The Rufus Stone is a small monument which can be found in the forest between the village of Brook in Hampshire and the A31 trunk road, near to the Sir Walter Tyrrell pub. The stone commemorates the death of William II of England (known as William Rufus) and the inscriptions on the three sides of the stone reads:
“Here stood the oak tree, on which an arrow shot by Sir Walter Tyrrell at a stag, glanced and struck King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, on the breast, of which he instantly died, on the second day of August, anno 1100.”
“King William the Second, surnamed Rufus being slain, as before related, was laid in a cart, belonging to one Purkis, and drawn from hence, to Winchester, and buried in the Cathedral Church, of that city.”
“That the spot where an event so memorable might not hereafter be forgotten, the enclosed stone was set up by John Lord Delaware who had seen the tree growing in this place. This stone having been much mutilated, and the inscriptions on each of its three sides defaced. This more durable memorial with the original inscriptions was erected in the year 1841, by WM Sturges Bourne, Warden."
William Rufus was the third son of William the 1st of England (better known as William the Conqueror) and he was born between 1056 AD and 1060 AD (the exact date is not known). William Rufus had three brothers, Robert and Richard who were older than him, and Henry who was his junior. In 1075 AD his brother Richard was killed whilst hunting in the New Forest and in September 1087 his father William the Conqueror died. Upon the death of his father Robert was bequeathed Custody of Normandy, William became the King of England, and the young brother Henry received an inheritance of money. The division of William the Conqueror’s titles between Robert and William ultimately led to the brothers coming into conflict, a conflict that William won. William remained the King of England until his death, but during his rule he was considered to be an unpopular and wicked King and he would have fostered a number of enemies including from within the Church.
As the inscription on the Rufus Stones recounts, the commonly accepted account of William’s death is that whilst hunting in the New Forest on the 2nd August 1100 AD that he and a Walter Tirel (also referred to as Tyrrell) became separated from the rest of the hunting party (which included William’s brother Henry). It is said that Tirel shot an arrow at a stag and that the arrow deflected off of an oak tree, striking William in the chest and killing him instantly. Tirel is said to have fled the scene of the accident and made his hasty escape to France, to evade any re-percussions of his actions and before he could be questioned about what had happened. Upon hearing of the death of this brother, Henry wasted no time in getting to Winchester to secure the royal treasury and then in travelling to London, where he was crowned within just a few days of his brother’s passing.
Whether the exact details of the story are true or not are uncertain, especially as there may have been only one witness to the event (Tirel) who is unlikely to claim that the event was anything other than an accident. But given William’s unpopular rule and given his rivalries with his brothers, Robert and Henry, it is more than possible that he was a victim of murder - an idea that is explored in Andrew May's book Conspiracy History: A History of the World for Conspiracy Theorists.
Whether the event was an accident or not is not the only area of uncertainty. There also seems to be some uncertainty of the exact location of William’s death with some accounts suggesting that the events unfolded nearer to what is today Beaulieu.
|The Rufus Stone.|
|The inscription, side one.|
|The inscription, side two.|
|The inscription, side three.|
Pictures: Hampshire (February 2015).
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