William II of England Biography

William II, also known as Rufus, was the King of England from 1087 to 1100. He inherited the throne from his father, William I the Conqueror, and faced a rebellion from his elder brother, Robert, who sought to overthrow him. However, with the support of the English people, William II was able to defeat the rebellion and establish his authority. He also laid claim to Normandy and waged war against Robert, ultimately ruling over both England and Normandy. Despite facing numerous revolts, William II emerged triumphant and even ruled over Normandy as ‘de facto duke’. Tragically, he met his demise while hunting in the forest, with some speculating that it was an assassination orchestrated by his younger brother, Henry, who later took the English throne.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: William Rufus
  • Died At Age: 44
  • Family:
    • Father: William the Conqueror
    • Mother: Matilda of Flanders
    • Siblings: Henry I of England, Robert Curthose
  • Born Country: England
  • Died on: August 2, 1100
  • Place of Death: New Forest, Hampshire, England
  • Cause of Death: Accident

Childhood & Early Life

William II, also known as William Rufus, was born around 1056 in Normandy to William I the Conqueror, the King of England, and his wife, Matilda of Flanders. He was the third of four sons in the royal family and had several sisters. Rufus had two elder brothers, Robert Curthose and Richard, and a younger brother, Henry, as well as several sisters including Adela, Cecily, Agatha, and Constance. There were accounts of sibling rivalry and strained relations among the three surviving sons of William I. Rufus was believed to be his father’s favorite son and received education from Lanfranc of Pavia.

Accession & Reign

Shortly before his death, William I divided his inheritance among his sons. He gave the Duchy of Normandy to his eldest son, Robert, left a sum of money to Henry, and declared William as his successor to the English throne. In 1087, upon his father’s death, William Rufus became the King of England and was crowned by Lanfranc, the Archbishop of Canterbury. However, many nobles who owned lands in both England and Normandy wanted both territories to remain under one ruler. They launched a revolt known as the ‘Rebellion of 1088’ in favor of Robert, now the Duke of Normandy. Despite the revolt, William received strong support from loyal Normans in England and successfully attacked the rebel strongholds. In 1091, William invaded Normandy and took control over large areas of the Dukedom from Robert. After making peace with his brother, William Rufus and Robert joined forces to acquire Maine and Cotentin from their youngest brother, Henry. William also forced Malcolm Canmore, the King of Scots, to acknowledge his overlordship in 1091. This led to Malcolm’s rebellion in 1093, which ended with his death. William Rufus maintained control over Scotland and later conquered Wales. In 1095, a second baronial revolt broke out against William Rufus, but he led an army against the rebels and punished them harshly, solidifying his authority.

Personal Life & Legacy

William Rufus was killed while hunting on August 2, 1100, in the New Forest in Hampshire. He was shot by an arrow through the lung, believed to be an assassination. The arrow was shot by one of his own men, Walter Tirel, lord of Poix in Ponthieu. It was believed that Tirel killed William under orders from the king’s younger brother, Henry. Upon William’s death, Henry quickly secured the royal treasury and was crowned as King Henry I. William’s body was abandoned by the nobles at the place where he fell, but it was later found by a peasant and taken to Winchester Cathedral. His remains still rest there.

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