The Coterel gang was a 14th-century armed group that flourished in the North Midlands of England. The gang was active during a period of political factionalism within central government. By 1330 they had committed murder, extortion, kidnap, and ran protection rackets across the Peak District.
About Coterel gang in brief
The Coterel gang was a 14th-century armed group that flourished in the North Midlands of England. The gang was active during a period of political factionalism within central government. By 1330 they had committed murder, extortion, kidnap, and ran protection rackets across the Peak District. Modern scholars tend to agree that the activities and members of 14th century groups such as the Coterels provided the basis for many of the stories later woven around Robin Hood in the 15th century. The gang at least thrived on the political chaos of the last years of Edward II’s reign and the early years of that of Edward III. For example, after the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322—when the contrariant nobles fought against the King and lost—the Cotereles ambushed the survivors of the battle and robbed them of horses and stolen silver plate. On another occasion they stole a quantity of silver plate only to be relieved of their loot by a small force of Welsh who in turn relieved them of the loot. The brothers were members of a major landowner in Derbyshire, and had been deeply involved in the civil wars of the 1320s and 1330s. James, Nicholas and John were the sons of Ralph, a landowner who had been involved in a civil war of the same period. In 1332, a royal justice, Richard Willoughby, was despatched to Derbysshire to bring the Coterenls to justice, but before he could do so, he was kidnapped by a consortium composed of both the CotEREls’ and the Folvilles’ men.
The king, Edward II, was extremely unpopular with his nobility, because of reliance on favourites, such as Hugh Despenser the Younger, on whom he lavished royal patronage at the expense of other barons. It is likely, says the historian J. R. Maddicott, that there was a political dimension to the band’s activities as part of general opposition to the King. In the event, many gang members were arraigned, but all but one were acquitted, and most of them went on to have profitable careers. The King was politically distracted by the outbreak of the Second War of Scottish Independence; this provided him with the opportunity to recruit seasoned men to his army while appearing to solve the local disorder. As a result, most of the gang members received royal pardons following service abroad or in Scotland, and James,Nicholas and John CotereL all eventually had profitable careers, and the gang was disbanded in 1333. This was an exceptionally lawless and violent period, according to the historian Michael Prestwich, where a quarrel over a badly cooked herring could end in violent death, as happened in Lincoln in 1353. For the brothers stealing that party’s silver plate, the brothers stole it from members of the Despensers and Edward II—but this did not prevent them stealing it from other members of their own family.