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William II: Rufus, The Red King [Hardcover]

Emma Mason
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: NPI Media Group; 1st Edition edition (1 Sep 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752435280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752435282
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 15.6 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 226,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Biography of England's most irreligious king and his mysterious death. 34 b&w illustrations, 287pp inc notes and index. 24.2 x 16.2cm

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New light on the Red King 7 Jun 2008
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It is always fascinating to read a fresh perspective on a historical figure and this very readable and impressive new work on William Rufus and his reign has some interesting theories to put forward -both on the subject of the King's private life and the mystery of his death in 1100.
Although this writer cannot agree with many of her theories, and especially on the latter, what she suggests is nonetheless an intriguing scenario which other readers may find plausible. My chief criticism is, however, the very small print which rather spoiled my general enjoyment of the book - and my eyesight is good. Perhaps the publishers could take note and address this in a subsequent edition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rufus 17 April 2011
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This was a difficult book to read. I just wanted an insight to the main events in the reign of William II. The book may be of more interest to a student who is studying the reign in detail. I did enjoy reading the differnt interpretations of the murder in the New Forest.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly dry 7 April 2014
By John Hopper TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
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This is a reassessment of the reign of this Norman king, his namesake father the Conqueror's immediate successor and generally thought of as one of the most obscure post-Conquest kings, best known through the controversial nature of his death, either in a hunting accident, or an assassination masquerading as an accident, in the New Forest. Otherwise his negative reputation has largely been created and maintained by monastic chroniclers alienated largely by his dispute with Archbishop Anselm and by the fact that he never married, had no known mistresses and so was regarded as sexually suspect. This book puts William in his historical perspective and offers redress, though he does still come across as a rather colourless figure in between his father and younger brother Henry.

Despite this work's worthiness, as a reading experience it was not enjoyable. The text is rather dry and quite repetitive in places. The chapters are not divided into different sections covering different topics, while the paragraphs are often far too long, one being three pages long. Finally, not the author's fault, but the font in the hardback version is very small and difficult to read while holding the book comfortably.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly but lively history 1 Mar 2014
I can thoroughly commend Emma Mason’s biography of William Rufus. Basing her narrative on careful interrogation of the original chronicles and other literary sources, whose distinctive outlooks and prejudices she examines in an opening chapter, he writes a clear and sympathetic account of William’s reign which focuses on his considerable military successes in Scotland and the North as well as Normandy and France, and the innovations in government and law which began in his reign though they are more usually associated with that of Henry I.

She does not give much credence to the idea that William was ‘irreligious’, as Anselm’s biographer Eadmer alleges, but sees his policy towards the Church as based on the traditional model of royal patronage and control, which clashed with the ideals of the reformers of the late eleventh century who demanded greater independence for the Church and a real rather than merely notional acceptance of papal authority.

She agrees that William violated his treaty with Robert of Normandy and intended to retain control of the Duchy after Robert returned from Crusading, and that this powerful position gave a number of French nobles and possibly the French King reason to want to see him dead; the early chroniclers’ assertion that he was assassinated by Walter Tirel may, Mason cautiously suggests, be true, since Tirel appears to have been readily accepted back into favour in France after William’s death. (He had defected to William during William’s campaign in Normandy in 1098). However, there can be little certainty about either the circumstances of William’s murder or the responsibility for it.

I enjoyed this book a lot—more than Mason’s biography of the Godwine family, The House of Godwine: The History of a Dynasty (London and New York: Hambledon, 2004). Mason has a lively style and a facility for integrating general historical observations and circumstantial details into a colourful political narrative.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Emma Mason seeks to destroy the traditional view of William II; an irreligious homosexual who was accidentally killed by an arrow while hunting.

The century following his death saw the denigration of his character especially surrounding his relationship with the Church and Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury. This view has not been challenged until very recently.

Mason takes up the challenge and on the whole succeeds.

With regard to his relationship with the Church and Anselm, Mason asserts that William only wished to uphold royal authority in all matters, something that previous and future kings would also do, while Anselm sought to readdress the balance of power which had been lost over the last few centuries so that the Church would fully control spiritual matters in England. She points out that while Henry I denounced his brother's practise of leaving archbishopric, bishopric and abbacy posts vacant so that their revenues would automatically revert to the crown, Henry was guilty of this himself.

Furthermore, Mason rightly points out that while William was indeed a heavy taxer, other kings were also. She also states that there is no evidence to suggest that William was homosexual or bisexual. Whilst the secular cleric Wace stated that he was bisexual, this was at a time, in the century following his death, when it was the norm to destroy William. Mason states that none of his sexual partners have since been identified.

She ends the book with a belief that we should take the suggestion that Henry I was responsible for William's death more seriously but only gives circumstantial evidence, sometimes embarrassingly in the style of a conspiracy theorist.
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