Family tree for William II, son of William I showing:
William II was born around 1057 and died on 2nd August 1100. He was the third son of King William I and Matilda of Flanders. He was given the nickname rufus because he had red hair. William spent his early childhood in Normandy where his father was Duke.
William was 9 years old when his father learned that Harold Godwinson had become King of England despite swearing an oath to support his father’s claim to the throne. The Duke of Normandy raised a force and in September 1066 invaded England. King Harold was killed and his Anglo-Saxon army defeated at the Battle of Hastings on 14th October 1066. Although the English initially refused to submit to William by December they had little choice and William Duke of Normandy was crowned King William I on 25th December 1066. The rebellions against his rule continued.
William Rufus, his mother, Matilda, and younger siblings travelled to England in 1068, leaving elder brother Robert in charge of Normandy. Matilda was crowned Queen of England in May and in September William’s younger brother Henry was born. As ruler of both England and Normandy, William I was forced to divide his time between both lands and it is likely that William would have accompanied his father.
King of England
King William I died in 1087 and left Normandy to his eldest son Robert and England to William, his elder brother Richard had died in 1075.
William Rufus was crowned King William II on 26th September 1087. However, he faced opposition to his rule from a large number of nobles, including his uncle, Odo of Bayeux, who believed Robert should have inherited Normandy and England. William and Robert finally made peace in 1091 when they decided to be each other’s heirs.
William II enjoyed wining and dining, dressed fashionably and had little time for the church or religion. He quarrelled with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Anselem of Bec who wanted the church to have a greater say in the government of the country. Bec was also very critical of William’s lifestyle and his very close friendship with Ranulf Flambard. It was only after the Pope intervened that a resolution was found.
On 2nd August 1100, William II was hunting in the New Forest. He was killed by an arrow fired by Walter Tirel, one of those hunting with the King. Tirel was not charged with murder and hunting accidents were quite common, so it is likely contemporaries believed it to be an accident. However, some people believe he was murdered on the order of his younger brother Henry who seized the throne on his brother’s death.
First published 2017; updated and re-published Sept 11 2020 @ 1:45 pm – Updated –
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2017 – 2020). King William II, Rufus, c1057 – 1100. Available: https://www.treesofblue.com/king-william-ii-rufus-c1057-1100. Last accessed April 28th, 2021