1309 - Anonymous - Annales Londonienses

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Date 1309
Author Anonymous
Title Annales Londonienses
Mentions Giles d'Argentine announced as or proclaimed King of the Greenwood at tournament

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2014-08-21. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2021-01-07.


Eodem anno [1309], quinto kalendas Junii [May 28], fuit magnum hastiludium apud Stebenhethe, de quo dominus Egidius Argentein dicebatur rex de Vertbois: et ipse, cum suis complicibus, fuit contra omnes venientes.

[IRHB translation:]

The same year, on the fifth kalend of June, there was a large tournament at Stepney at which Sir Giles Argentine was announced as King of the Greenwood; and he with his fellows was against all comers.[1]

Source notes

Marginal note (MS): "De domino Egidio Argentein". Marginal note (editorial): "Tournament at Stepney, May 28."

IRHB comments

There is an almost identical entry in the Annales Paulini.

Giles Argentine (c.1280-1314) was an illustrious knight who got himself illustriously killed at the battle of Bannockburn. In his time he was – at least in Britain – considered one of the greatest knights in Europe, but he was also a reckless youth who frequently got himself into trouble, now with the law, now with the king, now with the fishermen of London.[2]

Kathryn Warner, who has written an excellent biographical blog post about Giles Argentine, renders the Latin "dicebatur" in the chronicle entry as "was crowned". While this may be right, I do not believe it is exactly what the chronicler meant. Ian Lancashire catalogued the event as a "[t]ournament in which Giles Argentine entered as King of the Greenwood".[3] This is an excellent summary of the chronicle entry. Participants in tournaments were announced as so-and-so when they made their entry. This must be what the chronicler was thinking of when he wrote "dicebatur", which I have accordingly translated as "was announced as".

It is less clear what Sir Giles was thinking of when he chose to enter as King of the Greenwood. Since the event took place in late May and in view of the connection – in England mainly documented from the last decades of the 14th century and later – between May games and greenery, May trees, bringing in the May etc., it is possible that 'King of the Greenwood' meant much the same as king of May. However, on balance it seems more likely to have meant an outlaw chief. The eponymous hero of the Tale of Gamelyn becomes the "crouned king" of a band of forest outlaws. In its basic features and organization Robin's band mirrors Gamelyn's: both gangs number "seven score of yonge men", i.e. "yeomen", or as they are also called in both poems, "merry men". Robin is never actually called King of Outlaws in the Gest, but just like Gamelyn he is the "maister" outlaw. He makes the laws and gives orders, he issues new liveries to his men twice a year, just as he expects the king will do to him and his men when they enter royal service.[4] Robin in a sense has the prerogative of pardon: in the greenwood the king is in Robin's power, and so asks his mercy, before himself pardoning the outlaws.[5] The king also finds that the state of discipline prevailing among the latter compares favourably with that at his own court:

here is a wonder semely sight

me thynketh, by goddes pyne
his men are more at his byddynge
then my men be at myn[6]

Thus in effect if not in name, Robin is king of the greenwood.[7] The Tale of Gamelyn shows us that the notion of the outlaw chief as the ruler of a sylvan, "alternative" kingdom – which in its mode of organization mirrors the hierarchy of the larger society – had already developed by the mid-14th century. Probably the "rex de vertbois" some fifty years earlier was a character essentially similar to Gamelyn and Robin Hood. If so, this allusion is of obvious significance for the history of the Robin Hood tradition even though it does not explicitly mention Robin Hood.





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