You are hereForums / Mysterious Britain / Folklore and Legends / William Rufus

William Rufus

12 replies [Last post]
User offline. Last seen 8 years 11 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 8 Nov 2008
William Rufus

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

Ian Topham's picture
Ian Topham
User offline. Last seen 3 weeks 3 days ago. Offline
Joined: 23 Jul 2008

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.



Recent comments

Featured Site