Me­dieval most wanted

The myth­i­cal Robin Hood might have ruled Sher­wood, but his real-life coun­ter­parts gave him a run for his money!

All About History - - CONTENTS - Writ­ten by Cather­ine Cur­zon

10 real-life out­laws that gave Robin Hood a run for his money

Since they were first told in the Mid­dle Ages, the leg­endary tales of Robin Hood and his Merry Men have be­come firm favourites in folk­lore across the world. Filled with ro­mance, in­trigue and heroic deeds, the leg­end of Robin Hood told of an out­law that only the wealthy and vil­lain­ous need fear. With his famed modus operandi of rob­bing from the rich to give to the poor, this hugely pop­u­lar wanted crim­i­nal be­came an en­dur­ing hero of pop­u­lar myth and a po­tent sym­bol of the fight against op­pres­sion.

Yet fic­tional out­laws with a so­cial con­science like Robin Hood weren’t so easy to come by in the fac­tual records of the Me­dieval world. Out­laws weren’t in short supply by any means but Merry Men were rarely any­where to be found. In fact, those with a price on their head weren’t usu­ally too in­ter­ested in rob­bing the rich, drop­ping a pithy one-liner and has­ten­ing off to dis­trib­ute the wealth. In real life, they were far less choosy about the so­cial sta­tus of their vic­tims, while the whole giv­ing to the poor bit that Robin Hood was so fond of of­ten proved to be nowhere near as at­trac­tive as keep­ing all the spoils.

Whether saints-in-wait­ing, fear­some pi­rates or dis­in­her­ited no­ble­men, the his­tory of Europe is rich with tales of out­laws whose sto­ries were ev­ery bit as fan­tas­ti­cal as their folk­loric coun­ter­part. From mur­der­ers to black­mail­ers and rob­bers to ban­dits, these ten crim­i­nals at least at­tempted to fol­low Robin Hood’s creed and give the spoils of their of­ten shock­ing crimes to the poor. Of course, it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that some­times the poor­est per­son those out­laws knew just hap­pened to be them­selves!

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