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Robin Hood Was 'Freedom Fighter Attacking The French' Claims Historian

11/03/2013 08:58 GMT | Updated 10/05/2013 10:12 BST

Robin Hood did not rob from the rich to feed the poor in Sherwood Forest, he was a freedom fighter attacking French invaders in Kent, a historian has claimed.

The legendary figure, who is said to have resided in the Nottingham area, could have been William of Kensham, who conducted a guerilla war against the French forces of Prince Louis who invaded England in 1216.

Historian Sean McGlynn has suggested that William led a band of archers who attacked the French forces in the forests of the Kent Weald before the little-known 18-month occupation by the French of a large part of England was finally thwarted.

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Robin Hood statue in Nottingham

Writing in the magazine History Today, Mr McGlynn said: "It's hard to find another contender for the Robin Hood Story from this age or afterwards who is both a hero and an outlaw.

"In William we have both: a feted resistance fighter, loyally protecting the crown, but also, from Louis' perspective, an egregious outlaw defying the righteous rule of the imposed new regime."

The academic said that other contenders for the legend such as Roger Godberd were at the wrong time and were thieves and outlaws that lacked the hero status.

He also said that William would have travelled to the Nottingham area because it was the main headquarters of the English army at the time.

But Mr McGlynn accepts that William could only be one of many inspirations for the famous story.

"The most probable truth behind the Robin Hood legend is that over time storytellers incorporated and conflated various characters from a range of stories and settled on the instantly recognisable name of Robin Hood as the woodsman."

The first clear reference to Robin Hood in literature is from Line 5396 of the 14th-century poem 'iers Plowman', but the earliest surviving copies of the narrative ballads that tell his story date to the 15th century, or the first decade of the 16th century.

Since the beginning of the 20th Century, he has been the subject of many cartoons, films and books, usually aimed at children.