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 Wiliam Rufus

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Ian
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PostSubject: Wiliam Rufus   Sat 26 Jul 2008, 7:03 am

Whilst getting the new sites gazetteer filled I looked into the death of William II (Rufus). There has been a suggestion (the earliest book I found mentioning it was 1960 ish) that Rufus was killed as pagan sacrifice, fulfilling the role of the 'Divine Victim' (a King killed after 7 years ruling) to negotiate a good harvest with the Gods. Has anyone heard more on this?

The Rufus stone (now encased in metal) marks the location where King William II of England (referred to as William Rufus due to his red faced complexion) died in a hunting accident on 2 August 1100. Some mystery still envelopes the events of his death.

William was a ruthless ruler and considered to be ‘hated by almost all his people’ according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and who disliked England in return. On the day of his death he was hunting in the New Forest. Before setting out he was presented with six new arrows of high craftsmanship by an armourer with which he was very pleased. He kept four of the arrows and gave two to his friend Walter Tyrrel, Lord of Poix, reputedly saying “It is only right that the sharpest be given to the man who knows how to shoot the deadliest shots”. This indicates that Tyrrel was an accomplished marksman.

During the hunt William and Tyrell became separated from the rest of the hunting party. William died at the hands of Tyrell whilst they were in the woods, shot in the chest by one of the arrows the King had given to him. According to William of Malmesbury, Tyrell shot at a stag but the shot went wild, missed the target and hit the King. Rufus, a soldier would have known how serious the injury was. He reputedly snapped the arrow shaft protruding from his chest without saying a word, then fell forward onto wound, pushing what remained of the arrow deeper into him where it had already punctured a lung. Walter Tyrell was convinced that no-one would believe it was an accident and he fled.

When William was found by the other nobles they left his body and returned home as fast as they could to secure their property and interests, as the King, an absolute monarch dying without being married or having children created an unstable political situation. Williams brother Henry, who had been amongst the hunting party and was next inline to the throne wasted no time in arranging a coronation for himself.

It was left to a charcoal-burner called Purkis (Purkess) to carry the Williams body to Winchester on his old cart after he stumbled across the body.

It has been said that a chronicler of Tyrell called Abbot Suger who knew him in whilst he was exiled in France claimed that Walter made a solemn oath that he was no where near the King on the day he was shot dead and never saw him in the forest.

Was it murder or was it an accident?

The Legends

It is said that William had received word of warning dream had by a monk concerning his death that day whilst out hunting, but he had ignored it.

Before hitting William, the arrow is supposed to have glanced of an Oak tree. This tree was then supposed to grow leaves each Christmas morning, only to shed them before midnight.

When Purkis was conveying the body to Winchester it left a crimson blood trail behind which flocks of mourners gathered around as the cart made its journey.

There are claims that the death was known about as far away as Devonshire on the day on which he was killed, which is unlikely unless it was pre-planned.

A ghostly funeral procession is sad to haunt the Rufus Stone and follow the route which his body was taken. But given he did have such a procession, I am unsure about this account.

William Rufus is said to haunt the New Forest. He was said to have been seen around Stoney Cross for many years after his death.

At Castle Malwood a pond was said to turn the colour of blood on the anniversary of his death.

It has been suggested that Rufus was killed as part of a Pagan ritual where he took the role of the ‘Sacrificial King’ or ‘Divine Victim’.

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Last edited by Ian on Sat 26 Jul 2008, 10:17 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Sat 26 Jul 2008, 8:44 am

Seems to me like death by natural causes Smile seeing as how Henry was there.
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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Tue 29 Jul 2008, 2:48 am

If I remember correctly the same thing was alleged about the famous Charles Walton case by Margaret Murray. Robert Graves, as much as I find him an extremely good writer and a competent researcher, was seemingly obsessed with the "Divine Victim" idea.
As for poor King William I personally believe he was either victim of a hunting accident (a more common happening than we may think) or was murdered by one of the many persons he wronged in his lifetime. Despite the recent historical attempts to rehabilitate his figure (see John Gillingham's William II for example ) he was deeply unpopular at the time. He was a good general, though he lacked his father's tactical and strategical genius, but made himself deeply unpopular with the Church, the great nobles on both side of the Channel and even the commoners. In fact the heavy taxes he levied to finance his brother's partecipation to the First Crusade may well have the straw that broke the camel's back.
As you can see there was no shortage of persons who had more than a passing interest in seeing him dead.
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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Tue 29 Jul 2008, 6:18 am

I have even found a comment that relates to the Biddenden Maids being somekind of anomalous omen concerning the accidental death/muder/sacrifice of Rufus.

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PostSubject: william rufus   Mon 04 Aug 2008, 3:52 am

I live about 3 miles from the site of Rufus' death and every year I go to the site in the early evening in the hope of seeing his ghost which is reputed to appear and walk to Winchester following the route of his body in 1100. Sadly, I cannot report ever seeing the ghost but every year at exactly 9pm (BST!) at least one deer will appear in the clearing. It is quite spooky . . . .

My son and I are planning on doing the Purkis Walk on the anniversary of the death starting at about 9pm which is supposed to be the time that Purkis found the body. We were going to do it this year as it was very conveniently on a Saturday (not have to go to work the next day!) but the weather forecast was horrible (and, indeed, it did pour with rain overnight)

There are several things to ponder relating to the death though:

1. Why did Purkis walk all the way to Winchester with the body when the King's hunting party came from Castle Malwood which is only about 15 - 20 minutes walk away. Why not just take him there?

2. Why did Tirel go all the way across the Forest to get a ship to France? Southampton - bigger port/more ships etc - is much closer?
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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Mon 04 Aug 2008, 6:13 am

I heard that there is a new theory out suggesting the Rufus Stone is in the wrong place and that the King was found many miles from there. If this is the case it may explain the movements of Tirel and Purkis. I may also explain the lack of movement for the ghosts.

I also found a mention of an illigitimate son of Rufus who suffered a near identical fate. It was suggested he had been used as a sacrifice first to see if they could avoid killing Rufus.

Personally though I find it rather telling that his youngest brother was ready and able to usurp the brother that was actually next inline to the throne. He must have had a plan in place surely.

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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Mon 04 Aug 2008, 12:40 pm

Just an observation here, the year was 1100 only 34 years after Will the 1st conqured England. There would have been a lot of hatred towards Will II as im assuming he was a Norman, why couldnt the assasin (thats if he was murdered) be a local Saxon ? Were there any Saxon Lords on the hunting trip ? Or... was Walter a Saxon who despised his "freind" enough to commit murder away from the hunting party, sort of like the two Sgt's in Platoon. But as Ian mentioned, his youngest brother was there and what better way to climb the slippery pole than to get rid of the man standing on your head.

As far as the sacfrice goes, i'm sure there were still pockets of resistance around against the christian church and would still belive in the old ways. Or maybe even the church had him done in, Mauro mentions he had upset the church and they didnt like that sort of thing, look what happenend to the knights templar...
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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Tue 05 Aug 2008, 4:39 am

The Anglo-Saxon resistance against the Normans and their allies is a too-often forgotten chapter of history which is recently coming to light. May I suggest English Resistance by Peter Rex? A very fine book (non-fiction) on the matter.
But as I said, William Rufus was deeply unpopular.
As was common for rulers of the time he interferred with the Church's internal affairs, but he much exacerbated this with his openly declared hatred for Anselm of Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury, and by stalling bishop nominations for years to an end in order to appropriate the revenues.
He made himself hateful to the great Norman baronage, which supplied his entire military strength, on both side of the Channel in virtue of his grinding taxation and fearful punishments for rebels. Today we might assume that a rebellious baron was to be tortured, imprisoned etc but back then a noble, even a rebellious one, was to be treated differently from a commoner. Usual punishment for rebellion was paying a heavy fine, humiliation in front of the king, ceding part of your lands to the Crown etc with exile being reserved for the losing side in succesion issues. Harming a noble, even a rebellious one, outside of the battlefield was an issue not to be taken lightly. William tortured and imprisoned many nobles and a least one of them, William of Eu, was blinded and castrated according to the revolting Byzantine customs the Normas had picked up during their wars in Sicily and Apulia.
Finally there was the issue of grinding taxation for commoners. The Domesday Book was written for taxation purpose and England, despite a considerably smaller population than France or the Holy Roman Empire, had much greater fiscal incomes. There was much resentment over this issue and, as I said before, the large tax imposed in 1096 to finance Robert Curhose's, William's brother, partecipation to the First Crusade was particulary resented.
As I said before there was no lack of people who wanted him dead. And the fact that most clerical chroniclers, like Abbot Suger and William of Malmesbury, openly talk about this murder as an "Act of God" give a good measure of the hatred he generated.
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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Tue 05 Aug 2008, 6:06 am

Is it also significant that Richard, another brother of Rufus, also suffered a hunting accident in the Forest in 1084 (gored by a stag, apparently)? Was Henry quietly killing off his siblings in order to inherit? He certainly claimed the throne with rather indecent haste . . . . and, as others have said, Rufus, for various reasons, was not popular.

Re the recent theory that Rufus was actually killed elsewhere. The theory I came across was that he was killed at Througham, right down on the coast. However, this seems unlikely as it is documented that the King was staying at Castle Malwood and assuming the story re Purkis is correct, there has been a Purkis family in Minstead (where Castle Malwood is) since before the Conquest. It would have been a very long ride from Minstead to Througham and there is no historical evidence of a hunting lodge in that area although there are several documented sites of other hunting lodges throughout the Forest.
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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Tue 05 Aug 2008, 1:09 pm

Heres a good bit of info regarding the English resistance to the Normans.

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Aegean/3532/resist.htm

It doesnt go as far as 1100 though, but is a good read.
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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Sun 10 Aug 2008, 4:26 pm

Year ago I read that William Rufus was killed because he had made advances to another noble. i.e. killed because he was a homosexual. Has anyone ever seen anything about this?
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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Mon 11 Aug 2008, 3:02 am

Not heard that one before Wombat, though I believe he was single.

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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Wed 20 Aug 2008, 3:14 pm

Hi I'm new to the forum, in fact I joined after seeing this very post, as I'm currently writing an alternative history book in which Rufus figures prominently. So I can offer a few observations.

My own take on the death is that it was an assassination on behalf of Henry. As an earlier post pointed out, Henry was too quick off the mark and apparently news of the death was announced across the country with unusual swiftness as if it was expected. The actual perpertrators were probably the de Clare family, then courtiers later the richest nobles in the land in Henrys reign. Evidence for this is also that Walter Tyrell was the son in law of Earl de Clare and a known marksman. The Earl's father had already led a revolt against Rufus in favour of Robert his brother, but his son seems to have prefered Henry. When Henry swiftly took the throne it wasnt long before the nobles supporting Rufus had their lands broken up and a new aristocracy began to replace them. Prominent in the new aristocracy were the de Clares and Beaumonts (both of whom had family members on the hunt) and their relatives. While the Tyrell family also prospered and eventually Walter returned. There were no charges against anyone. It seems pretty clear what happened. Though a new book on Rufus has just been released which claims to shed more light on the affair, which I shall be reading with interest.

As for other possible culprits and deaths, yes Rufus had many enemies but something like this is unprecedented and I think would have had to have had high up approval. Certainly many of the nobility, the Church and the ordinary people were glad to see him dead. The conscious conspiracy may have been small but the tacit support would have been almost universal. Interesting the other deaths in the forest were of Rufus' brother Richard in 1081 and Robert's bastard son Richard in 1099, both of whom stood in Rufus' way rather than Henry's. I think hunting deaths were a standard form of assassination in this period and Rufus or his 'pagan' advisor Ranulf Flambard were responsible for these early murders. So perhaps Henry and the de Clares thought the demise poetic justice?

Was it a pagan sacrifice though? I think in part some thought it was and were involved on that basis, but most saw it as murder. Some, particular at the lower end of the social scale, may have needed the 'legitimisation' of the ritual to get past the mental block of killing a king, who at that time was still commonly regarded as God's agent on Earth (by those unrelated to him).

As for Tyrell's route its doubtful he'd risk the obvious one if he's on the run I would think.

There was certainly a hint of paganism and witchcraft in the aristocracy at that time and certainly strong folk traditions at the grassroots, details of which will be in my book. The same families go on to support the Templars in England, and later are involved in the Robin Hood legend and various 'pagan' manifestations there after, which is the main thesis of the book.

Two last observations, the simplistic Norman vs Saxon picture is very misleading, it applies to the early period in general, but by the Rufus period there are 'long haired Normans' who have gone native and are quite friendly with the Saxons. Even in the early days rebel Norman barons supported Saxon revolts and Saxon churchmen supported the Norman repression of them. When Robert of Normandy tried to over throw both Rufus and Henry he had the Saxon heir Edgar the Aetheling as his ally. So its more complex than any 'racial' or 'national' division, in fact such divisions were largely unknown at the time among Europeans. Another thing that was viewed differently was homosexuality. Theres a lot of circumstancial evidence that Rufus wasn't heterosexual, and may have flirted with some of the nobles, one fictional work, the Lord of the Wood, suggests this as a factor in the murder. But there was no stigma on this in those days as it was quite common and most would have viewed it as their duty no doubt.

Theres also a great account of Rufus attempting to use witchcraft to defend himself before he's killed, but alas probably an apocryphal story.

Steve Ash
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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Wed 20 Aug 2008, 3:31 pm

I see you have some other facinating posts on the forum that I've researched a fair bit, I'll return to add by twopence worth to these when I can too.
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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Wed 20 Aug 2008, 3:53 pm

Hi Steve, welcome to the forum and thank you for for posting...and what a first post Very Happy . I think your probably right about it being a political assassination. Your book sounds very interesting and would probably appeal to many of the readers on our main website which can be reached through the link at the top. You'll have to keep us posted about it is coming along.

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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Thu 21 Aug 2008, 6:43 am

Steve - I'd echo the welcomes and praise on your post, wow!
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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Mon 25 Aug 2008, 5:50 am

Thanks. Yes will do Wink
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PostSubject: Re: Wiliam Rufus   Mon 25 Aug 2008, 12:48 pm

Hi steve, welcome to the forum, excellent post i must add. Pop along to the introduce yourself bit of the the forum and tell us a bit about yourself Smile
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