William II Rufus, King of England
WILLIAM II RUFUS, KING OF ENGLAND
Reigned from Sept. 26, 1087, to Aug. 2, 1100; b.1056. William Rufus, as he was called, was the third son of william i the Conqueror. It is possible, but not certain that he was raised and educated in Lanfranc's care; although he may have received some religious training, he later went in another direction. Inheriting the kingdom of England (but not Normandy) at his father's will, he thwarted a general conspiracy in 1087–88, and another in 1095. On his accession in 1087, Lanfranc forced him to promise better laws and redress of grievances, and to care for the Church. But on Lanfranc's death in 1089, Rufus began his repression and almost a systematic looting of the English Church. He left abbacies and bishoprics vacant and collected their revenues for the royal treasury, leaving the monks barely enough to live on. Indeed, he even dispersed some of the monks from the abbeys lacking abbots. Most grievous of all was his exploitation of Canterbury during its vacancy, and Rufus's refusal to appoint a new archbishop for four years. It was only in the midst of a serious illness, when he thought he was on his deathbed, that the king appointed Anselm of Bec to the archbishopric of Canterbury. After unsuccessfully trying to extort a simoniacal payment from Anselm, Rufus then attempted to bribe Pope Urban II to hand Anselm's pallium over to the king for conferral on the archbishop—a precedent that would have spelled disaster for Canterbury's future. Anselm thwarted the king and received the pallium from the altar of Canterbury "as if from the hand of St. Peter." When William's brother, Robert Curthose, duke of Normandy, pledged the duchy to Rufus for 10,000 marks in 1096 to finance his journey on the First Crusade, Rufus had gained all the dominions of his father. When in autumn 1097 Anselm pressed the king to hold a reforming, kingdom-wide Council, and to enforce reforms within the English Church, Rufus refused, and the archbishop concluded that the king would never acquiesce in the reform of the Church. Thus, when Anselm determined to set out for Rome to consult the pope, Rufus confiscated the archbishopric and drove Anselm, penniless, into exile. Rufus was about to receive Aquitaine in pawn from Count William IX, who also wished to participate in the First Crusade, when suddenly he died in a hunting accident in the New Forest. Although there was later much talk of a conspiracy and murder, chiefly because his brother, henry i, galloped to Winchester and seized the treasury and the crown, it has been argued persuasively that Henry was not responsible for his brother's death. Rufus died unmarried and without issue. He received much criticism from the monastic chroniclers for his anti-religious manner and clear disrespect of and exploitation of the Church; but during his reign important administrative progress was made.
Bibliography: f. barlow, William Rufus (Berkeley 1983). r.w. southern, St. Anselm and his Biographer (New York 1963). s. n. vaughn, Anselm of Bec and Robert of Meulan (Berkeley 1981). r. w. southern, Saint Anselm: A Portrait in a Landscape (Cambridge 1990). c. w. hollister, Henry I (New Haven 2001). o. vitalis, The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, ed. tr. m. chibnall 6 v. (Oxford 1969–1980). eadmer, Historia Novorum in Anglia, ed. m. rule [Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores 81 (London 1884)]. eadmer, The Life of St. Anselm by Eadmer, ed. tr. r. w. southern (Oxford 1972). The Letters of Saint Anselm of Canterbury, tr. w. frÖlich 3 v. (Kalamazoo 1990–94)