A Guide to the Confusing History of Robin of Sherwood
This timeline is based on one I prepared for the Robin of Sherwood mailing list. I have not included every episode of the show.
Instead I make note of the fictional and historical events that either support or contradict RoS's timeline.
I have noted where historically Earl David of Huntingdon (father of Robert) was present at events where other Robin of Sherwood characters were also in attendance.
1180: Village of Loxley is destroyed. Ailric of Loxley is murdered by Robert de Rainault. Before his death, Ailric leaves Robin in the care of Matthew the Miller, father to Much. [Date shown on screen in the prologue of "Robin Hood and the Sorcerer", but possibly occured in 1178. See 1195 entry.]
Sometime Prior to November 23, 1183: The events of "The Pretender". [Well, not really, but Hadwisa (aka Isabella) of Gloucester's father is in the episode, but he really died in 1183. Count John became the Earl of Gloucester upon his marriage to Isabella/Hadwisa in 1189. The earldom was merged into the kingship when John became king. A new series of Earls of Gloucester were created in 1218.]
September 1189: King Richard's coronation. Sir Guy of Gisborne, as a child, attends with his father. Earl David of Huntingdon, Earl Robert of Leicester and John, Count of Mortain (aka Prince John) carry three swords with golden sheaths during the ceremony. Jewish leaders attempt to attend the coronation despite King Richard's degree against it. A backlash results in a massacre where Londoners rob and kill the Jews of the city. [Historical events are recorded in The Deeds of King Richard. The Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy of Gisburne discuss Guy's attendance and the massacre in "The Children of Israel".]
1190-1193: (Conjecture) At some point, Guy of Gisburne is the page to the Earl of Gloucester. Historically the Earl would have been John, the future king of England. [Mentioned as happening ten years before "The Pretender". See the 1199-1201 and the 1183 entries.]
1190 - 1192: Sir Guy of Gisburne born!!!! [Supposedly Guy's birth - or at least his conception - happens while Edmond of Gisburne was away on the Third Crusade. Mentioned in "The Cross of St. Ciricus". See September 1189 for a continuity flaw. Frank Shailes argues that Margaret of Gisburne was ill when she was describing the events of Guy's birth. He suggests that Margaret was confused about which crusade Edmond fought on, and that Guy was born in the 1170s.]
Late March 1194: End of the 1st series. Having returned to England, King Richard lays seige to Nottingham for three days with the town surrendering on March 28. Afterwards, the king goes hunting in Sherwood Forest (where he meets and pardons Robin Hood). While at Nottingham, the king holds a great council where he revokes past appoints and extorts the nobles for more money. Earl David of Huntingdon helps to siege Nottingham and is present at the council. [Dates for the historical events that occur, or are referred to, in "The King's Fool". While Robin Hood's involvement is fictional, the siege, the hunting in Sherwood and the council are a matter of historical record.]
April - May 1195: Beginning of the 1st series. Robin and Much are arrested for poaching. They encounter Will Scarlet, Little John, Marion, Friar Tuck, Nasir and Herne the Hunter for the first time. The attack on Castle Belleme happens on May 1. [Dialogue establishes that Belleme's ritual takes place on the first of May. On screen caption notes that this occurs 15 years after the events of 1180. However, the events of "The King's Fool" (after Robin Hood's exploits have become legend) take place in 1194. It's more consistent with history to think of this happening in 1193.]
1199-1201: (Conjecture) At some point, Guy of Gisburne is the page to the Earl of Gloucester. Historically the Earl would have been John, the future king of England. The earldom was merged with the crown when John became king in 1199. [Mentioned as happening ten years before "The Pretender". See the 1183 and 1190-1193 entries.]
April 1199: During the 2nd series. King Richard dies from an arrow wound. (Well, more from the botched surgery). Richard's brother John becomes the next king. [These events are mentioned in "The Prophecy".]
1200: King John marries Isabella of Angouleme. [Historical events referred to in "The Pretender".]
1200 - 1204: (Conjecture) The events of "The Pretender", episode from the third series. [It is strongly implied that the episode occurs very shortly after King John's second marriage. However, this episode is filled with continuity errors. See the 1183 entry, for example.]
1202: Arthur of Brittany captured ... and possibly murdered by King John at some point after this. [Historical events referred to in "The Pretender".]
1206: The pardon of Thomas and Jennet of Elsden comes into effect. [It was pointed out to me that this is the date on pardon seen in "The Witch of Elsden", a 1st series episode that was likely set being 1193-5. Perhaps the sheriff was being less than honest when he drafted the pardon.]
1208: (Conjecture) End of the 2nd series. Robin of Loxley, the first Robin Hood, is killed by the Sheriff of Nottingham and his troops. These events appear to happen in summer, to judge from the leaves on the trees. [Events from "The Greatest Enemy", see the 1209 for why I picked this year. When "Herne's Son" picks up the memorial service, the leaves have vanished from the trees. This could be the trees mourning Loxley's death ... or maybe the episodes were just filmed at different times of the year.]
Early Spring 1209: 3rd series begins. Robert of Huntingdon, son of Earl David, accepts his destiny to become the next Hooded Man. The outlaw band is reformed, and Owen of Clun is defeated. [According to the novelization, the events of "Herne's Son" took place in this year. Dialogue states this episode occurs one year after Robin of Loxley's death, but the lack of leaves on the trees suggests an early spring setting.]
1209-1211 (or 1212): (Conjecture) The 3rd series. [Based on conjecture listed under 1209, 1211 and 1212 entries.]
1209-1224: Philip Mark serves as the Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. He is mentioned by name in the Magna Carta. [Historical dates of the actual sheriff's post. See below for the RoS version.]
1211: (Conjecture) Hubert de Guiscard arrives with orders to dismiss Robert de Rainault from his duties as sheriff. Philip Mark assumes the post but is apparently killed shortly afterward. Re-installed as sheriff, perhaps de Rainault never corrects the official record as to who is the sheriff. [Events from "The Sheriff of Nottingham". De Guiscard takes de Rainault to task because of "a gang of cutthroats still running riot in the forest after two years". Metatextually, that remarks probably refers to both the Huntingdon and Loxley Robins. But it could refer just to Huntingdon's Robin. The original British airing order places this episode early in the 3rd series. But references to "Adam Bell" (and possibly following the king's threat to deal with the sheriff in "Rutterkin") makes it more logical to place this episode late in the 3rd series, as the American airing order did.]
1211: End of the 3rd series. [Date mentioned in "The Time of the Wolf". However, see 1212 entry.]
1212: In the summer of 1212, King John orders an army to assemble at Chester on August 19, 1212. [Probably the inspiration for the planned invasion of Wales mentioned in "The Time of the Wolf".] However, while at Nottingham on August 16, 1212, King John learns of a plot to kill him while in Wales. He calls off his plans for Wales. Earl David of Huntingdon is among those accused, and later that year one of his castles is taken on John's orders. [Date of the historical event that possibly inspired the fictional events in the episode "Rutterkin". In the TV series, the fictious Lord Edgar frames Earl David for practicing witchcraft.]
November 1247: Robert, Earl of Huntingdon (aka Robin Hood) dies at Kirklees Priory. [Date is given on the tombstone at Kirklees and reflects various references in the Robin Hood legend. It should be noted that the Kirklees tombstone was made centuries after the fact, probably to match the pre-existing ballad tradition. The date says 24 kalends December 1247 -- which counts back from December 1. If such a date were legitimate in would be November 8. However, Romans stopped counting down from the Kalends when they reached the Ides in the middle of the month. Another tradition says Robin died on November 18, which would be the 14 Kalends. ]
Obviously, this timeline makes no sense. Some fudging is required to make it work. Even discarding the historical dates not mentioned directly in the series, there are problems with a clear progression of events.
Actually, each series (season) takes place around the same time. References in the first series generally place it around the early to mid-1190s. The second series seems to fit fairly well with the late 1190s. And the 3rd series, with the exception of "The Pretender", fits fairly comfortably between 1209-1211. But trying to link each season together is a problem as the characters have only aged a few years between "Robin Hood and The Sorcerer" and "The Time of the Wolf".
My advice is not to worry about it too much, and to just enjoy the series. I don't want to pick on Robin of Sherwood for playing fast and loose with its timeline. It's hardly the only offender. Take the Sean Connery film Robin and Marian. That film extends King Richard's 10-year reign to 20 years, and it combines historical events of 1199-1200 and 1208-1210 into a story that probably only spans a few months. Robin Hood is a legend. One expects the timelines to be a bit fluid.
Back to the main Robin of Sherwood Spotlight
Further Robin of Sherwood articles available at The Hidden Grove, the special site for those who donate to the site's upkeep.