Robin Hood is England's most famous, and most loved, outlaw.

The green-clad fellow and his Merry Men (there were between 20 and 140 of them, including Little John, Much the Miller's Son, Will Scarlet, Arthur a Bland, David of Doncaster, Will Stutely, Friar Tuck, Alan-a-Dale and Maid Marian) supposedly stole from the rich to give to the poor.

His biggest enemy was the Sheriff of Nottingham, a supposedly vile individual whose job it was to rid Nottingham of outlaws.

But a newly-discovered manuscript may shatter this myth about Robin's popularity.

The book is known as the Polychronicon and was written about 1420.

In about 1460, a monk wrote in the margin of the book 23 words that shed new light on Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

According to Dr Luxford, who found the book at Eton College in Berkshire, it revealed resentment towards Robin Hood among the general population and the clergy.

Dr Luxford said the find placed Robin Hood in the reign of Edward I (1239-1307) rather than Richard I (1189-1199).

Discovered: The 13th Century manuscript that shows Robin Hood and his Merry Men weren't so popular after all

By Paul Sims
14th March 2009
Daily Mail

Folklore holds that Robin Hood was a fearless outlaw loathed by the rich and loved by the poor.

Fighting injustice and tyranny, his gallantry became the stuff of legend - and Hollywood movies.

But according to a newly-discovered manuscript entry it appears that Robin and his Merry Men may not have been as popular as the stories would have us believe.

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Written in Latin and buried among the treasures of Eton's library, the 23 sparse words shed new light on the Sheriff of Nottingham's mortal foe.

Translated, the 550-year-old note reads: 'Around this time, according to popular opinion, a certain outlaw named Robin Hood, with his accomplices, infested Sherwood and other law-abiding areas of England with continuous robberies.'

An unknown monk wrote the words in the margin of a medieval history book called the Polychronicon.

The reference to Robin Hood was found in an inscription from around 1460 which appears in an English manuscript owned by Eton College

Julian Luxford found it while researching the library's 15th century drawings.

'Most scholars go to Oxford or Cambridge but I've found the private schools set in rural England have just as fascinating collections,' said Dr Luxford.

'It was as I was looking through the manuscripts that I found the Polychronicon and started to have a look through.

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'When I saw the reference to Robin Hood I knew I'd found something significant.'

Dr Luxford, a lecturer in art history at St Andrews University in Scotland, said the Polychronicon dates back to the late 1340s.

'The book itself has a very large margin for those reading it to make additions or corrections,' he added.

The freshly-discovered document highlighting negative attitudes towards the legendary figure was deciphered by an academic at the University of St Andrews

'The copy at Eton dates back to 1420 and I believe the comments left by the monk about Robin Hood date back to about 1460.'

Dr Luxford said it revealed resentment towards Robin Hood among the general population and the clergy.

Unlike anything else it contains a uniquely negative assessment of the outlaw, and provides rare evidence for monastic attitudes towards him,' he added.

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'Some say he was pretty bad, but had some good qualities while others refer to him as a man of honour who robbed from the rich to give to the poor. This [entry] is just entirely negative.'

The manuscript note - a very rare early mention of the outlaw - was made at Witham monastery in Somerset. It has been at Eton since 1913 and the link to Robin Hood appears to have been overlooked.

Dr Luxford said the find placed Robin Hood in the reign of Edward I (1239-1307) rather than Richard I (1189-1199).

Last edited by Blackleaf; Jun 10th, 2009 at 01:29 PM..