The new king of England, William II, who is perhaps better known as “Rufus,” had been closest to his father. William was known as “Rufus the red” because of his flushed complexion and red hair which became a reddish brown. Rufus’ red complexion was enhanced when he drank. Some have speculated that he may have had heart issues. A Family at War Despite that fact that William the Conqueror had divided his assets among his sons, they continued to fight. William campaigned to take Normandy from Robert while Robert sought to take England from William. Henry, as the odd man out, waited in the wings for his opportunity. The barons who owned lands within the two areas began to take sides. At first most of them sided with Robert who had the support of his paternal uncle, Odo. Rufus put down a revolt which was led by Odo and ravaged his estate which was in Kent. After Robert failed to capitalize on his advantage among the barons, Rufus not only held Robert at bey but began to extend his power over Wales and Scotland. In 1090 Henry made his play to gain a landed estate. This united Rufus and Robert against Henry. Instead extracting revenge against Henry, Rufus showed his negotiating skills when he brokered a mutually advantageous settlement with his brothers. Robert even joined Rufus to campaign with him against the Scots. The issues between Rufus and Robert were finally settled in 1096. William paid Robert so that he could mount an army to fight in the First Crusade. In return, Robert gave William temporary control, as regent, over Normandy. After Rufus gained control over Normandy, he took back some of the lands that Robert had lost to the French king. Overall, Rufus was a much better military leader than Robert. Rufus and the Church Rufus’ relationship with the church was never good. When the archbishop of Canterbury, Lanfranc, died, Rufus refused to replace him. Instead he took the church’s revenues for himself. This incensed the clergy who equated this action to stealing from God. The clergy urged Rufus to appoint Lanfranc’s student and friend, Anselm, as the bishop’s successor. Rufus refused until 1092 when he believed that he was suffering from a fatal illness. Rufus made the appointment at that time, but relations with the church remained strained. Ultimately, Anselm went into voluntary exile after his interactions with Rufus became too strained. Rufus’ poor relationship with the church would do great damage to his historical reputation. The clergy, who would write the history of Rufus’ reign, compared his court with that of the Roman emperor, Caligula. They branded him as a homosexual and claimed that young men minced their gait in his court. They wore lose garments and were said to be naked or half naked. Rufus blasphemed the church and often used foul language. Probably overexaggerating, they claimed the Rufus practiced the black arts and worshiped the devil. Claims that Rufus was a homosexual may have been true. He was the only British king who never married, but there were rumors that he fathered an illegitimate child. The Largest Building in Europe In 1097 Rufus began construction of Westminster Hall. It was finished in 1099. The structure was the largest building in England and in fact, all of Europe. It measured 67 by 240 feet and had a floor space of 17,000 square feet. When asked about its size, Rufus responded that he only wished that he could have made it bigger. The building, which has been modified through the centuries, is used today for large ceremonial gatherings. Rufus Is Killed in a “Hunting Accident” Like almost all Normans, Rufus liked to hunt. The Normans set aside forested hunting areas that only they could use. Anyone found hunting, who was not authorized to be in the area was subject to severe penalties, which included blinding and other mutilations. Those who kept dogs in the area were forced to amputate a toe on their front paws to prevent the animals from chasing game. It was during one of those Norman hunting trips that Rufus met his untimely end. Norman nobleman, Walter Tyrell missed a deer and hit Rufus instead. The arrow pieced his chest and went into a lung. The king died quickly, and his youngest brother, Henry, set out immediately to claim the royal treasury and to be crowned king only four days later in London. Many have concluded that Rufus’ death was not accident, but a planned assassination. The king’s body was quickly loaded on a farm cart and sent to Winchester Cathedral where it was buried, with little ceremony, the following morning. Tyrell was quickly ferried back to Normandy while two of his brothers received special favors from the new king, Henry I. Many of the barons viewed Rufus and as ill-tempered and quarrelsome king. Yet, he did have a love for England, and he was regarded as an able administrator. His suspicious death brought an early end to a reign that was generally effective but marked by strife and controversies. A Sample of the Coinage of William II, Rufus William the Conqueror’s coinage was among the best in Europe. The coins were made of good silver, and they were quite well made. Unfortunately the coinage of Rufus started a period of low grade coins. More base metal began to appear in the coins, and the dies were often broken and defective. This piece, which is no longer in my collection, is actually quite nice for William II penny. It was stuck on a planchet which a minor split, and the die is broken which resulted in a weak portrait. The lettering is quite nice, however, which makes it better than average. The variety numbers are Spink 1261 and North 855. North rates it as “Rare.” The estimated years of issue are 1089 to 1082. This second piece is an example of the profile variety. It shows the king brandishing a sword, which is quite appropriate given the tenor of his reign. This piece is well struck, especially in the portrait area. It is among the first coins that were struck during William II’s time as king. The variety numbers are Spink 1258 and North 851. The estimated years of issue were 1086 to 1089. North rates this piece as “rare.” The third piece has the highest technical grade of the three although the lettering is mushy. It is in a PCGS AU-53 slab. The luster indicates that it really is an AU. The variety numbers are Spink 1260 and North 853. It is the “stars and voided cross” type. North also rates this variety is “rare” although it might be the most common variety of William III penny. Using the Spink catalog values as a guide, the William II pennies appear to be the scarcest of the Norman king coins. All of the values are over £ 2,000 in VF condition. In contrast, there are pieces valued at less than £ 1,000 for Henry I and Stephen. From my limited observations, however, I believe that it is easier to find William II coins in the higher grades than then the two kings who succeeded him.