William II of England, called William Rufus (probably because of his red beard or because of his red face when in anger) was born around 1056 as the third son of William the Conqueror (William I) in the Duchy of Normandy.
He was King of England from 1087 until 1100, with powers over Normandy, and influence in Scotland.
William was a great soldier, but according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle “hateful to almost all his people and odious to God.” Well…I guess not everyone liked his constant struggle with the church and he is one of the most maligned kings of England.
William was a bit outré though and rather contentiously and did not spare a thought about marrying or even “producing” heirs. (There were no illegitimate children either and it is widely believed that he was homosexual. Orderic Vitalis and William of Malmesbury seem to hint to that.)
Rufus was his father’s favourite son und thus succeeded him to the throne after his death.
He was educated by Lanfranc, the Archbishop of Canterbury and seemed to have a very special relationship to his brothers. Orderic Vitalis relates an incident that took place at L’Aigle, in 1077 or 1078: William and Henry, having grown bored with casting dice, decided to make mischief by emptying a chamber pot onto their brother Robert from an upper gallery, thus infuriating and shaming him. I mean…guuuuuh…ewwwwww!) A brawl broke out, and their father King William I was forced to intercede to restore order.
William Rufus died 2 August 1100 while hunting.
An account by Orderic Vitalis describes the preparations for the hunt:
“an armourer came in and presented to [William] six arrows. The King immediately took them with great satisfaction, praising the work, and unconscious of what was to happen, kept four of them himself and held out the other two to Walter Tyrrel … saying “It is only right that the sharpest be given to the man who knows how to shoot the deadliest shots”
On the subsequent hunt that afternoon, the party spread out as they chased their prey, and William, in the company of Walter Tyrell (or Tirel), Lord of Poix, and many other magnates. An arrow, perhaps grazing a stag, lodged in the breast of the king, who, falling forward drove it through his lung and died on the spot, without, the chroniclers note with grim satisfaction, time to confess his sins.
William’s body was abandoned by the nobles at the place where he fell, because the law and order of the kingdom died with the king, and they had to flee to their English or Norman estates to secure their interests. William’s younger brother, Henry, hastened to Winchester to secure the royal treasury, then to London, where he was crowned within days, before either archbishop could arrive. The inscription on the Rufus Stone indicates that it was left to a local charcoal-burner named Purkis, to take the king’s body to Winchester Cathedral on his cart. At Winchester, left without a bishop like many other sees, while the king garnered the income, hasty and simple obsequies were in charge of the cathedral prior.
According to the chroniclers, William’s death was not murder. Walter and William had been hunting together when Walter let loose a wild shot that, instead of hitting the stag he aimed for, struck William in the chest. Walter tried to help him, but there was nothing he could do. Fearing that he would be charged with murder, Walter panicked, leapt onto his horse, and fled.
The inscription on the Rufus Stone reads “Here stood the oak tree, on which an arrow shot by Sir Walter Tyrrell at a stag, glanced and struck King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, on the breast, of which he instantly died, on the second day of August, anno 1100. King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, being slain, as before related, was laid in a cart, belonging to one Purkis, and drawn from hence, to Winchester, and buried in the Cathedral Church, of that city.”
William’s remains are in Winchester Cathedral, scattered among royal mortuary chests positioned on the presbytery screen, flanking the choir.
I drew him the way I see him – as always. :)
Faber-Castell Watercolour-Pencils “Albrecht Dürer”
Derwent Soluble Graphite Pencils “Graphitint”
A5 watercolour paper 300g/m²