England under the Normans and Angevins, 1066-1272

By H. W. C. Davis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE REIGN OF HENRY I

ON the second of August, 1100, Rufus fell in the New Forest mortally wounded by an arrow which rumour persistently asserted to have been shot from the bow of his attendant Walter Tyrrell. The truth was never ascertained. Tyrrell, it is true, fled the country; but we know that in later years, when he had nothing to fear from a confession of the truth, he solemnly denied that he had been present when the King was slain;1 and that his lands in England were not confiscated, though they would scarcely have escaped this fate if responsibility for the accident had been brought home to him.2 That the King's death was the result of accident does not appear to have been questioned; and this may be regarded as conclusive against any hypothesis of foul play. The man who benefited by the King's death was his brother Henry; and Henry's opponents, who were entirely unscrupulous, would not have hesitated to tax him with assassination if there had been the faintest possibility of making out a case.

Death of Rufus, 1100

Henry was one of the King's hunting party, and though not a witness of the accident, was the first to be informed of it.3 He left his brother's body where it lay, and riding at full speed to Winchester, the seat of government, seized the keys of the royal treasure. He was not a moment too soon. Hard on his heels came the treasurer William of Breteuil, a supporter of Duke Robert's claim to the succession, who demanded the restoration of the keys, and reminded Henry that special respect was due

Accession of Henry I

____________________
1
Suger, Vita Ludovici. Orderic, iv., 83, gives the fullest account of the Knig's death. The Roman de Rou and Eadmer exculpate Tyrell and make Rufus the author of his own fate. Giraldus, De Institutione Principum, 176, gives Radulfus de Aquis as the assassin.
2
Lappenberg, ii., p. 207 n.
3
Roman de Rou, 10105, give a vivid account of this.

-118-

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