11 Criminal Careers Born From a Single Battle – Is One the Real Robin Hood?

Picture by Randen Pederson via Flickr Creative Commons
Picture by Randen Pederson via Flickr Creative Commons
Picture by Randen Pederson via Flickr Creative Commons

On 16 March 1322 a rebellion against King Edward II of England was crushed at the Battle Boroughbridge. Many rebel leaders, including the Earl of Lancaster, were executed. Roger Mortimer, imprisoned following the revolt, would escape from the Tower of London and return to England five years later to help Queen Isabella overthrow her husband.

In the intervening years, many of the rebels lived on the run. Using violent crime both to make a living and to target the men they blamed for their downfall, they contributed to England’s growing lawlessness under Edward II. Some would return to positions of respectability under Mortimer and Isabella, while others would continue as outlaws for many years. Hiding out in the forests of England, and in particular the vast swathes of Sherwood, their activities are among the roots of the Robin Hood legends.

Is one of these criminals the real man behind the mythical outlaw?

William Trussell and His Followers

Sir William Trussell was among the more respectable men to become an outlaw after Boroughbridge. A former Sheriff of Warwick and Leicester, he had served in English armies and attended Parliament. A political opportunist, he joined the revolt because of connections to Lancaster, and tried to raise troops for the Earl’s cause.

Following the revolt, Trussell evaded capture and went on the run. It seems that fear for his life overcame a political pragmatism that let other former rebels work under Edward II. Together with other failed rebels, he launched a string of criminal raids across Somerset and Dorset throughout the summer of 1322. His gang included Sir John Maltravers, Sir Matthew de Clyveden, John de Kingston and Nicholas Percy.

These criminal careers were short lived. Percy was dead by 1324, while Trussell, Clyveden and Kingston were all rehabilitated as the royal government sought to restore order. Maltravers went into exile, becoming part of Mortimer’s opposition in exile.

John de Roddam

A minor Northumbrian landowner, Roddam joined the Lancastrian revolt out of duty to John de Lilleburn. Orders went out for his arrest in March 1322, but he remained at large with a group of kinsmen, outlaws on the run like Trussell and his men. Roddam was killed several years later by John de Heton, son of a royalist – criminality and politics remained intertwined, and some of these men died on the run.

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