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William II (Rufus) Timeline



Detailed Information

1057 Birth

A third son, William, was born, in Normandy, to William, Duke of Normandy and his wife Matilda of Flanders.

9 Sept 1087
Death of William the Conqueror

William died in France from wounds received at the siege of Mantes. He left Normandy to his eldest son, Robert Curthose. He left both his sword and the English crown to his second son William. William I was buried in St Stephen's Abbey, Caen, Normandy.

9 Sept 1087

William, known as Rufus because of his ruddy complexion, succeeded his father to the English throne. However, he did not have the full loyalty of the barons because many of them believed that the throne should have been inherited by William's eldest son, Robert Curthose.

26 Sept 1087 Coronation

William II was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.


A number of Anglo-Norman barons led by Odo of Bayeaux, rebelled against William Rufus. They believed that while Normandy and England were ruled by separate rulers there would not be stability. Loyalty to one ruler automatically meant disloyalty to the other and this was a problem since many barons also owned land in both England and Normandy. Robert Curthose did not join the rebellion, choosing to stay in Normandy. The rebels were defeated by an English force that had been recruited by William with false promises.

William claims Normandy

William used English silver to buy support and lay claim to Normandy. Although he had some success he was unable to claim Normandy. 

1089 Death of Lanfranc - Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Lanfranc, died. William delayed the appointment of a successor.

1092 William took Cumbria

William seized Cumbria from Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland.

Archbishop of Canterbury Anselem of Bec

William II had not appointed an Archbishop of Canterbury because he was wary of giving churchmen too much power and he had not found a man loyal enough to fill the post. In 1093, when he was taken ill and believed himself to be dying he decided that he should fill the post. He appointed Anselem of Bec, a scholarly man, as Archbishop of Canterbury. The appointment proved to be a disaster for William, who was not dying after all. Bec called for churchmen to be more politically aware and began a period where churchmen played a prominent role in government. 

Court Life

The court was full of people hoping to gain the King's favour and William's favourite was Ranulf Flambard, a ruthless despoiler of the church. Unlike his father, William was not religious and his court was full of gaiety. He set new fashions such as long hair.

1094 William unpopular with the Church

William was very unpopular, especially with the church. He increased taxation and sold church positions to the highest bidder rather than filling them by appointment. Many church positions were left empty so that William could take the money they earned for himself. 


William faced another plot to replace him with his brother Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy.

Council of Rockingham

Following a ruling by the Pope that all churchmen must firsly be loyal to their Pope and put their King second,  William called this council to deal with the ever increasing gap between himself and his Archbishop of Canterbury, Anselem of Bec. Anselem appealed to Rome, arguing that as Archbishop of Canterbury he could not be judged by the King's council. 

1096 Curthose leases Normandy to William

Robert Curthose decided that he would like to join the Pope's crusade to recover Jerusalem from the Muslims. He decided to lease Normandy to William for 10,000 marks and use the money to equip a force for the Crusade. William's brother Odo was also among those Normans that joined the Pope's crusade.

William takes Normandy

Although Robert had only leased Normandy to William, William had no intention of giving the land back. He made plans to recover Maine and the Vexin, both of which had been part of William I's Normandy but had been lost by Robert.

1097 Anselem of Bec leaves England

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Anselem of Bec, decided that he could not cope with the conflict with William. He sailed from Dover to France leaving the estates of Canterbury in the King's hands. 

William Rufus recorded as a bad King.

Although the departure of Anselem of Bec was a victory for William, the dispute has served to leave a legacy of William as a bad King. 

In the eleventh century it was churchmen who wrote biographies of Kings. William was hated by the churchmen of the day -  they disliked his preference for long hair, seeing it as a sign of an effeminate and low morals. They also disliked his fondness for gaiety and extravagance and his coolness towards religion. The biographies of William Rufus were therefore written by men who hated him and were often extremely biased.

Land gains in Normandy

William II had succeeded in recovering Maine and the Vexin, the land lost by Robert Curthose. 

Bishop of Durham

The King's hated favourite, Ranulf Flambard, was made Bishop of Durham. The appointment of a man who had no respect for the church, served to anger the people of England still further. 

2 Aug 1100
William II killed

William was mysteriously killed by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest. The murder is surrounded with speculation as William's younger brother, Henry, was in the forest at the same time. Whether the murder was committed by Henry, committed on Henry's behalf, committed on Robert's behalf or simply an accident we will never know. But no one at the time claimed that Henry was responsible. 

William II was buried in Winchester Cathedral.

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