The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. — Marcus Aurelius

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Brothers' Quarrels

William II., or Rufus, so called on account of his red hair, hastened over to England and took possession of the treasure and of the principal royal castles. Then he was crowned king in Westminster Abbey, by Lanfranc, the good Archbishop of Canterbury.

As long as Lanfranc lived, William Rufus did not dare show how cruel, selfish, and grasping he really was. But when Lanfranc died, people began to see the king in his true colours. To get money was the new ruler's principal aim; so he forced the people to pay heavy taxes, and made the churches and monasteries give him large sums.

The Anglo-Norman barons (those followers of William who had settled in England, married English wives, and had thus become Englishmen) did not want William Rufus to be their king. But William made such fine promises to the Saxons that they helped him against the barons, and thus enabled him to keep possession of the throne.

This was not the only war which William Rufus had to fight, for we are told that he and Robert attacked their brother Henry. They wanted to force him to give up some land which he had purchased from Robert. Of course this was very unjust and unbrotherly behaviour; but the war went on until at last Henry was besieged in the fortress on Mont St. Michel.

This castle stands on a huge rock near the French coast, and while it is connected with the mainland by a causeway at low tide, it is entirely surrounded by water the remainder of the time. On the narrow strip of beach at the foot of the castle, William was once thrown from his horse in the midst of the fight. He would have been killed had he not cried out, "Hold! I am the King of England." A soldier who was about to kill him helped him to rise, and in reward William Rufus took the man into his service.

The brothers now learned that Henry and his men had nothing to drink. Although Robert was not much better than William, he immediately sent Henry water for his men and wine for his own use. This generosity made William angry, but Robert hotly answered: "What! shall I suffer my brother to die of thirst? Where shall we find another when he is gone?"

Henry now had plenty to drink, but he could not hold out much longer; and after surrendering he left the country, with only a few followers.

In those days it was considered an act of great piety to journey on foot to Jerusalem, to visit the tomb of our Lord. When the Romans ceased to be masters in the East, the Saracens took possession of the Holy Land. They freely allowed pilgrims to come and go; but when the Turks took Jerusalem, in Io65, matters changed.

The pilgrims, who were often called palmers, because they brought home palms as relics, were now very harshly treated. One of them, a monk named Peter the Hermit, was so indignant at the cruelty of the Turks that, as soon as he came back to Europe, he won the pope's permission to preach a holy war against them.

He visited different parts of Europe, preaching so eloquently that most of his hearers vowed they would go and fight the Turks. Every one who promised to do this wore a cross on his shoulder; and because crux is the Latin word for cross, these men were called crusaders, and their wars, crusades.

Peter the Hermit was so earnest that many noblemen joined the first crusade; among others, Robert of Normandy, who promised to set out with an army. Now you know it is far from Normandy to Jerusalem, so before Robert could undertake this journey, he had to raise money to pay his travelling expenses.

When William II. heard this, he offered to lend his brother quite a large sum, on condition that Robert should promise to give up Normandy if he could not pay back the money at the end of five years. Robert consented, and set out; but as soon as he was gone William vowed that he knew his brother would never pay back the borrowed money, and that Normandy was already his. He therefore started out to take possession of his new lands, and was in such a hurry to get there that he haughtily cried, when the pilot objected that the sea was rough: "Sail on instantly; kings are never drowned!"

Because William thus took possession of his brother's lands, he was forced to make several wars. He was also called upon to resist the Norwegians, who made a last but unsuccessful attempt to get possession of England. William was still busy scheming how he could get more land and money, when his life came to a sudden end, after he had reigned thirteen years.

It seems that while he was waiting for a favorable wind to carry him over to Normandy, he went out to hunt in the New Forest. He gave Sir Walter Tyrrel, one of his followers, two new arrows, and rode out with him and many others. In the course of the hunt, the king and Tyrrel, pursuing a deer, were separated from the rest of the party. According to some accounts, Tyrrel drew his bow to kill a stag, and his arrow, glancing aside after touching an oak tree, struck the king and killed him instantly. Tyrrel, dreading an accusation of wilful murder, rode to the sea, embarked on the first vessel he found, and joined the crusade, hoping thus to win forgiveness for his involuntary sin. Other accounts say that Tyrrel had nothing to do with the king's death, but a few declare that he was a real murderer.

The body was found by a charcoal burner, who carried it to Winchester in his cart. There William II. was buried with very little ado, for no one really regretted him.


Front Matter

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee