| Our Island Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|A child's history of England from earliest legendary times delightfully retold. Beginning with the stories of Albion and Brutus, it relates all the interesting legends and hero tales in which the history of England abounds through the end of the reign of Queen Victoria. Ages 9-12 |
THE STORY OF WILLIAM THE RED
 WILLIAM RUFUS, or the Red as he was called, from the colour
of his hair, took the ring from his father's hand and
hurried off to seize the throne of England, without waiting
even till the Conqueror should die. In little more than a
fortnight the crown was upon the head of William Rufus, and
England had another Norman king.
But even the Norman nobles were not pleased with their new
king. The Conqueror had ruled them with an iron hand, and
they had hoped, when he was dead, to have some one who would
be less severe. They wanted Robert, the eldest son of
William the Conqueror, because they knew that he was much
less harsh than William, and they thought that they would be
able to do what they liked if Robert were king. So they
rebelled against William the Red and asked Robert to come to
England to fight for the crown.
Now the English hated to have a Norman king, but they hated
the Norman nobles even more. Although William the Red was
Norman he had lived in England ever since he had been about
six years old. He could speak English, which the Conqueror
could never learn to do, and which the Confessor had never
cared to do.
So William the Red appealed to the English people. He said
to them, "If you stand by me and fight for me,
 I will reward
you. I will take away some of the heavy taxes, I will give
you more liberty, and I will not allow the Norman barons to
So the English people fought for their Norman king, and they
beat the Norman nobles. Robert was obliged to fly back to
France, and William the Red, with the help of the English people,
sat safely on the English throne.
But as soon as he was safe, William forgot about his
promises. He oppressed the people as much as ever, and they
were almost more unhappy than they had been in the time of
The Red King was wicked and greedy. He stole money from
every one, even from the churches, and spent it on his own
pleasure. Little good can be said of him except that he was
fearless. Still when he was ill, and thought he might die,
he became frightened because of the wicked things he had
done, and promised to do better. But as soon as he was well
again he forgot his fears and was as wicked as before. He
was not truly a brave man, and he was very cruel.
One day William the Red went to hunt with his friends in the
New Forest—that forest which his father had made by
destroying so many villages. Before the hunting-party
started, a man came to the King and gave him six beautiful
new arrows. The King admired them very much and he gave one
of them to his friend, Walter Tyrrell, who was a very good
shot, saying. "The best arrows should be given to him who
knows best how to use them."
It was a gay scene. The King in his rich hunting-dress rode
first. His friends and servants, gayly dressed, followed.
There was much talking and laughing and barking of dogs.
As they rode into the forest, the frightened deer fled
before them, and soon every one was eagerly following
chase. In the many paths of the forest, the King became
separated from his friends. The nobles did not notice that
the King was not among them, for it often happened in
hunting that a few would be separated from the others. When
the hunt was over, one by one the hunting-party returned to
the palace. Only the King did not return—the King and one
noble, Walter Tyrrell.
What had happened?
As the shadows began to lengthen and the sun to set, the
people of his household became uneasy. Who was with the
King? Who saw him last?
As the question was asked, a peasant's cart came slowly up
the street. It was a rough wooden cart drawn by an old white
horse, led by a peasant in poor and shabby clothes.
The question was answered. In the cart the King, who so
short a time before had ridden gayly away, lay dead, with an
arrow through his heart.
"Who has done this?" asked the barons, seizing the peasant.
"I know naught of it, my lords," replied the man. "I was
passing through the forest on my way home when I found this
man lying dead as you see him. I bethought me that it was
the King, so I brought him thither."
How William the Red was killed can never be known. Some
people say that Walter Tyrrell, while aiming at a deer, hit
the king by mistake, that the arrow struck a tree and,
glancing off, pierced the king in the breast and killed him.
These people think that Walter Tyrrell frightened at what he
had done, fled away as fast as he could; that he fled to the
seashore, got into a ship and sailed over to France.
Certain it is that Walter Tyrrell did run away that
 day, and
did not return to England for many years. But when he came
back, he vowed very solemnly that he had not done the deed
and that he had not even been near the King that day when he
There was no sorrow for the dead king. He was hated so much
that, when he was buried, no bell was rung, no prayers were
said, and when some time after the tower of the church fell,
people said it was because of the wickedness of William, the
Red King, who lay buried there.
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