PETER of BLOIS, 1070-1117 AD
on William II, Rufus

From Ingulf's Chronicle of the Abbey of Croyland with the Continuation of Peter of Blois


William Rufus reigning over the land, and having with a powerful arm conquered all his adversaries, so much so as to have brought all his foes beneath the yoke, while there was no one who dared in any way to murmur against his sway, Ranulph, the bishop of Durham, was his especial adviser in affairs of state. This Ranulph proved a most cruel extortioner, and being the most avaricious and most abandoned of all men in the land, woefully oppressed the whole kingdom, and wrung it even to the drawing of blood; while at the same time Anselm, the most holy archbishop of Canterbury who had succeeded Lanfranc, dragging out a weary existence in exile beyond sea, mercy and truth with him had taken to flight from out of the land, and justice and peace had been banished therefrom. Confession and the fair graces of repentance fell into disesteem, holiness and chastity utterly sickened away, sin stalked in the streets with open and undaunted front, and facing the law with haughty eye, daily triumphed, exulting in her abominable success.

Wherefore, the heavens did abominate the land, and, fighting against sinners, the sun and the moon stood still in their abode, and spurning the earth with the greatest noise and fury, caused all nations to be amazed at their numerous portents. For there were thunders terrifying the earth, lightnings and thunderbolts most frequent, deluging showers without number, winds of the most astonishing violence, and whirlwinds that shook the towers of churches and levelled them with the ground. On the earth there were fountains flowing with blood, and mighty earthquakes, while the sea, overflowing its shores, wrought infinite calamities to the maritime places. There were murders and dreadful seditions; the Devil himself was seen bodily appearing in many woods; there was a most shocking famine, and a pestilence so great among men, as well as beasts of burden, that agriculture was almost totally neglected as well as all care of the living, all sepulture of the dead.

The limit and termination at last of so many woes, was the death of the king, a cause, to every person of Christian feelings, of extreme grief. For there had come from Normandy, to visit king William, a very powerful baron, Walter Tirel by name. The king received him with the most lavish hospitality, and having honored him with a seat at his table, was pleased, after the banquet was concluded, to give him an invitation to join him in the sport of hunting. After the king had pointed out to each person his fixed station, and the deer, alarmed at the barking of the dogs and the cries of the huntsmen, were swiftly flying towards the summits of the hills, the said Walter incautiously aimed an arrow at a stag, which missed the stag, and pierced the king in the breast.

The king fell to the earth, and instantly died; upon which, the body being laid by a few countrymen in a cart, was carried back to the palace, and on the morrow was buried, with but few manifestations of grief, and in an humble tomb; for all his servants were busily attending to their own interests, and few or none cared for the royal funeral. The said Walter, the author of his death, though unwittingly so, escaped from the midst of them, crossed the sea, and arrived safe home in Normandy.

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Reproduced by kind permission of The Medieval Source Book


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