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William II
William II

William II (1057?-1100), son of William I, became king in 1087. He was called Rufus, meaning red, because of his ruddy complexion. Lustful for power and completely illiterate, he ruled with violence rather than strength. The clergy denounced his brutality and his infringements on church rights.

In 1088, several powerful Norman barons revolted against William. He put down the revolt and strengthened his position. Later, he gained control of Normandy by financing the crusading ventures of his brother Robert, Duke of Normandy. He also invaded Scotland and brought it under his control in 1097.

William's reign was marked by a bitter quarrel with the Roman Catholic Church. William kept the see of Canterbury vacant after the archbishop died in 1089, in order to collect its revenues for himself. When he fell seriously ill in 1093, he welcomed the election of Anselm as archbishop to atone for his sins. But when he recovered his health, he forced Anselm into exile. An arrow shot by a fellow hunter killed William while he was hunting. The clergy refused to give him a church funeral.