William II, king of England

William II or William Rufus ro͞oˈfus [key], 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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