The King goes out a-riding and meets the Tanner. The Tanner gives abrupt answers to the King's questions. The King tries to exchange horses; again the Tanner wants no part of the deal. Finally the King gives the Tanner a gift/pension
Thie king mentioned in this ballad varies. Child's primary text simply calls the king "Edward." Of the three texts in the appendices, the first gives no name. The second goes under the title "King Edward the Fourth and a Tanner of Tamworth," but again the King is simply called "Edward." The third text (from the Percy folio, but not the version printed in the _Reliques_) is "King Henry II and the Miller of Mansefield," but again no name is given. The records of 1564 also mention a printing of "The story of Kynge Henry IIIJth and the Tanner of Tamowthe."
No matter which king we choose, there is no historical record of an event such as this. There is at least some verisimilitude in assigning the piece to Edward IV.
Edward was a hunter (most English kings were), but could be easily distracted -- as witness the fact that he first met his wife, Elizabeth Woodeville, on a ride. (Elizabeth, who had been widowed by the Wars of the Roses, carefully stationed herself by the path where Edward was expected to ride, and she was pretty enough to get his attention. Edward never could resist a pretty girl....) In addition, Edward was a friendly, cheerful man who could easily be involved in games such as this.
On the other hand, Henry II was engaged in constant wars with France. Henry IV was an usurper who had to deal with periodic rebellions. And Edward IV lived during the Wars of the Roses. None of them had the petty cash to give the sorts of rewards mentioned here. - RBW