Thursday, October 13, 2016


With William the Conquerer well established as King of England we now have his son and heir in that position.  More history from "Kings and Queens of England and Scotland".

WILLIAM II  1087-1100  Known as William Rufus

Born : ?1056

Succeeded as King of England 6 September, 1087, aged about 31.

Second surviving son of his predecesesor William,

Marriage:  None recorded.

Children:  None recorded.

Died:  2 August, 1100 from an arrow wound received in mysterious circumstances in the New Forest. aged about 44, having reigned 13 years. 

Buried:  Winchester Cathedral.

Profile:  Penetrating eyes, medium height,  thick build, red face, a lively man, wilfully unconventional in his deliberate blasphemy and colourful oaths, with which he often began a remark to cover an incipient stammer; extravagant with a particularly flamboyant taste in clothes.

William the Conqueror's eldest son, Robert, had rebelled against his father and had tried to seize Normandy.  There was a reconciliation, though the disloyalty grieved William even on his deathbed.  The Conqueror barred Robert from succession to the English throne, but bequeathed Normandy to him.  The next son, Richard, had died seven years earlier - ominously, in a hunting accident in the New Forest - and the Conqueror designated his next son, William, to sovereignty over England.

There was a fourth son, Henry, born after a succession of five daughters, and born after the Conqueror was crowned as King of England - "born in the purple" as the phrase was used.  Henry was convinced that this fact gave him a stronger claim to immediate accession than any of his elder brothers, and this conviction of his has been used to shed a sinister light on the events of his actual succession.

William Rufus has been generally described as avaricious, an oppressor of the Church, and in his private life totally immoral.  His avarice, which governed his attitude to the Church, may in part be explained by his realisation that his father, the Conqueror, had been too generous in his gifts of English land and had not reserved sufficient revenue for the extensive military operations which were still necessary to define and hold the borders of England.  Admittedly, he had a passion for personal pleasure and adornment, but he had to spend much more on a series of camaigns against the Scots and the Welsh - as a result of which he built Carlisle Castle and a chain of forts along the Welsh marches - as well as accepting the necessity of facing up to fairly continuous threats from his brother Robert of Normandy.  One of the means by which he raised his money was by not filling vacancies in abbeys and bishoprics, and letting the revenues accrue to his treasury.

In such circumstances, since it was the monks who were at that time the historians of England, it is understandable that he did not get favourable notices.  The gossip extended to his private life.  The fact that he did not marry is nowadays somewhat facilely interpreted as showing that he was homosexual.  This is not impossible, but what evidence there is m thought it is vague, is to the contrary.  His obscure death from an arrow-wound received in the New Forest has caused much later speculation, including a modern theory that it was the culmination of a ritual of ancient, pre-Christian, magic using the old formula of 'The King must die'  Walter Tyrell, the man said to have shot him by accident, always denied that he was there at all.  A recent theory that the act was murder at the instigation of Henry, who believed he had been lawful king since 1087, has the circumstantial backing that Henry was a member of the fatal hunting party and, as soon as he heard of his brother's death, he rode post-haste to Winchester to commandeer the royal treasury.  He took it immediately to London, while bearers more slowly brought Rufus's body to the cathedral.  It was buried with little ceremony, beneath the flagstones under the tower, and in the following year the tower fell down.  But even the propagandist monk who recorded this could not ascribe the fact to William's godlessness  'It would have fallen down in any case'. he conceded, 'because it was so badly built'.


  1. Hari OM
    Missed this bit of history - or the memory of learning it... maybe because it is hard to find any empathy for the character as depicted! Rufus may also have been 'badly built'... YAM xx

    1. My mind sort of goes blank after the Conqueror so it is good I am now learning more about his descendants etc. Maybe this fellow had a speech impediment cause by something like a hare lip? He certainly didn't seem a very likeable character. xx

  2. Thank you, these posts are always interesting.

    1. If we take it seriously I think all history is interesting and many of us enjoy it much more when we are older than when we were at school.

  3. So William the conqueror had nine children who all lived past childhood? I only ever learned about the Conqueror, nothing was said about his family apart from the successor.

    1. William the Conqueror 1066 was about all I knew of as well. I think anything learned at school about royalty was only about the well known ones or perhaps the notorious ones. I am enjoying learning more as I go along but how much I will retain I have no idea.

  4. That pleases me no end...thanks.
    Promise I will revisit your blog soon....we oldies take out time about doing things so you have to bear with us.