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Robin Hood and Feudalism



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    In the years of King Richard the Lionheart (1189-1199) there lived a brave and intelligent man called Robin Hood. He was a feared outlaw, who loved liberty and hated oppression. He took the law into his own hands and robbed the rich to give to the poor. People loved him and thought of him as a justice-maker. In time he acquired a heroic reputation and came to represent the ideal of heroism of his age. Stories about him and his closest friends Friar Tuck, Little John, and Maid Marian may be found in the time.

    They say that Robin Hood and his companions lived in Sherwood Forest, near Nottingham. They were called the ‘merry men’ and used to wear green clothes, a particular shade of green, called ‘Lincoln green’. They also say that Robin’s outlaws were very well-organized and skilful in their attacks. They were very disciplined and obeyed strict rules of behavior. Looking at the textbook, “The West: Encounters and Transformations” by Brian Levack, there is very little information regarding the English heroine. However, there are several areas that depict the era of the 12th century.

    One of the areas depicted was Feudalism. In the 2010 movie, “Robin Hood,” staring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, I examined the movies portrayal of Robin Hood versus the history of Robin Hood in our textbook. It is my position that the traits of Feudalism have been displayed within the movie, “Robin Hood. ” Feudalism began between the 8th and 9th centuries. It was first recognized in France, and later spread to most countries of Western Europe. When Charlemagne died there was no strong ruler to take his place.

    That was when feudalism was established as the main system of government and way of life in Medieval Europe. Europe was politically divided. It was hit several invasions of the Vikings, they Magyars, Muslim pirates, and others. People could no longer look to a central ruler for protection. They had to seek the protection of the lords, who had armies of their own. To expand ones power and wealth, lords would make alliances with other nobles. A lord would grant land to another noble in exchange for protection and military services. This grant was called a fief.

    Those who received fiefs were called vassals. Within the fief, the vassal was the highest authority. Fiefs could be various seizes. Some were single estates just big enough for a knight and his family. Others were large, as big as an entire country or province. The vassals promised the lord military services. Military service was their main obligation. This service was usually limited to forty days a year. Vassals also owed payments call aids on certain occasions. When a lord’s oldest daughter married the vassal made special payments as a gift.

    The vassal also had to pay for the arming of the lords oldest son when he became a knight. Vassals pledged to pay the ransom for their lord in the event of his capture during war. A vassal’s son usually inherited his father’s responsibility to serve and pay aids. Before receiving the fief, the son had to pay a fee called a relief. The amount of payment all depended on the size of the fief. The lord in turn, had obligations to his vassals. He promised the vassal protection and could not deny the vassal’s claim to the fief.

    If at any time an outsider tried to steal the vassal’s fief, the lord would join in with his other knights to aid him. Levack states: “The bond of loyalty between lord and vassal was formalized by an oath. The oath established personal relationship in which the lord reciprocated the vassal’s loyalty and cases with a land grant. In the movie, “Robin Hood,” played by actor Russell Crowe mentions that since the king, Richard the Lionheart, was killed in the battle against Phillip the II of France, he and his merry med would not be compensated for their service to Richard the Lionheart in battle. If you thought it was hard getting wages from him when he was alive, try getting wages from a dead king (Robin Hood). ” The basis of Feudalism is protection. Feudalism was a set of political and military customs in Medieval Europe. Feudalism describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving around three key concepts of lords, vassals, and fiefs. The feudal system was based on the idea that ever person in the land had a lord to whom he owed a loyalty and services.

    At the top of this pyramid-like system was the king; King John, and below him were the clergy and barons who owned substantial amounts of land. In return for this ownership and loyalty they became the king’s “vassals” and swore obedience to King John. In the movie, “Robin Hood,” Lady Marion gives an example of Feudalism when she speaks of her five thousand acres of land. Sir Walter Loxely refers to this land in the later part of the movie as land awarded to her husband for his service in protecting and fighting for the king of England.

    Sir Walter explains to Robin Hood about the importance of fighting for what you believe in and persuades Robin to motivate other Lords into fighting for the crown and not against it. The following quote is from Robin speaking to the new King, King John, and the Lords of the northern territory: “If you are building for the future, you need to keep your foundations strong, laws of the land enslave the people to a king who demands loyalty but offers nothing in return (Robin Hood)! ” Through taxation King John hopes to build his crowns monetary value by taking from the very subjects that gave the crown its power.

    Instead of rewarding the Lords of the northern territory with more land and money, King John chooses not to sign a document that would have united all of the factions. This showed King John’s willingness to go against the basis of Feudalism and made outlaws of those that oppose him. The use of Feudalism in England and other nations in the 12th century became a very useful tool to reward military and political cooperation. Feudalism encouraged freedom and independence which in return gave nobles the power to make war against rival nations or providences.

    A positive aspect of Feudalism is shown when Sir Walter Loxley and the area professed the Nottingham was owned due to Sir Walter’s service to the crown. A negative aspect of Feudalism is displayed when King John used the land against the lords to derive how much taxes they owed by putting a price on each acre of land within his realm. Although Feudalism is not directly stated as the chosen form of government in the movie, “Robin Hood,” I believe that Feudalism plays a tremendous role in how King John rules his people.

    It is because of Feudalism that King John’s followers began fighting amongst themselves because they were not being compensated for their services to the crown. In conclusion, I believe that the movie “Robin Hood” displayed a sense of historical realism behind the nitty-gritty of the film. I believe the sense of struggle and risk portrayed in the film is a fairly accurate account of life in Medieval Europe. I feel that anything that guaranteed order of some sort, including the rules of Feudalism, must be better than anarchy.

    Robin Hood and Feudalism. (2017, Mar 28). Retrieved from

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