not fear any thing.

I've made a shooting with the king
The best in Christentee,
And I have chosen bold Robin Hood
To be of my partie."

He tooke his leave of the royall queen
And fast away is gan,
Somtimes he rode, sometimes he rann,
Till he came to Nottingham.

And when he came to Nottingham
And there took up his inn,
He call'd for a pottle of Renish wine
And dranck a health to his queen.

Then sate a yeoman by his side
"Tell me, sweet page," said hee,
"What is thy businesse or thy cause
So farr in the North contrie?"

"This is my business and my cause
I tell it you for good;
I com from London," said the page,
"To seeke bold Robin Hood."

"Ile take my horse betimes i'th morn
Be it by break of day,
And Ile show thee bold Robin Hood
And all his yeomen gay."

He took his horse betimes i'th morne
As soon as he could see,
And had him to bold Robin Hood
And all his archerie.

When the page came to Robin Hood
He fell downe on his knee.
"Queen Catherin she doth greet you well
She greets you well by mee.

"Queen Catherin she dooth greet you well
And sends you here her ring,
She bids you post to London towne
And not fear any thing.

"She hath made a shooting with our king
The best in Christentee,
And desires you, bold Robin Hood,
To be of her partie."

Robin tooke his mantle from his back,
It was of Lincolne green;
"Here take my mantle," said Robin Hood,
A present for the queen.

"And go thy way thou lovely page
And to Queen Catherin say
"If Robin Hood doth loose the match
He will the wager pay."'

Fitt 2

In summer time when leaves grow green
'Twas a seemly sight to see
How Robin Hood himselfe had drest
And all his yeomandrie.

He clad himselfe in scarlett red
His men in Lincoln green
And so prepars for London towne,
To shoot before the lovly queen.

They had bows of ewe and strings of silke
Arrows of silver chest,
Black hats, white feathers all alike
Full deftly they were drest.

"Com Little John, thou shalt be one,
One Clifton thou shall bee,
And so shall Midge the Millers son
To bere us companie.

"Will Scathlock to shall go alonge
For he will never faile,
But Renett Browne shall stay behinde
And look to Brensdale."

Robin came before the queen,
He kneeld downe on his knee.
"Thou'rt welcome, Loxley," said our queen
And these thy yeomandrie.

"Thou'rt welcom," said the queen,
And these thy archers good.
I hope ere this day be at an end
To call thee Robin Hood."

The queen's to the king's chamber gon,
As fast as she can dree,
"God save you lovly prince," she said,
"Welcom, my queen," quoth he.

"Our match goes ill and please your grace,
As far as I can ken,
Ther's not an archer in all my court,
Will shoot against your men."

"I knew it very well," said our king,
"My archers are so good,
That never a man durst shoott with them
Except it were Robin Hood."

"Double the wager," said the queen,
"Brave holden you shall bee."
"No, by my truth," then said our king,
"Woman's full of subteltie."

Fitt 3

Our king is unto Finsbury gon
In all his best array,
The queen she follows after him,
With all her archers gay.

"Come hether, Tempest," said the king,
"Bow berer unto mee,
Ther's not in England, France, nor Spaine
An archer like to thee."

The queen took Loxly by the hand
And gave him on his head tapps three,
"Look wel to this man, my leig," she said,
"Hee'l prove as good as hee."

"Com hether, Tempest," said the king,
"The best in Christentie,
And measure out here with thy line
How long the marks shall bee."

With that bespoke bold Loxly then,
Full quickly and full soon,
"Mesure no marks for us, my leige,
Wee'l shoot at sun and moon."

"Full fifteen score your marks shall bee,
Full fifteen score shall stand.
I'le lay my bow," quoth Clifton then,
"I'le cleave the willow wand."

Then the king's archers led about
Till it was three and none.
With that the ladys began to pout,
"Madam, the game is gon."

"A boon, a boon," then sais the queen,
"Please your grace grant to mee.
Two of your privy councellors
To be of my partie."

"Have I two in my privy councell,
This day will pleasure thee,
If they bett any thing on thy side,
Right welcom shall they bee."

"Com hether then Sir Richard Lee,
Thou art a knight right good,
Full well I know thy pedigree
Thou'rt sprung from Gawain's blood.

"And come hether thou Bishop of Hereford,"
A noble preist was hee.
"By my silver myter," said the bishop,
"I'le not bett one penny.

"Our king hath archers of his owne
Full redy and full light,
But these are strangers every one
I know not how they height."

"What wilt thou bett," said Robin Hood,
"Thou seest our gam's the worse."
"By my silver myter," said the Bishop,
"All the money in my purse."

"What's in thy purse?" quoth Robin tho,
"Tell it downe on the ground."
"Fifteen score of nobles," quoth the bishop,
"It's neer a hundred pounds."

Robin tooke his mantle from his back,
And threw it on the mould,
Forth he pluck'd a velvett pouch,
It was well lin'd with gold.

Forth he pluck'd his velvet pouch
He told the gold on the green,
Then cry'd Midge the Millers son,
"I know who the gold will win."

In came Will Scathlock to the rest
And to Little John did thrust,
"They shall not gett another shoot
And all their hearts would brust."

Then the queen's archers led aboute
Till it was three and three,
And then the ladies gave a shoute,
"Woodcock, bewere thine eye."

"Tis three and three now," says our king,
"The next three pays for all."
Then Robin whisper'd to the queen
"The king's part will be but small."

Then shot Tempest for the king
He led it gallantly,
Then shott Loxly for our queen
And clove his arrow in three.

Then shott Midge the Millers son,
He was not far the worse,
Within a finger of the pegg,
"Bishop, bewere thy purse."

The yeoman of the crowne who stod him by
Hee shott underhand,
But Clifton with a bearded arrow
He clove the willow wand.

"The upshott now," said Will Scathlock,
"For the honor o'th queen and mee,"
Hee tooke the prick on arrow poynt
The king and all did see.

Then spoke Tempest to our king,
"These archers are so good,
I'm sore affraid and like your grace,
They learn'd of Robin Hood."

"But fear not that," our king did say
For t'was told me of late
That Robin Hood and his wel wight men
Were slaine at pallas gate."

"A boon, a boon," Queen Catherin cry'd,
"I aske it on my knee,
Your grace will angry be with none
That are of my partie."

"They shal have forty days to come
And forty days to go
Twice forty days to sport and play
Then welcom friend or foe."

"Welcom Robin Hood," then said the queen,
"And so is Little John,
And so is Midge the Millers son,
Will Scathlock every one."

"Is this Robin Hood," then said the bishop,
"As it seems well to bee?
Had I knowne t'had bin that bold outlaw
I'de not bett one penny.

"Hee tooke me late one Satterday night,
And bound me to a tree,
And made me sing a masse, God wott,
To him and's companie."

"What if I did?" said Robin tho;
"Of that masse I was full faine.
To recompence thee for that deed,
Heers halfe thy gold again."

"Now nay, now nay," sais Little John,
"Master, that may not bee.
Wee must give gifts to th' kings officers
"Twill serve both you and wee."
messengers; (see note)

did; (see note)

taken up

barrels; Rhine; (see note)

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hurry; (see note)

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Then; (see note)

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Even at

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chased (engraved); (see note)


too; (see note)

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can tell


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liege (lord)

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bishop's crown

are named

Count; (see note)

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If; burst

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split; (see note)

finger's breadth; bull's eye

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result; (see note)

bull's eye

very strong; (see note)
killed; palace

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and his

then; (see note)
With; very pleased

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