Robin Hood and the Duke of Lancaster
DESCRIPTION: "Come listen, my frieds, to a story so new, In the days of King John... How the bold littke Duke, of the fair Lancashire, Came to speak to the King...." He arrives in a tizzy, and argues with the king about "Robin Hood," but they reach no conclusion
EARLIEST DATE: 1727 (broadside printing, according to Dobson & Taylor)
KEYWORDS: political Robinhood
REFERENCES (1 citation):
ADDITIONAL: R. B. Dobson and J. Taylor, _Rymes of Robyn Hood: An Introduction to the English Outlaw_, University of Pittsburg Press, 1976, pp. 191-194, "Robin Hood and the Duke of Lancaster" (1 text)
NOTES [214 words]: This is not a "true" Robin Hood ballad, even in the sense that the items in the various garlands are. It is, by consensus, from the reign of George I (reigned 1714-1727) or, just possibly, George II (reigned 1727-1760). Although it claims to be from 1202 (the third year of the reign of John, who was king 1199-1216), the reference to the Duke of Lancaster makes this absolutely impossible -- the title of "Duke" did not exist in the English peerage in 1202!
Gutch speculated that this was a political piece. Dobson and Taylor are more specific: The "Duke of Lancaster" is in fact the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Lord Lechmere (who thus had most of the powers of a Duke of Lancaster, but did not have Ducal honors). Robin Hood is the disguise for Robert Walpole, George I's primary minister; he apparently was called Robin Hood in other sources as well. Lechmere considered Walpole corrupt, and this is an allegory of Lechmere's confrontation with the King over the matter.
Even by the standards of the later Robin Hood ballads, it's pretty feeble. And it has no place in tradition. But I'm including it for completeness. For more on the genuine Robin Hood tradition, including his links with the Duchy of Lancaster, see the notes to "A Gest of Robyn Hode" [Child 117]. - RBW
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