Saturday, 25 February 2012

Murder Most Royal

Four kings of England are believed to have been murdered, although there are doubts about the first three. The death of William Rufus may have been accidental, while both Edward II & Richard II disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
William Rufus murdered 2nd August 1100
William commenced his reign in 1087 with a distribution of part of the Royal Treasury to monasteries, churches & the poor for ‘his father’s soul’. The realm of William 1, Normandy & England, was divided between his two elder sons; Robert getting Normandy & William Rufus the throne of England. The younger son, Henry, was given 1000 marks to buy himself a lordship.
Almost immediately in 1088 there was an uprising against the king, led by Odo of Bayeaux, William’s half-uncle. The rebellion was brutally suppressed. Having been supported by the common people, William promised better governance, forbidding unjust taxes & to allow people access to the woods & forests. These promises were not kept, or kept only in part.
In 1091 William invaded Normandy & forced Robert to cede some of his inheritance to William. Taking advantage of William’s absence the Scots invaded England. When William arrived in force to do battle King Malcolm agreed to kneel as William’s vassal. Due to broken promises the Scots invaded again in 1093, but Malcolm was killed in a battle with the earl of Northumbria.

In 1095 William put down the rebellion of Robert de Mowbray, who was imprisoned & a fellow rebel was blinded & castrated. In 1096 William’s brother, Robert Duke of Normandy, borrowed 10,000 marks from William, to pay for joining what was to become known as the First Crusade. To raise the loan William imposed heavy, unwelcome taxes; ruling Normandy as Robert’s regent until his return. 1096 was a year of famine and the increased taxes meant suffering throughout the country.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles tell us that:

‘He was ever agreeable to evil men’s advice, and through his own greed he was ever vexing this nation with force and with unjust taxes’.
William was shot with an arrow, during a hunt near Brockenhurst in the New Forest on 2nd August 1100. There is doubt as to whether the shot was an accident on the part of Sir William Tyrrell; or part of a plot involving the king’s younger brother Henry along with Tyrrell & his brother-in-laws Gilbert & Roger of Clare. Immediatley after the incident Henry rode forthwith to Winchester; leaving his brother’s body on the forest floor, seized the treasury & had himself declared king. Tyrell fled overseas. During Henry’s reign the family of Clare was given sufficient favour for suspicion to fall upon them & the new king over the death of his predecessor.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles – Anne Savage, Colour Library Books 1995

Domesday Book to Magna Carta – AL Poole, Oxford University Press 1987

1 comment:

  1. There's nothing like a royal murder mystery! Did Henry act suspiciously or was he just an opportunist who acted as thuggishly as any other petty chieftain? There wasn't much that was courtly about any of the kings at the time.