March 11, 2001 – The Television Movie Princess of Thieves Premieres on The Wonderful World of Disney
“I’ll steal a horse fairly, but I won’t take it by the poor reason of my gender.”
On March 11, 2001, the made-for-television movie Princess of Thieves premiered on The Wonderful World of Disney. Although the film is based on the legend of Robin Hood, it takes several liberties with historical fact, including that of the character of Philip: although a real person, he actually was not able to claim the throne; Richard had decreed that John was to inherit the throne after his death. The film was shot in Romania. The script was written by Robin Lerner, and was directed by Peter Hewitt. It stars Keira Knightly as Gwyn, Malcolm McDowell as the Sheriff of Nottingham, Stuart Wilson as Robin Hood, Jonathan Hyde as Prince John, Stephen Moyer as Prince Philip, and Del Synnott as Froderick.
The film begins in Nottingham, England, in the year 1184, during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. News of the birth of the child of Robin Hood and Maid Marian has reached the Sheriff of Nottingham, who puts a price on the child’s head equal to that of its father’s. Finding that the child is a girl, Nottingham thinks little of the child, as he believes only a son would cause him any trouble in the future. The girl is named Gwyn, and spends most of her life alone, as her mother dies when Gwyn is quite young and her father is off fighting the Crusades with King Richard. Her only friend is Froderick, who has trouble hiding his feelings for her, but she confides in Friar Tuck, whom she calls “Uncle.” When he questions her feelings for Froderick, she admits that she loves him like a brother, and she could never be what Froderick needs. As they talk, a messenger dove arrives, alerting the household of the return of Robin. Gwyn waits impatiently for her father’s return, but is rather let down by the reunion, as he doesn’t seem to care that he’s left her alone for five years.
Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham plot how to kill Philip and secure the crown for John
Nottingham is alerted by a surprise visit by Prince John that Lionheart is dying, and the two plan to prevent Prince Philip, the king’s illegitimate son, to ascend the throne. Meanwhile, Will Scarlett is trying to convince Robin to spend at least a little time with his daughter, which Robin rebuffs, claiming his duty to protect Philip comes first. Gwyn overhears him, and volunteers to go on the journey with him, but Robin refuses. Gwyn argues that if she were a son, Robin would gladly take her, but as she is a girl, she is reduced to mending socks and plucking chickens, and storms off. As Philip is on his way to England, he vents to his valet, Conrad, that he has no desire to be king. His valet convinces him to go back inside the carriage, and they continue to England. Philip is unaware that the Countess Tourtelot, with whom Philip has been traveling, is working with Prince John to have Philip killed so John can assume the throne. Conrad alerts Philip quickly and helps get him away from Tourtelot.
That night, as Robin and Will prepare to collect Philip, Gwyn comes up with a plan to pass as a boy and protect Philip. She takes off in the morning to follow her father, and is enthralled by town when she arrives. She protects a young boy from being punished as a thief, and steals a nobleman’s bag. Realizing that Froderick has followed her, she takes his horse and has him meet her away from the town, and drops the bag at the feet of hungry children, at which they call her “Robin Hood.” Will, who is disguised in town, hears this and smiles, but doesn’t realize that it is Gwyn. Gwyn and Froderick are hiding in the woods until the Sheriff’s men arrive, and they chase after her, thinking she is Philip. Robin and Will soon arrive and dispatch the men, saving her, although Robin is less than pleased. Unfortunately, Froderick is captured and chained up, with the Sheriff deciding to follow Froderick, as he may know where Robin is.
Philip and Conrad meet with Cardaggian, believing him to be Robin Hood, as he knows the secret code words
That night, Robin, Will, and Gwyn head to the chapel where Froderick is supposed to meet Gwyn, and walk into the Sheriff’s trap. Gwyn and Froderick narrowly escape. Philip and Conrad arrive in town the next day, and are tricked by Cardaggian, the Sheriff’s right-hand man, who believes Conrad to be Philip, and the two believe Cardaggian to be Robin. Conrad is killed by Cardaggian’s men and Philip flees. Froderick is sent by Gwyn to go back to the castle and inform her uncles that Robin and Will were captured and sent to the Tower of London, and she heads off to continue the mission and save her father. She runs across Philip in the woods and, not knowing who he is, attempts to steal his horse. He tackles her, but quickly apologizes, realizing that she is a woman. The two argue over the horse, with him insisting she take it because she is a woman, and Gwyn refusing because he treats her as inferior. They finally agree to share the horse, and head off to Nottingham.
The Sheriff arrives back at Nottingham to judge the tournaments at the harvest festival, and announces that Philip has died. The news, and the body, is also brought to John, but Countess Tourtelot, having seen the victim alive, tells John that it is only the body of the valet, and Philip must still be alive. John runs to where Robin and Will are sitting in the dungeon, and demands to know where Philip is, which, of course, they won’t tell him, as they are amazed themselves that he is still alive. On their ride, Gwyn announces that she’s on a mission for the king, to save Philip, her father, and Will from their imprisonment. Philip brands Robin a traitor to the crown, thinking that he and Conrad were led into a trap by Robin Hood, and tells Gwyn that Philip is dead as he pretends to be Conrad, the valet. Gwyn is saddened by this news, and urgently asks Philip for his help, for John’s first act as king will be to hang Robin and Will. Philip, afraid, refuses, but relents when Gwyn tells him that Robin is her father.
In the last round, Philip lets Gwyn, who is pretending to be his brother, be his proxy and take the final shot
As Gwyn and Philip wander through town, Philip tells Gwyn that the death of “Philip” is no great loss for England, as he preferred wine and women over affairs of state. Gwyn informs him that a prince has an obligation to his people, but before he can respond, she is given a notice from a nearby stand for an archery tournament, with the winner granted a seat at the Sheriff’s banquet. The two run off to enter, with Gwyn determined to win. Both Philip and Gwyn perform well, although Philip is the one to advance to the finals. Philip lets Gwyn perform as his proxy, and Gwyn shoots the shot that breaks the Sheriff’s arrow, with a style reminiscent of Robin Hood, which arouses the Sheriff’s suspicions. Nevertheless, she is declared the winner and they sit at the banquet. When Philip sees Cardaggian at the banquet, he tells her they have to flee or they will both be killed, but promises on his honor that he will help Gwyn rescue her father. As the two leave, the Sheriff’s men are sent out into the woods to search for Philip. Gwyn and Philip then meet with Friar Tuck and Froderick, and they soon come up with a plan to rescue the two men from prison.
In Sherwood Forest, Robin’s band of men has gathered and captured the Sheriff. Gwyn asks if Robin and Will are still alive, and the Sheriff tells her not for much longer, as men don’t survive very long in the dungeon of the Tower of London. Gwyn sends a message of an exchange of the Sheriff for Robin and Will. In the forest, Philip finally comes to understand the “rule” of Prince John, and how needy the people really are. Philip goes to Gwyn and offers her food, and the two realize their growing attraction to each other (which is marred by Froderick’s earlier lie to Philip, saying that he and Gwyn are betrothed). During the night, the Sheriff is able to escape his bonds, knocking Froderick out in the process. Gwyn is furious, and snaps to Froderick that if Robin dies, she will never speak to him again. Philip declares that he is riding to London to save Gwyn’s father, and the men agree to go with him. While Robin is being tortured in the tower, John tells Robin that Richard has passed away, and demands to know where Philip is, but Robin refuses to tell. The news that Philip is alive spreads through the town like wildfire.
After Gwyn confesses Froderick’s lie to Philip, the two share their first, and only, kiss of the film
Gwyn apologizes to Froderick, and he in turn apologizes for telling Philip that he and Gwyn are betrothed. The two repair their friendship, and Gwyn goes off to find Philip. He admits to Gwyn that he is afraid, but will fight, and the two share a kiss. After they do, Philip tries to tell her of his true identity, but they are interrupted by the news that Philip is indeed still alive, and John’s men are searching for him. Philip then admits his true identity, much to Gwyn’s surprise. A spy amongst Robin’s men lets the Sheriff know of Philip’s arrival, and the Sheriff is at the ready to attack. During the fight, Froderick steps in front of an arrow meant for Philip, telling Gwyn he had to because she knows how much she likes Philip. Meanwhile, John is having his coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey, and Philip and Gwyn, with their friends, break into the Tower of London to rescue Robin and Will. Gwyn and her friends win the battle, and John’s coronation is disrupted by Philip’s arrival and his claim to the throne. As John commands his soldiers to arrest Philip, everyone in the room is stunned silent, and John realizes he has no more control over them.
Philip is crowned king, and Froderick is made a member of Philip’s council. Gwyn realizes that there is no future between her and Philip, although Philip protests. Gwyn tells Philip that she will continue to serve him the way her father served Richard, but the two are left heartbroken that their love will never be. Robin tells his daughter that her mother fell in love with a thief, and her falling in love with a prince is no different, and then asks her to be his partner, a father-daughter team of outlaws that serve the king. All is happy in London once again, and it is stated at the end that Philip never married, as he pledged his heart to a woman of no birthright, named Gwyn.