William II

b. c. 1060
d. 2 Aug 1100, New Forest, near Lyndhurst, Hampshire

Title: Dei Gracia Rex Anglorum (By the Grace of God, King of the English) [1]
Term: 26 Sep 1087 - 2 Aug 1100
Chronology: 26 Sep 1087, crowned, Westminster Abbey
  2 Aug 1100, died
Names/titles: Byname: William Rufus (the Red) [French: Guillaume le Roux]

On his deathbed William the Conqueror named his third son, William, as his successor in England. While the Conqueror was still alive, William was sent to England with a letter to Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, desiring the latter to make him king. William II was anointed and crowned by Lanfranc on 26 Sep 1087.

In 1088 William II quelled a rebellion of Norman barons in England, who conspired with the king's uncle, Odo of Bayeux, with a purpose to transfer the English throne to William's older brother, Robert, duke of Normandy. In his turn, William landed in Normandy [2] in 1091 and occupied part of the duchy, but he was called back by the news that King Malcolm III of Scotland had invaded England. Without fighting, William forced the King of Scots to pay him homage and in 1092 seized the city of Carlisle and other areas claimed by Malcolm, who again invaded England, but was killed on 13 Nov 1093 in Northumberland. Aided by his chief advisor, Ranulf Flambard, William II obtained vast sums of money by imposing exorbitant taxes and by extorting funds from the barons and the church, and greatly profited from clerical vacancies. The second attempt to conquer Normandy in 1094 failed and William returned to England, where he found himself in conflict with Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, who resisted the king's actions to undermine the authority of the church. In 1096, Duke Robert pawned Normandy to William for 10,000 marks to finance his departure to the Holy Land on the first Crusade. In September 1096, William received from Robert in person, as a pledge for the payment of the loan, the possession of the duchy for a period of at least three years. On 2 Aug 1100, William rode out to hunt in the New Forest. He was shot with an arrow by one of his company and died almost instantly.

[1] The words DEI GRACIA appearing on the Great Seal since the time of William II, were not, as a rule, added to the style of the king in charters and writs until May 1172, when Henry II commenced a practice which has since been consistently followed.
[2] Absent from England: 2 Feb 1091 - Aug 1091; 19 Mar 1094 - 29 Dec 1094; Sep 1096 - 4 Apr 1097; 11 Nov 1097 - about 10 Apr 1099. Ranulf Flambard, Bishop of Durham (from 1099), carried out the administration.
[3] "William Rufus", by Frank Barlow (University of California Press, Berkeley 1983, republished 2000).
[4] Handbook of British Chronology (1986)
Last updated on: 14 Mar 2010 03:57:35