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The Romantic Tale of Fulk III fitz Warin (of Whittington Castle)

Robin Hood is alive and well and living in your Whittington family tree, despite the fact that he never lived at all. How could that be?

Many have tried to prove that legendary figures King Arthur and Robin Hood roamed the earth. Historians have plumbed library shelves in search of the literature and archeologists have panned the fields and fortresses looking for material evidence.  At this time it appears Arthur was real and Robin Hood a fabrication. SO, what is Robin Hood doing in the family tree? The roots of the mythical character are lodged in the life of one of your many times (22x to be precise) great grandfathers: Fulk fitz Warin III (1165-1258). Numerous literary scholars, historians and others have concluded that there are numerous similarities between the 13th century chronicle of the Fulk’s life and that of the legend of Robin Hood. I like the word ‘numerous’ and won’t apologize for using it numerous times in the context of the numerous articles through which I drag you.

We know that public relations experts, tourism directors, political spin doctors and government propagandists all rearrange their promotional pieces, pamphlets, history books and data to make every thing look better than it ever was. In time I have been asked to believe: George Washington cut down a cherry tree, Columbus discovered America, Newton got hit by an apple and the American colonies gained their independence on July 4,1776, (It took 7 more years of warfare to finally get Britain off our back and to sign off on the paperwork!).

Let’s begin with my brief introduction to the family history and family tie to “Robin Hood”. I will then link you to the 13th century romantic novela starring the Fulk and conclude with the analysis of those experts who believe Fulk III was the original Robin. I will also point you toward those who think there are other possibilities.  In this way you can decide for yourself how cool this connection is or isn’t.  I think it’s cool and I am not even a Whittington!  Just happened to marry one!

Our Family Tie to the Guy Upon Whom the Legend is Founded

Fulk fitz Warin III is a major historical figure in Britain and in the family tree. Finding the Fulk on the branches of our tree is a bit like finding a gorilla in your closet or Marie Antoinette as a great grandmother. Fulk III was the son of Fulk II who was the son of, you guessed it, Fulk I.  There are as many as ten Fulks each of whom arrives on earth, one right after the previous, descended one from the other.  There was a lot of begatting going on. So much so that when the King heard that yet another Fulk was born he bellowed in dismay, “WTF! What the Fulk!”

The Warin family history begins in a fairly colorful and medieval manner. The good king, William the Conqueror, seduced the wife (Maud) of his good friend (Ranulph) and Maud has the king’s baby. Ranulph Peverel is a great grandfather Maud (Maud Athelida de Ingelrica) is a great gramma. Maud convinced Ranulph that he was the happy father of their newborn son William. Even if Ranulph knew better, he accepted King William’s gifts including vast amounts of land, castles and a chain of fast food restaurants with options to buy into a car wash the king hoped to open on the south side of London. Historians debate the question: How much did Ranulph know and when did he know it?

The baby, William Peverel grew to manhood and married Adelise de Montgomery, the daughter of one of my 27x great grandfathers, Sir Roger Montgomery (First Earl of Shrewsbury).  By virtue of the marriage of Adelise to William, Roger happened to become a great grandfather in the Whittington tree as well. We visited his domain recently in Shropshire, England and I am happy to report that he is still peacefully buried there at the abby he founded, near the Shrewsbury castle he constructed. He was the right hand of William the Conqueror and the fifth most wealthy man in Britain. His story lies buried here amid all the online grist I have created. Find it for yourself. I am too tired to help you.

Within two more generations great granny Millette Peverel married Warin de Metz and there you see it, right in front of your own eyes: the name Warin.  Any child Warin has will become fitz Warin (meaning the son of Warin). If Warin de Metz has a daughter her surname becomes ferch Warin. It was a Welsh patrimonial naming system descended from the Viking culture.  Fulk I fitz Warin enters Earth at warp speed in 1108. The lineage or chain of Fulk fitz Warins that follow takes us right up into the 1500s. We aren’t going to go into all that. I promised a brief intro.

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The fitz Warins are keepers of the Whittington Castle in Whittington, Shropshire, England. There are at least seven villages in England named Whittington, so the name of the shire is important. I visited the castle. I will include a picture with three generations of Whittingtons in the photo just to prove the point that we got there (see below).

The tea shop was closed and the castle guides were gone for the day. More importantly, I couldn’t find a bathroom and nearly lost my morning tea in my briefs. The parking lot was empty.  We had the place to ourselves and I considered finding a discrete location to make a contribution to the moat. But, as luck would have it, another couple showed up with family ties to the castle and a distant relationship to us that I chose to keep to myself. My need to find a bathroom was greater than my desire to pontificate about our common ancestors. And besides, a branch of our family beat the brains out of their family on the battlefield north and east of Shrewsbury; not something to ruminate about on a pleasant morning in Shropshire.

So, in a nutshell, Millette Peverel’s family owned the castle and she brought that property into her marriage with Fulk I.  The name Whittington appears alongside the name Warin in some history books as follows: “Fulk I fitz Warin of Whittington.” The Whittington family, those who descend from the brothers of the famous Dick Whittington and his cats (another fabrication), married into the Warin tree at a much later date in history. I should be clear on this: the Warins are just as much grandparents in your present day family tree as are any Whittingtons found in history as great grandparents. I would generate a chart showing how each generation of Fulks leads to the present day but I am sure it would confuse you all the more and generate more question that I would feel obliged to answer. With only so much time left on my clock, you can do the research yourself and I can bask in the glory of knowing the Chicago Cubs are world champions. The family tree (with 20,000 names) is on my Ancestry.com pedigree chart.

dsc_0516aOn to the adventures of Fulk fitz Warin, the original Robin Hood as related in a 13th century narrative translated by a guy named Thomas E. Kelly and edited by Stephen Knight. The original 13th century author is unknown but believed to have been a cleric living in Ludlow, Shropshire c. 1350. Click on this pdf link to the original 13th Century tale of Fulk fitz Warin.

What do the experts say: Contrasting the Tale of Fulk with that of Robin Hood

A British documentary looked at the history of literature and conjecture related to the legendary Robin Hood trying to separate fact and fiction and tracing the growth of the legend back to the days of Fulk fitz Warin.

The BBC documentary on the history of Robin Hood.