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William II

William II

William II (ca. 1058-1100) called William Rufus, "the Red," was king of England from 1087 to 1100. He attempted to wrest Normandy from his brother, and he quarreled about his rights over the Church with Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury.

William II was the second surviving son of William I and Matilda of Flanders. On the death of William I his lands were divided; his elder son Robert became Duke of Normandy, while William Rufus received England. He was crowned on Sept. 26, 1087. He had almost at once to face a rebellion in favor of Robert, led by their uncle Odo, Earl of Kent and Bishop of Bayeux. The rebels were defeated largely with the help of English levies, to whom William promised, among other things, less taxation and milder forest laws, but he did not keep his promise. In 1091 he attacked Normandy with some success; by the treaty of Rouen, Robert let him hold what he had won in return for help in restoring order and regaining the county of Maine. These promises too were only partially fulfilled.

Archbishop Lanfranc died in 1089. William, who seems to have been openly irreligious, kept the see vacant and exploited the leaderless Church through his able and unpopular minister Ranulf Flambard. But in 1093, thinking he was dying, he appointed as archbishop Anselm, Abbot of Bec, a leading theologian, who made every effort to decline the office. The King recovered, shook off his superstitious fears, and soon quarreled with the archbishop. The first dispute arose over the recognition of one of two rival popes; more trouble arose over the poor quality of the archbishop's knights; in addition William would not allow Anselm to visit the Pope to obtain his pallium. A council at Rockingham (February 1095) failed to make a decision about the arch-bishop's rights. The King wished for his deposition but was outmaneuvered by a papal legate to England.

In 1096 Duke Robert decided to go on crusade. To finance his expedition he offered to pledge the duchy to William for 100,000 marks. William raised the money in England and so got control of Normandy, where he restored order and attacked Maine and the French Vexin. He was considering a similar bargain with the Duke of Aquitaine, but on Aug. 2, 1100, while hunting in the New Forest with his brother Henry, he was killed by an arrow shot by Walter Tirel. His body was brought by a forester to Winchester and buried without ceremony in the Cathedral, while his brother seized his treasure and his throne.

William was an able ruler and in his disputes with Anselm was only claiming rights which his father had exercised. His reputation suffered because he was a homosexual and an irreligious man in an age when prejudices were strong and nearly all history was written by churchmen.

Further Reading

Useful information about William Rufus is provided in the biography of his brother by Charles Wendell David, Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy (1920). A good account of the England of William's time is in A. Lane Poole, From Domesday Book to Magna Carta, 1087-1216 (1951; 2d ed. 1955), and of Normandy in Charles Homer Haskins, Norman Institutions (1918).

Additional Sources

Barlow, Frank, William Rufus, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983. □

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William II (king of England)

William II or William Rufus (rōō´fus), d. 1100, king of England (1087–1100), son and successor of William I. He was called William Rufus or William the Red because of his ruddy complexion.

His first act as king was to put down the effort of his uncle, Odo of Bayeux, to seat William I's eldest son, Robert II, duke of Normandy, on the English throne. Having quelled the rebellion in England, William invaded (1090) Normandy, secured a portion of Robert's lands, and then agreed to help his brother regain lands, most notably Maine, that Robert had previously lost. After his return to England, William forced Malcolm III of Scotland to do him homage (1091) and seized (1092) the city of Carlisle from the Scots. Having quarreled with Robert over their agreement of 1091, William again invaded Normandy in 1094 and bribed Philip I of France to withdraw his support from Robert.

In 1095 he suppressed an English rebellion led by the earl of Northumberland and made an unsuccessful expedition against the Welsh. A second Welsh campaign in 1097 was also ineffective, but in that year William gained control of the Scottish throne by sanctioning the successful expedition of Edgar Atheling to dethrone Malcolm III's son Donald Bane. In the meantime Robert, who needed money to go on the First Crusade, had pledged (1096) his duchy to William in return for the sum of 10,000 marks. From 1097 to 1099 William was engaged primarily in campaigns in France, securing and holding northern Maine but failing in his attempt to seize the French Vexin. At the time of his death he was planning to occupy Aquitaine.

William ruled England with a strong hand and aroused the hatred particularly of the church, for which he had utter contempt. He extorted large sums of money from the church by the sale of church appointments and by leaving sees and abbeys vacant so that their revenues would come to him. Although responsible for the appointment (1093) of Saint Anselm as archbishop of Canterbury, he quarreled with the archbishop over the question of investiture and finally drove him into exile in 1097. William was killed by an arrow while on a hunting party, and there is some evidence to suggest that his death was not an accident. The English throne was immediately seized by his younger brother, Henry I.

See E. A. Freeman, The Reign of William Rufus (1882, repr. 1970); A. L. Poole, From Domesday Book to Magna Carta (2d ed. 1955); D. W. Grinnell-Milne, The Killing of William Rufus (1968).

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William II (prince of Orange)

William II, 1626–50, prince of Orange, stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands (1647–50), son and successor of Frederick Henry. He married (1641) Mary, eldest daughter of Charles I of England. His ambitious projects brought him into conflict with the great merchants of Amsterdam. He opposed acceptance of the Treaty of Münster (1648), despite its recognition of the independence of the Netherlands, and he immediately began secret negotiations with France, having as his purpose the extension of his territory, the centralization of his government, and the restoration of his brother-in-law, Charles II, to the English throne. The prompt resistance he encountered from the states of Holland was not broken by William's imprisonment of its leaders (1650). He next turned his attention to external affairs and was negotiating a treaty with France when he died of smallpox. He was succeeded by his posthumous son, the future William III of England.

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William II (king of the Netherlands)

William II, 1792–1849, king of the Netherlands and grand duke of Luxembourg (1840–49), son and successor of William I. He served with Wellington in the Peninsular War, was wounded at Waterloo, and led the Dutch army in the Belgian revolution (1830), after his father had failed to approve his efforts at conciliation. Called to the throne upon the abdication of his father (1840), William II was immediately confronted with a grave financial problem, which was solved by raising a "voluntary loan" among the people. Demand mounted for constitutional revision, but the king resisted the liberal movement, led by Jan Thorbecke, until the revolutionary spirit of 1848 induced him to grant the desired reforms. He was succeeded by his son, William III.

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William II (king of Sicily)

William II (William the Good), c.1153–1189, king of Sicily (1166–89), son and successor of William I. He married (1177) Joan, daughter of Henry II of England. As an ally of Pope Alexander III and the Lombard League, he was at war with Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I, but in 1184 he made peace in order to resume the attempts of his grandfather, Roger II, to conquer the Byzantine Empire. He took Durazzo and Salonica, but was defeated (1185) by Isaac II. When he died childless, his kingdom was claimed by his aunt Constance, whom he had designated as his successor, but the crown went instead to his cousin Tancred of Lecce.

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William II

William II ( Rufus) (1056–1100) King of England (1087–1100). He was the second surviving son of William I (the Conqueror). His elder brother, Robert Curthose ( Robert II), was Duke of Normandy, and William had to crush revolts by Anglo-Norman lords in Robert's favour. He invaded the Duchy twice, and in 1096 Robert mortgaged it to him to raise cash for the First Crusade. He invaded Scotland, later killing Malcolm III (1093), annexed Cumbria, and subdued Wales (1097). He was killed hunting in the New Forest allegedly although improbably, by accident.

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