Overview

William II

(c. 1060—1100) king of England


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

(c. 1060–1100),

king of England (1087–1100), known as ‘Rufus’, the second son of William the Conqueror, was a ruler whose reputation has suffered because of the opinions of contemporary ecclesiastics, appalled by his sometimes cynical attitude to religion. William became England's king as a result of his father's death‐bed bequest. Whether his succession should be interpreted as involving the disinheritance of his elder brother Robert Curthose is a controversial matter which cannot be conclusively resolved from the existing sources. Whatever the case, the consequence was that William rapidly faced widespread revolt in England in 1088 in support of Robert, who had acquired Normandy. After defeating his opponents, William set out to weaken Robert's increasingly fragile hold on the duchy, organizing expeditions there in 1091 and 1094. In 1096 Robert mortgaged the duchy to William in order to take part in the First Crusade, and from then until his death, William ruled over his father's cross‐channel realm. William also consolidated Norman rule in northern England, establishing effective royal power at Carlisle, and he supported the continuing Norman‐French penetration of Wales. His provocative remarks offended more scrupulous clergy and he lacked the sincerity of belief which had ensured his father's good relations with the church. These factors contributed to his quarrel with St Anselm, the gifted theologian and philosopher whose appointment to Canterbury had been dramatically sanctioned by the king as he lay seriously ill at Gloucester in 1093. A series of arguments culminated in the archbishop going into exile in 1097 and remaining out of England until after William's death. William was killed while hunting in the New Forest on 2 August 1100. His death was probably an accident; all arguments that he was murdered rest on highly circumstantial evidence. The nickname ‘Rufus’ first appeared in the early 12th cent., and refers either to red hair or to a ruddy complexion.

Subjects: British History.


Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »


Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.