Did you know that there is a connection between the legend of Robin Hood and Worms? Richard I of England (Richard the Lionheart) is said to have spent some time behind bars in Worms.
Everyone knows the story of Robin Hood – who took from the rich and gave to the poor. Together with Lady Marian, Friar Tuck, and his Merry Men, Robin Hood lived in Sherwood Forest near Nottingham and fought against suppression and injustice. Their prime enemies were the Sheriff of Nottingham and King John, the brother of Richard I, known as Richard the Lionheart. Richard I had gone to fight in the holy war, and his avaricious and power-hungry brother John had taken over as king while he was away. When Richard the Lionheart was captured and a ransom was demanded for his release, his brother did not want to fulfil the captors’ demands in order to be able to rule for longer. But Robin Hood succeeded in spoiling his plans.
But what has all that got to do with Worms? Legends about Robin Hood sprang up as early as he Middle Ages, and we do not know whether he lived at the time of Richard the Lionheart, or even whether he existed at all. However, what we do know is that Richard the Lionheart took part in the crusade, was captured, that a ransom was demanded, and that his power-hungry brother John Lackland wanted to remain king rather than raise the ransom. And while the fulfilment of the conditions for Richard’s release was being negotiated, the places where he is said to have spent time behind bars include Worms.
On December 21 st or 22 nd in 1192, Richard the Lionheart was taken prisoner in Erdberg near Vienna by Duke Leopold’s men – Duke Leopold V of Austria of the Babenberg dynasty. Richard was returning to England from the Third Crusade, and his capture caused a political earthquake at the time. It probably followed a disagreement between Richard and Leopold about claims to booty, but disputes between Philip II of France and the Roman-German Emperor Henry VI may also have played a role.
Duke Leopold had his famous prisoner taken to the Dürnstein
Castle on the Danube.
On February 14 th 1193 the conditions for his release were drawn up
in Würzburg. One of these was a ransom of 100,000 marks in silver of Cologne weight, half of
this for the emperor and the other half for the duke. As the weight of a Cologne silver mark was
about 233 grams, the ransom amounted to a good 23.3 tonnes of pure silver.
Richard the Lionheart is said to have complained bitterly about this treatment
in a letter that he sent to Pope Celestin e III shortly
before Christmas 1193: “… and has sold me to the Emperor as though I were an ox
or an ass!”
After the agreement had been signed by Henry VI, Leopold V delivered his royal prisoner Richard the Lionheart to the emperor in Speyer on March 28 th 1193. When Henry confronted him with the list of demands drawn up in Würzburg, Richard flatly refused. He did not want to submit to the emperor’s dictate. Henry quickly organized a kind of show trial, as a result of which Richard was “accommodated” more or less royally in Trifels Castle near Speyer, then in Hagenau, Koblenz and Worms, and finally in Mainz. Was he perhaps kept prisoner in Worms in the tower Luginsland , where Henry VII (King of Germany and Sicily) was imprisoned 42 years later in 1235 while his father and Isabella of England married in the cathedral nearby?
When King Richard’s brother, John Lackland, refused to pay the ransom sum and while he was even scheming against it, Richard’s mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, started to raise the ransom for her son’s release. She sold those possessions that Richard had not already sold himself to finance his crusade. To this day, there are no valuable objects (chandeliers, silver cutlery etc.) in England dating from this time. This loss of capital was economically disastrous for England and gave rise to unrest, which later led to the legends about Robin Hood.
Henry VI used the ransom money to prepare for the battle for Sicily, and after the successful conquest he returned with many times the amount he had spent. He is said to have used this money to build up and fortify the cities of Worms and Speyer.
On February 4 th 1194, Richard the Lionheart was released from imprisonment in Mainz. He visited several towns and cities in Germany before returning to England weeks later.