As well as being outside the protection of the law, being outlawed meant being seperated from those who knew you. Medieval society was an extremely violent place. It was important to be surrounded by friends who would protect you.
Every man in Norman England had to be part of a frank-pledge. In this system every man belonged to a group of ten men who were responsible for each others conduct.
As well as being a system of law enforcement it was a system of protection.
It was very important to belong somewhere and be protected by others, to be removed from this could be very dangerous indeed.
However as stated previously it was very easy to become outlawed, and was often a choice to avoid financial or worse punishments. There were many different kinds of outlaws.
Some of them are discussed below...
Forest Law Outlaws:
The Sherwood Forest Eyre courts have records surviving from 1287 and 1334. These record fines and punishments relating to crimes committed against the forest law.
A number of incidents are recorded showing how people were outlawed as a direct result of forest law.
In 1267 John De lascelles, the steward of Sherwood, caught 2 men with bows and arrows in the forest and took them to Blidworth.
It is presented and proved… that Hugh of Wotehale of Woodborough, William Hynde, Wilcock, formerly the servant of the parson of Clifton and Stephen Flemming of Nottingham on the Thursday…
Sherwood Forest Outlaws:
Sherwood Forest had its own recorded outlaw at large, Roger Godberg.
Outlawed for his involvement in the 2nd Barons’ War (Simon De Montfort against Henry III 1264-1267).
one in the heart of Sherwood Forest!
A price was put on their heads:
There are many famous medieval outlaws who operated across the country, some real some imaginary.
Of course it would be wrong not to mention...
The first literary reference to Robin Hood comes from Piers Plowman by William Langland from circa 1377:
Perhaps you should read the following before committing to a decision...
These accounts also go someway to explaining why in the early ballads Robin had a dislike for Bishops and the clergy. There aren't many religious men mentioned above who would make good role models to their flock.
The thirst for such tales (often full of violence and trickery) was as strong in medieval times as is it to this day.