Archivists at Nottinghamshire County Council have on file in its Valentine’s archive records a ballad in which Hood’s love interest before Maid Marian is said to be Clorinda, the Queen of the Shepherdesses.
In the ballad, titled Robin Hood’s Birth, Breeding, Valour and Marriage, Hood asks for Clorinda’s hand in marriage.
Clorinda said, Tell me your name, gentle sir;
And he said, ‘Tis bold Robin Hood:
Squire Gamwel’s my uncle, but all my delight
Is to dwell in the merry Sherwood.
For ’tis a fine life, and ’tis void of all strife.
‘So ’tis, sir,’ Clorinda reply’d;
‘But oh,’ said bold Robin, ‘How sweet would it be,
If Clorinda would be my bride!’
She blusht at the motion; yet, after a pause
Said, Yes, sir, and with all my heart;
‘Then let’s send for a priest,’ said Robin Hood,
‘And be married before we do part.’
But she said, It may not be so, gentle sir,
For I must be at Titbury feast;
And if Robin Hood will go thither with me,
I’ll make him the most welcome guest.
But while the ballad insinuates a romance between Hood and the Queen, historian Ralph Needham points out that it would have been written a long time after the initial tales of Robin Hood were known.
Needham, an expert on the legend of Robin Hood, said: “Academic research into the origins of this ballad has been undertaken in the past, which determined that the ballad had been composed for the annual bull running at Tutbury (referenced as Titbury in the ballad).
“It is certainly not seen as a mainstream story within the legend of Robin Hood. That is part of the beauty, but also the curse of Robin Hood, because the story has meant different things to different people down the centuries, and the well known tales have been open to interpretation, with later material such as this ballad.”
Needham said the problem is compounded by the fact that while there are many references to Robin and Maid Marian as a couple in the Tales of Robin Hood, there are very few romance scenes.
The ballad features in Joseph Ritson’s 1840 collection ‘Robin Hood: a Collection of All the Ancient Poems, Songs and Ballads now extant, Relative to that Celebrated English Outlaw: to which are prefixed, Historical Anecdotes of His Life’ (Nottinghamshire County Council Archives’ Rare Book Collection).
To read more about Maid Marian, plus six other Robin Hood myths, click here.