William's exact date of birth is unknown, but was some time between the years 1056 and 1060. He was born in his father's dukedom of Normandy, which would be inherited in due course by his elder brother, Robert Curthose. William never married and may have had homosexual tendencies. His father's favourite son, he succeeded to the throne of England on his father's death, but there was always hostility between him and his eldest brother, though they became reconciled after an attempted coup of 1191 by their youngest brother, Henry. Of the three, William appears to have been the peacemaker.
His reign was short and not particularly noteworthy. Much of it was spent in arguing with the church; after the death of Archbishop Lanfranc in 1089, he appropriated ecclesiastical revenues to which he was not entitled, and for this he was much criticised. He also quarrelled with the Scottish king, Malcolm III.
The most memorable thing about William Rufus was the manner of his death, which occurred on August 2, 1100, while hunting in the New Forest. It is possible that the arrow which killed him was fired by an assassin rather than being an accident, and that this was done on the orders of his brother, who succeeded him as King Henry I.
King William II is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
William II is indirectly the subject of two historical novels by George Shipway, called The Paladin and The Wolf Time. The main character of the novels is Walter Tirel (or Tyrell) the supposed assassin of King William, and the main thrust of the plot of the novels is that the assassination was engineered by Henry.
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