In this seminar, we will consider the oft-overlooked and consequently under-researched reign of William (The Conqueror) I’ s son, William II and how this affected the Isles in general.
When considering the relationship of the Norman kings with their sons it is important to remember that not only was there the English throne but Normandy and bits of what is now France that were close to Normandy. As we will have read earlier the latter lands were places where ambitious nobles, intrusive bishops and unwelcomes kings (usually of France) were forever stirring things up, and as the Kings (of England)’s sons had lands in Normandy (and other bits) when they argued with the old man they could just sail off across the channel and be revolting. His eldest son Robert was very good at this sort of thing.
In those days the eldest son did not always get the throne and fed up with Robert’s rebellions William (the I) Conqueror of England said Rufus should be king since he had once emptied a chamber pot on Robert’s head. When William (The recent Conqueror) and still The I died in 1087, Rufus acceded to the throne.
His Uncle (sort of) Ordo, a bishop of Bayeux who preferred to solve theological problems with a large mace had been arguing with William (The historically remembered) for some time and out of sheer spite thought Robert was just the sort of king England should have, as did some barons who appreciated someone who was always revolting. Thus was the Rebellion of 1088. Although this lasted several weeks the enterprise was hampered by the fact that Robert didn’t turn up for his own try at the crown. Somewhat embarrassed Ordo was allowed to flee England and in 1097 died of Crusades a common ailment in those times.
Rufus had been looking forward to being well-known as Rufus The I and thus not confused with other kings, however much to his chagrin he found due to the laws of the time he was obliged to be a William and thus just an II. This put him in a bad mood and thus his face was always red, even when he was enjoying himself by hunting, fighting and the common pastime of kings of those eras, Interfering in The Church. The latter he was particularly good at having nominated the theologian Anslem with whom he could argue with as much as both men liked in the usual unchristian fashion of the times.
In his civic business, William, the II (latterly Rufus) was very much like any king of the time by imprisoning or blinding and castrating various rebellious nobles. As he seemed to be good at annoying folk he didn’t get around to marrying. Some in the Church suggested he had ‘unnatural appetites’, his nobles paid scant attention to this. Nobles of those times didn’t see any appetite as being unnatural and anyway he was good at one of the most important duties of a king of England. See below.
As it will be recalled the king at the time was the third Malcolm to hold the Throne and was so good at it, he was known as a Big Chief (something lacking in scots’ poetical allusions at the time). His problem was he couldn’t get rid of the Vikings in the north of Scotland. So to enhance his bigness he did what previous Scottish kings had been doing for many a century and invaded England. This did not go well as Malcolm was killed at the battle of Alnwick along with his son Edward. William The Rufus (and II) was not there, but Robert de Mowbray was. His lands had been ravaged by Malcolm and his army so Robert was rather intent on making his feelings known. Thus William II (Red and Rufus) was victorious over the scots and his nobles were content. Meanwhile Malcolm’s surviving sons being typically Celtic went to war with each other leaving William the II (and his appetites) to attend to other matters. See Below.
Historians are in disagreement as to whether William the II (ex-Rufus) invaded or simply made incursions into Wales. The Welsh at the time decided on the former and he was thus obliged to build more castles and claim he ruled Wales. Under King Gruffud ap Cynan and with assistance from the Norwegian king Magnus the III, a very austere and thrifty man who eschewed footwear defeated the Normans at Anglesey (which was pretty durned far for an incursion). Having come that far the Normans became very disappointed at went back to England, and the welsh back to fighting each other.
In the year 1100 on the 2nd August William (the next one) was hunting in The New Forest when he was ‘apparently accidentally’ shot by a crossbow bolt from one Walter Tirel who mistook him for a stag. At least that was the official story. William’s younger brother Henry just happened to be in the same hunting party and although not finding the body seemed possessed of the urge to ride to London and proclaim himself king; just in case. So with the Church saying it was obviously an act of God who was not available for comment, the throne passed to the youngest son of William the I (and more famous) who not only became king but was the first called Henry and thus supplanting his brother in the I stakes. As there no black horse, or cart seen speeding away from the scene , and there was no United States of America have an intelligence agency with conspiracy theories have not gained much credence
Apart from not being popular at subsequent hunting parties Tirel suffered no consequences.
The next seminar we shall consider the rule of the youngest of William’s sons and what he did with it and what the rest of the isles thought of it.