Richard set off from Outremer right at the end of the sailing season – October. He knew the Duke of Austria, the Holy Roman Emperor, Count of Toulouse and King of France were out to get him, so very sensibly tried to slip across their lands in disguise. Rubbish plan, predictable result. Meanwhile back in England John was making a bit for power, Phillip making his first attempt to bring down the Angevin Empire – and Robin Hood might have been hanging out in Sherwood Forest. Richard eventually arrived home at the start of 1194.
Richard's scheme to travel across Europe under disguise sounds like the act of a madman, or of a king suffering from delusional levels of confidence. But in point of fact Richard had little choice, and lots of bad luck. He couldn't just sail straight to England – no one would sail on the Atlantic at that time of year. The Count of Toulouse had a reception party ready for him if he came back the way he went. So really his options were linited. And the odd shipwreck or two reduced any chances he might have had.
Once he'd been caught in a village outside Vienna, Leopold of Austria took him to Durnstein Castle. The legend of Blondel (Blondel de Nesle? Jean de Nesle?) is that Blondel toured round all the castles looking for Richard by singng a song only he and Richard knew. At last outside Durnstein, he heard Richard signing the second verse. For a flavour of the songs of Blondel, here's a handy YouTube link.
Meanwhile Eleanor strived might and main to get him released. There's a superb letter from her toi the Pope, which you can read on my Historical Documents site.
In point of fact there was no secret about where Richard was. Henry VIth, Holy Roman Emperor, was beside himself with joy, and soon too, Richard from Leopold. It's a remarkable situation – the most poerful King of Western Europe held to ransom. After a year, Richard was finally released for 100,000 marks, just possibly £2bn in today's money. Throughout the period, Richard was said to be calm and affable.
Brother John was keen to take control of England, and had 2 goes at it. In 1191, John positioned himself as the leader of baronial England against the upsatart Justiciar William Longchamps. So much so, that William is run out of town. The replacement though is not John but Walter of Coutances, who came with letters from Richard and ran the country with Eleanor and a council of the realm.
The second attempt is 1193-4 while Richard is in prison. John makes an agreement with Philip Augustus of France, and raises the standard of rebellion while Phillip attacks into Normandy. Phillip is quite successful, being joined by several barons from the north and East of Normandy, and taking the castle of Gisors. But John is a loser, with no English Barons of note joining him.
Richard comes back in March 1194. He immediately reduces the last of John's castles holding out against him – which is, you guessed it, Nottingham. John has feld to Normandy, and a council of the realm stripped him of all his land as a rebel. Richard focusses on preparing his army, and rebuilding Portsmout as his supply line ot France; and then in May sets sail for Normandy and war.
The Legend of Robin Hood
It is entirely possible that there was an equivalent of Robin Hood in the 1190's but we'll probably never know. All that we do know is that the legend has changed and evolved to mee the needs of different centuries, and in that regard all the stories are valid.
But for a good website with all the facts, go to Boldoutlaw.
And for my favourite bit of my favourtite Robin Hood movie, click on this link to Alan Rickman