William II, better known as William Rufus, was the third son of William the Conqueror and England's king for only 13 years (1087-1100) before he was mysteriously assassinated. In this vivid biography, here updated and reissued with a new preface, Frank Barlow reveals an unconventional, flamboyant William Rufus -- a far more attractive and interesting monarch than previously believed. Weaving an intimate account of the life of the king into the wider history of Anglo-Norman government, Barlow shows how William confirmed royal power in England, restored the ducal rights in France, and consolidated the Norman conquest.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - waltzmn - LibraryThing
Biographers of William Rufus have to get used to being challenged, "Prove it!" The reign of Rufus, the son of William the Conqueror, raises a lot of difficult questions. Was he homosexual? (Probably ... Read full review
William Rufus (1983) by Frank Barlow, is more than a biography of one of England's early Norman kings. The historian who composed this volume has given us a social history as well, of early Norman England. We learn things like that there were no lamps lit at night during William II's reign. The author repeats this and let's the implications sink in, of the resultant "disorder." The facts accumulate, and give a vivid picture of this era, though a typicallly English historian, Barlow is not interested in subtler, questions, such as what the lack of privacy at all levels of society meant for the individual personality. I might wish that he would repeat occasionally himself, as it is difficult for the nonprofessional to always recall the many new terms encountered in the text. And I am still trying to figure out what is meant when "candle-ends" are part of a employee's compensation. I suppose they were literally the last bit of a candle, and one accumulated them to use, in making more candles. But that is a guess on my part.
Even one who is not a specialist in this era of history gains confidence by the manner in which Barlow handles his sources, and the care in his phrasing of conclusions. One utterly fascinating discussion involves the Norman hunting practices. We learn for instance that what we now call "canned" hunts were not unknown then, though a thousand years ago personal bravery counted for something, when animals were killed, and the forest made for an evener field. This book is highly recommened.