Pickpockets, abundant at public events (including hangings), were more likely to be shown mercythan deer poachers, even with the animals in evident abundance.Cash was also necessary, in part to meet the authorities’ demands upon the villages and forests to make possible the latest forms of military escalation and associated expenses for the king’s army.Royalty itself sold off forest privileges in order to pay the cost of mounted knights with or withoutarmor.Not surprisingly, then, one main demand in the Magna Carta was to take back the forests, or at least limit their expropriation by the powerful.After all, we live in something rapidly approaching a Robin Hood era.
If the owner commanded the soil and exacted a percentage of crops, grazing rights nevertheless usually remained with commoners, and the trees belonged to neither.
Admittedly, resistance to injustice has not as yet returned to the level of the apprentices and craftsmen in Edinburgh, Scotland, who in 1561 chose to come together “efter the auld wikid maner of Robene Hude”: they elected a leader as “Lord of Inobedience” and stormed past the magistrates, through the city gates, up to Castle Hill where they displayed their unwillingness to accept current work-and-wage conditions.
But as a global society, we are clearly still thinking about the need for Robin Hood.
For centuries ahead, the collective resistance across Europe, but perhaps especially in England, coincided with the sense of better days somewhere in the past, and this real and mythic memory continued to give ballast to class resentments and radical hopes alike.
In all this, the forest was a unique status symbol and a domain of kingship, both symbolic and actual.