Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sons of William the Conqueror - William Rufus

William II also called William Rufus (c1056 - 1100) was king of England from 1087 - 1100.
William II, the Conqueror's son and successor, was known as William Rufus because of his ruddy complexion. He was initially popular: his first act as king was to distribute part of the royal treasure to monasteries, churches and the poor 'for his father's soul' and in 1088 he received popular support when he put down a series of uprisings led by Odo, bishop of Bayeux and earl of Kent, which he swiftly overwhelmed. The king, who thanked his people for their support and made promises of good government, was never to be so popular again. As soon as the danger of rebellion had passed, he increased taxation and and enforced royal privileges more strictly. Popular resentment grew. Only Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury, could control some of the king's excesses, and after the archbishop died in 1089 William's violence, impiety and disagreeable qualities became yet more evident.
The attempt to wrest Normandy from his brother Robert Curthose's control was a persistent obsession. He invaded in 1090, made peace a yea later, invaded again in 1093 and finally acquired the duchy in 1096 in exchange for 100,000 silver marks which Robert needed to join the First Crusade. The taxes William imposed in England to raise this sum were so severe the treasures of the churches and monasteries were melted down, and contemporaries alleged that many men were made homeless.

In 1091 he campaigned against Malcolm III of Scotland, and throughout his reign, tried in vein to subdue the Welsh, until eventually he gave up and built a line of castles along the Welsh marches. The burden of yet more taxes, to pay for these campaigns, together with poor weather and meagre harvests caused more suffering. He quarrelled with Anselm, Lafranc's successor as archbishop of Canterbury, about the right of a king to invest bishops and control elections, exiling him in 1097.

William Rufus was killed while hunting in the New Forest on 2 August 1100, in circumstances that have never been clarified. Although it was accepted as an accident, his death was also interpreted as an act of God against a dangerously irreligious king. So too was the collapse of the tower of Winchester cathedral, shortly after the king's burial there.

Medieval Monarchs edited by Elizabeth Hallam. Tiger Books International, 1996 p 18

[Williams's nephew, Richard (an illegitimate son of Robert Curthose) spent much of his time in his uncle's court. He died in May 1100, also the result of a hunting accident in the New Forest.]

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