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William II

Today in 1100 AD, King William II of England was killed while hunting in the New Forest.

William II is quite an interesting character as he was the second son of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders. Technically his older brother Robert should have inherited the crown (King Robert of England? Would we have called him King Bob?) but their father decided to split his kingdom and gave Robert the Dukedom of Normandy while William got England. Their younger brother Henry was given some money.

In the end though Henry had the last laugh. Along with ruling the kingdom the King was expected to provide an heir to his line, but William II (also known as William Rufus) didn't marry, or have any illegitimate children that may have inherited (his own father, after all, had been born out of wedlock and still gained the Duchy of Normandy). When he died in a hunting accident, Henry rode across the country to the Royal treasury at Winchester, then rushed up to London and promptly had himself crowned as King.

This of course leads to the suggestion that William's accident was more of an assassination, planned and paid for by Henry. William was barely cold before Henry had himself crowned, and chroniclers at the time state that William's hunting buddies left him where he fell (rushing off to support their new King), he was taken to Winchester Cathedral and interred by a few "countrymen" (Normans, rather than English). Whether or not it's true is entirely unknown, Henry either had a great sense of timing and vision, or he didn't fear the consequences of being betrayed by a conspirator.

I've always found the story interesting though as when we drive down to visit my Grandmother in Dorset we pass a road sign pointing to "The Rufus Stone". This stone is a memorial that was supposedly placed in the spot where William was killed. Of course it's impossible to tell the real spot, the New Forest is large and it happened hundreds of years ago. But it's still a fitting tribute to England's second Norman king, and the New Forest itself is beautiful enough to warrent a visit anyway.

Have a nice evening!


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