A big day in history: when William II met his demise in the New Forest

Dominic Sandbrook explores the events of 2 August 1100

An illustration depicting the death of William II at the hands of Walter Tirel. Although his death is thought to have been a hunting accident, some contemporary observers "wondered whether Tirel had been put up to it by the king's brother Henry," says Dominic Sandbrook. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the March 2011 edition of BBC History Magazine

In the early hours of Thursday, 2 August 1100, the second Norman king of England, William Rufus, was asleep at his New Forest hunting lodge when he had a nightmare. According to one chronicler, he dreamt “that he was let blood by a surgeon, and that the stream, reaching to heaven, clouded the light and intercepted the day”. In another version, William dreamed that he met the Devil, who said that he was looking forward to seeing him the next day. Either way, waking with a start, the king shouted for his servants to bring a light. It was obvious that the dream had seriously worried him.

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