World Stamps

Great Britain’s Royal Mail celebrates Robin Hood with April 13 issue

Apr 13, 2023, 3 PM
Great Britain’s Royal Mail issued a set of 10 stamps April 13 celebrating the legend of English outlaw Robin Hood. Artist Jon McCoy illustrated the stamps exclusively for Royal Mail.

By David Hartwig

Great Britain’s Royal Mail illustrates the legend of English folk outlaw Robin Hood on a set of 10 stamps issued April 13.

The 10 first-class stamps (currently £1.10), presented in two se-tenant (side-by-side) strips of five, depict different scenes from the legend.

An inscription on each stamp briefly describes the illustration. For example, the first stamp is inscribed “Robin Hood is declared an outlaw.”

The first-class designation appears in one of the upper corners of each stamp, and the silhouette of King Charles III appears in the other.

In the presentation pack for the Legend of Robin Hood issue, Lesley Coote, a lecturer in medieval studies and medievalism at the University of Hull, explained how the legend of Robin Hood has evolved from the earliest surviving stories from the 15th century through ballads and plays leading to the films, shows and novels of today.

While the character of Robin Hood can be traced to the 12th and 13th centuries, much of the information is speculative, according to Coote. “No particular individual can be proved to have been the ‘original’ Robin Hood; the figure may have been based on more than one person, or none,” she said.

Regardless of Robin Hood’s ambiguous origins, events attributed to the folk outlaw have contributed to a centuries-old legend.

The legend portrays Robin Hood as a skilled archer who robs the rich and gives to the poor. The fourth stamp in the set shows him robbing the rich, and the fifth shows him winning an archery contest.

From the earliest stories of the legend, a band of merrymen accompanies Robin Hood.

Coote said that Little John appears in the medieval stories. However, the fight over the stream when Robin Hood first meets Little John, illustrated on the second stamp in the set, dates to a 17th-century ballad.

Friar Tuck, pictured on the third stamp, and Maid Marian, seen on the seventh and eighth stamps, were both characters in a 15th-century Morris dance, Coote said.

Morris dance is a traditional folk dance of rural England. A stamp issued by Royal Mail in 1981 (Scott 934) features Morris dancers.

The Sheriff of Nottingham, the nemesis of Robin Hood and his merrymen, has origins from medieval times as well, according to Coote. The sixth stamp in the set shows Robin Hood capturing the sheriff.

The ninth stamp pictures King Richard removing his disguise. According to legend, King Richard removes his disguise before pardoning the outlaws.

The final stamp shows Robin Hood shooting his last arrow before he “is bled to death by his treacherous kinswoman, the Abbess of Kirklees,” according to Coote.

Artist Jon McCoy illustrated the stamps exclusively for Royal Mail.

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