History Profile: King William II (Rufus)
Place of Birth: Normandy
Date of death: 2 August 1100
Successor: Henry I
Openly homosexual and sceptical of the church in a time where questioning Church doctrine was almost unheard of, King William II was the favourite son of his father, William I (the Conqueror). In 1087 William inherited the throne of England from his father; his elder brother Robert received Normandy while his younger brother Henry received money. A warrior like his father who stammered when he spoke, William worked to extend his father’s conquest of England into Wales and Scotland. He forced King Malcolm Canmore of Scotland (of Shakespeare’s “MacBeth” fame for his death at MacBeth’s hands) to swear fealty to him and acknowledge him as overlord. In Gwynedd Wales he retained King Harold Godwinson’s puppet King Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, using him to displace King Gruffydd ap Cynan and force him into exile in Ireland. In 1093 in Deheubarth, William II’s knights killed King Rhys ap Tewdur at the Battle of Brycheiniog, forcing his four sons into exile, including Prince Gruffydd ap Rhys (the future husband to King Gruffydd ap Cynan’s daughter, Princess Gwenllian).
William Rufus ordered the construction of some of the most famous and infamous castles in all of Wales including Chepstow Castle (1087, the year of his coronation) in Carmarthanshire and Pembroke Castle (birth place to Prince Gruffydd ap Rhys and Princess Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd’s descendent, King Henry VII) in Pembrokeshire in 1093.
In England William Rufus was a passionate hunter who continued his father’s cruel Forest Laws (of Robin Hood fame) and extended them. It was his love of hunting that opened the door for his younger brother Henry. On 2 August 1100 under mysterious circumstances King William was struck in the lung by an arrow. Walter Tirel is given the blame for firing the deadly arrow; many believe it was done on Prince Henry’s orders as a way of getting rid of a violent, impious, and almost universally hated king.
Though most people consider Henry I’s descendent King John the most hated king in medieval history, the prize rightfully belongs to King William Rufus whose wars and violent nature not only made him the bane of most English women and men but set the stage for the challenges still experienced forging a united kingdom out of England, Scotland, Wales, and northern Ireland.