The theme of the wool and cloth trade is constantly brought out in the Gest and this is what Robin will have been doing when he went to Nottingham. After settling in York we are told in the ballad that Robin became a successful and rich merchant dealing in green and red cloth who supplied Green cloth to the king which he is sometimes shown wearing in the films, Little John called him “master” as he supplied livery to the king and if Will Scarlet’s name is anything to go by he may have dealt in wool and scarlet cloth.
At the same time we cannot fail to notice Robin’s constant references to the Virgin Mary who was the Patron Saint of the Tailors Guild. Professor Thomas Ohlgren believes that the Gest commemorates Edward III who was known as “Our comely king,” with the ballad celebrating him as both the protector of the English Channel and the founder of seven of the twelve Great Livery Companies.
With Robin was Radufus de Waddesley who was a tailor and the Gest informs us he expected to be wearing the kings uniform come Christmas presumably as an archer? Here are the relevant verses:
“Have you any green cloth,” said the king, “That you will sell to me?” “Yes, for God,” said Robin, “Thirty yards and three.”
“Robin,” said the king, “Now I ask of thee, Sell me some of that cloth, For my men and me.”
“Yes, for God,” then said Robin, “Or else I were a fool.
Another day ye will me clothe, I trust, against the yule.”
The king cast off his cowl then, A green garment he put on. And every knight, also, Got a new green robe.
When they were clothed in Lincoln green They cast away their grey. “Now we shall go to Nottingham,” Thus the king did say.”
In 1364 Robert Hode along with Alanus de Bradeley; Ricardus de Cottyngham; and Radufus de Waddesley were admitted to the Freedom of York having completed their apprenticeships, not forgetting the ‘adventures’ Robin had while he was out and about traveling the countryside mainly in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire beginning with his journeyman period and continuing on when he became master of his trade.
One of the incidents we read about is when Robin came to the aid of the impoverished knight and Little John tells us that Robin was the wealthiest merchant in England with a rich array of scarlet and green cloth. Little Much describes Little John as the devils draper and Scarlet who may get his name from dealing in scarlet cloth laughingly says “By God almighty, John may give the impoverished knight good measure for it costs him but lightly” meaning it was his masters cloth that was being measured out and not his own. Before the impoverished knight went on his way he was given a grey packhorse which as merchants they would have several to carry goods and to top it off they also gave the knight a horse and a pair of boots which obviously Robin could afford to do. Here are the relevant verses in the “Gest of Robin Hood” translated into modern English by Robert Landis Frank.
“Master,” then said Little John, His clothing is very thin. You must give
the knight some good clothes, to wrap his body in.
“For you have scarlet and green, master, and many a rich array. There
is no merchant in merry England so rich, I dare well say.”
“Take him three yards of every colour, and see that you measure it true.”
Little John took no other measure but his long bow of yew.
And at every handful that he met, he counted it a yard. “
What devils draper,” said little Much, Do you think you are?”
Scarlet stood still and laughed and said, “By God almighty,
John may give him good measure for it costs him but lightly.”
“Master,” then said Little John to gentle Robin Hood,
“You must give the knight a horse to carry home these goods.”
“Take him that grey packhorse,” said Robin, And a saddle new.
He is Our Lady’s messenger, God grant that he be true.”
“And a palfrey horse,” said Much, To maintain him in his right.”
And a pair of boots,” said Scarlet, For he is a gentle knight.”