Young Folks' History of England HTML version

8. William II, Rufus, A.D. 1087-1100
William the Conqueror was obliged to let Normandy fall to Robert, his eldest
son; but he thought he could do as he pleased about England, which he had
won for himself. He had sent off his second son, William, to England, with his
ring to Westminster, giving him a message that he hoped the English people
would have him for their king. And they did take him, though they would
hardly have done do if they had known what he would be like when he was
left to himself. But while he was kept under by his father, they only knew that
he had red hair and a ruddy face, and had more sense than his brother
Robert. He is sometimes called the Red King, but more commonly William
Rufus. Things went worse than ever with the poor English in his time; for at
lest William the Conqueror had made everybody mind the law, but now
William Rufus let his cruel soldiers do just as they pleased, and spoil what
they did not want. It was of no use to complain, for the king would only laugh
and make jokes. He did not care for God or man; only for being powerful, for
feasting, and for hunting.
Just at this time there was a great stir in Europe. Jerusalem—that holy city,
where our blessed Lord had taught, where he had been crucified, and where
he had risen from the dead—was a place where everyone wished to go and
worship, and this they called going on pilgrimage. A beautiful church had
once been built over the sepulchre where our Lord had lain, and enriched
with gifts. But for a long time past Jerusalem had been in the hands of an
Eastern people, who think their false prophet, Mahommed, greater than our
blessed Lord. These Mahommedans used to rob and ill-treat the pilgrims, and
make them pay great sums of money for leave to come into Jerusalem. At
last a pilgrim, named Peter the Hermit, came home, and got leave from the
Pope to try to go to the Holy Land, and fight to get the Holy Sepulchre back
into Christian hands again. He used to preach in the open air, and the people
who heard him were so stirred up that they all shouted out, "It is God's will!
It is God's will!" And each who undertook to go and fight in the East received
a cross cut out into cloth, red or white, to wear on his shoulder. Many
thousands promised to go on this crusade, as they called it, among them was
Robert, Duke of Normandy. But he had wasted his money, so that he could
not fit out an army to take with him. So he offered to give up Normandy to
his brother William while he was gone, if William would let him have the
money he wanted. The Red King was very ready to make such a bargain, and
he laughed at the Crusaders, and thought that they were wasting their time
and trouble.
They had a very good man to lead them, named Geoffrey de Buillon; and,
after many toils and troubles, they did gain Jerusalem, and could kneel,
weeping, at the Holy Sepulchre. It was proposed to make Robert King of
Jerusalem, but he would not accept the offer, and Godfrey was made king