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Louis Mandrin was to France what Robin Hood was to England and Rob Roy to Scotland. Having served in the war of 1740 in a light brigade noted for undertaking dangerous missions to surprise the enemy, he was left idle and without income by peace, which made a remarkable appearance in 1748. He had no way of supporting his life other than by continually risking it. Thus he came up with the idea of assembling a corps of men like himself with himself as their leader and waging war against the fermiers, collectors of royal revenues from taxes  levied on salt, tobacco, and farming. The fermiers paid an agreed upon amount to the king, but could exact unspecified sums themselves. They naturally became fat and rich in the process – and hated.

Mandrin became the master of a portion of central France, pillaging public treasuries to pay his troops, whom he also put to work forcing the wealthy to buy his stolen merchandise. He successfully warded off the many detachments of government troops sent against him, instilling fear among their numbers and in the government itself. Eventually the people came to consider him their protector against the oppression of government revenue officers.

Finally, a regiment did attack and destroy his corps, but Mandrin himself escaped into the Duchy of Savoy. From there, he continued to make forays across the border and a terrible nuisance of himself. The French government was not not happy. The fermiers entered the Duchy illegally, disguising 500 men as peasants. Mandrin was betrayed by two of his men, seized, and whisked across the border. When the King of Savoy, learned of the French intrusion into his territory, he immediately wrote to the French King, demanding that the prisoner be turned over to him. But before the message arrived, Mandrin was hurriedly tried, condemned to be broken at the wheel, and executed on May 26, 1755.


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Known as Cœur de Lion or the Lionheart because of his reputation as a great military leader and warrior, Richard I became King of England on July 6, 1189, and ruled until his death ten years later.  He was the stuff of which legends were made, particularly in the story of Robin Hood, although he’s strictly an offstage presence, being held prisoner in a far-off land until the very end and his triumphant return. Robin, you will remember, battled the evil Prince John who was doing his best to usurp Richard’s throne in his absence. Eventually, Richard returns triumphantly to England, but in a bit of a slap in the face to Robin, he forgives John and names him his heir to the throne. Robin is abandoned to Sherwood Forest and his “merry men” (see Robin Hood – Men in Tights).

     In reality, Richard, it seems, was a rather lackluster king, spending only six months of his ten-year reign in England (“hates London, it’s cold and it’s damp”) preferring to spend his time on crusades, battling Saladin, and waging wars throughout the world (“who would Jesus invade?”).

     He died as a result of an arrow wound (live by the arrow, die by the arrow).  According to a 13th century bishop, Richard was required to spend 33 years in purgatory atoning for his many sins before finally being allowed into heaven in March 1232.

     Richard III also began his reign on July 6, nearly 300 years later in 1483.  He took the crown shortly after having his nephew 12-year-old King Edward V declared a bastard and sent to the Tower.  His only accomplishment as king seems to have been the murder of his two nephews (and a number of scholars would take that away from him too).  Bishops have not said how many years he had to spend in purgatory before joining his ancestors up above, but we can guess it was quite a few.




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November 22, 1247: Time Flies Like an Arrow . . .

Robin Hood has been celebrated through story, song and film as that charming rogue who, along with his merry men, robbed from the 1 percent and gave to the 99 percent, a nobleman cheated out of his birthright by the nasty Sheriff of Nottingham, a patriot in service to Richardrobin hood the Lionhearted, fighting the villainy of that usurper Prince John.

Disney isn’t entirely responsible for this whitewash; the English have long raised Robin Hood to mythic status as well as giving him religion through Friar Tuck and romance through Maid Marian.

Earlier accounts, however, have him born to wealth but squandering his inheritance through carelessness and overindulgence, after which he was forced to adopt the life of an outlaw in the forest. He collected around him a band of thieves – who may indeed have been merry – to assist in his predatory operations. Chances are they robbed mainly the rich because the rich were the ones with something to steal. To the consternation of the authorities, Robin Hood and his gang carried out their trade for a number of years.

As Robin Hood ushered in his 87th year, his arrows began to get a little wobbly and off-target. He increasingly felt the infirmities of his age, and was eventually convinced to seek medical attention at the local nunnery. The prioress evidently took an instant dislike to the merry old man, which she vented by opening up an artery and allowing him to bleed to death. The date of his demise is reckoned to be November 22, 1247.

But before he turned his toes completely up, Robin realized that he was the victim of treachery (flowing blood will do that), and he blew a blast on his bugle (kept handily at his bedside for just such a situation). This summoned his compatriot Little John who forced his way into the chamber in time to hear his chief’s last request. “Give me my bent bow in my hand,” he said. “And an arrow I’ll let free, and where that arrow is taken up, there let my grave digged be.” Rhyming right to the end. Which came just after he shot the arrow through an open window, selecting the spot where he should be buried. Which he was.

. . . fruit flies like a banana. — Groucho Marx


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November 13, 1953: When Red, Red Robin Comes Bobbin’ Along

In the early 50s, folks worked themselves up into a real dither robin_hoodsearching for Bolsheviks here, there, wherever they may be hiding. There was a commie round every corner; any person you met might be a secret pinko, hoping to lead you down the slippery slope to socialism and the dreaded one world.

We remember Joseph McCarthy and the infamy of his search for traitors in the State Department, Hollywood and the PTA. But there were many McCarthy wannabes – good folk just itching to unveil a neighbor or loved one’s clandestine proclivities and nefarious schemes to indoctrinate the unaware.

Mrs. Thomas J. White of the Indiana Textbook Commission, was a bit of a zealot when it came to finding communist propaganda in the seemingly innocent written word. On November 13, 1953, she announced an amazing discovery in textbooks used by the state’s schools. She called for the banning of the book Robin Hood and any references to it.

There was, she said, “a Communist directive in education now to stress the story of Robin Hood because he robbed the rich and gave it to the poor. That’s the Communist line. It’s just a smearing of law and order and anything that disrupts law and order is their meat.” On somewhat of a roll, she went on to attack Quakers because they “don’t believe in fighting wars.” This philosophy, she argued, played into communist hands.

Not everyone in Indiana jumped on her bandwagon. Reacting to criticism, White claimed that she never argued for the actual removal of offensive texts, but reiterated her position that the “take from the rich and give to the poor” theme was the Communist’s favorite policy. “Because I’m trying to get Communist writers out of textbooks, my name is mud. Evidently I’m drawing blood or they wouldn’t make such an issue out of it.” The response to Mrs. White’s charges was mixed.

Indiana’s governor defended the Quakers, but sidestepped the textbook issue. The superintendent of education, having it both ways, said that the book should not be banned, but agreed that communists had twisted the meaning of the Robin Hood legend. Commentators throughout the world were thoroughly amused. The “enrollment of Robin Hood in the Communist Party can only make sensible people laugh,” said the Russians. Even the current sheriff of Nottingham chimed in: “Robin Hood was no communist.”

Robin Hood was spared, free to rob from the rich another day. Other books during the Red Scare were not so fortunate: The Grapes of Wrath, Civil Disobedience, 1984, Johnny Got His Gun to name a few. Hollywood also felt the pressure to produce pro-American stories. And then there was that other obviously communist-inspired phenomenon, rock and roll.  We won’t even mention those merry men.


My young son asked me what happens after we die. I told him we get buried under a bunch of dirt and worms eat our bodies. I guess I should have told him the truth – that most of us go to Hell and burn eternally – but I didn’t want to upset him. ~ Jack Handey