Saturday, 15 October 2011
The man himself...
The man in question being Eustace Folville, one of the villains in my novel, and the inspiration for the title. A fascinating character, albeit a deeply unpleasant one. A picture of his much-defaced tomb is attached.
Eustace and his brothers formed a criminal gang that terrorised Leicestershire and the Midlands in the 1320s, and the surviving court records list a whole series of robberies, murders, kidnappings, extortions and rapes committed by them and their many adherents. The law couldn't handle them, and various proclamations of outlawry did little to curb their illegal activities.
Part of the problem was that the Folvilles and their ilk were not commoners but of the knightly landowning class, and supposed to be the ones who safeguarded law and order. These criminal gentry gangs proliferated in the violence and disorder that characterised Edward II's appalling reign, and the Folvilles worked hand-in-glove with the Coterel gang of Derbyshire (who also appear in my book), the Bradburnes, and others.
Here, then, was the brutal reality behind the merry tales of Robin Hood and other fictional medieval outlaws. The history makes for grim reading, but is great raw material for fiction!