William II, son of William the Conqueror, was known as Rufus either because of his ruddy appearance or due to having red hair as a child.

As an adult he was said to be "well set; his complexion florid, his hair yellow, of open countenance; different coloured eyes; of astonishing strength though not very tall, and his belly rather projecting."

Historian Frank Barlow observed William was "a rumbustious, devil-may-care soldier, without natural dignity or social graces, with no cultivated tastes, and little show of conventional religious piety or morality - indeed, addicted to every kind of vice. On the other hand, he was a wise ruler and victorious general”.

He was the third of four sons born to the Conqueror who divided his lands just before his death in 1087. The eldest son, Robert, inherited Normandy.

The second son, Richard, had died in a previous hunting accident in the New Forest in 1070, so Rufus inherited England.

William Rufus hit with a bad shot.

William Rufus hit with a bad shot?

The two brothers then spent many years fighting each other.

We know that Rufus went hunting in the New Forest on August 2, 1100 and was killed by an arrow. But the story now includes conspiracy theories, legends and a ghost.

The earliest account of the event noted that the king was "shot … by one of his own men".

Later chroniclers named Sir Walter Tyrell as the archer, suggesting it was an accident and that the arrow had glanced off an oak tree.

Tyrell, a French nobleman, had immediately made for Normandy. Legend says that he stopped at a blacksmith’s to have his horse's shoes put on backwards so he could not be traced.

Another legend tells how he stopped by a pond at Castle Malwood, to wash the blood from his hands and that on every anniversary the pond turns crimson.

Rufus Stone from an old 1898 print.

Rufus Stone from an old 1898 print.

Did one of Rufus's enemies have a hand in this event?

He had plenty among the Saxons, in the church, and people working for his elder brother.

But the chief suspect is his younger brother Henry, one of the hunting party.

Abandoning his dead brother, he rode straight for Winchester, seized the treasury and the next day reached London where he had himself crowned Henry I. Pretty swift action if his brother’s death was unexpected.

William’s body had to wait until a charcoal-burner called Purkis took it to Winchester.

William Rufus Coffin - for Heritage.

William Rufus's Coffin.

It is said that blood dripped from the body all the way and that every year, on the anniversary of his death, the King's ghost returns to follow the bloody trail.

There he was buried within the Tower which fell down the next year. Nevertheless, William's remains reached Winchester Cathedral. His skull appears to be missing but some long bones remain.

In 1530 it was written that William died at Thorougham and a memorial stone of uncertain age in the grounds of Beaulieu Abbey states: "Remember King William Rufus who died in these parts, then known as Truham, whilst hunting on August 2, 1100".

A site between Cadnam and Stoney Cross is now said to be the spot but this claim appears to date only from a 17th-century visit by Charles II where he was shown the relevant Oak the arrow glanced off.

The Truham Monument.

The Truham Monument.

The Rufus Stone was erected there in 1745 and the iron pillar you can see today was placed over the original Stone in 1841.

It is a three-sided monument with inscriptions telling the story on each side.

The pub opposite is named the Sir Walter Tyrell.

William appears to have been largely unmourned. To clerics, this 'Act of God' was a just end for a wicked king.

Pub review, Sir Walter Tyrrell at Brook.

The Sir Walter Tyrrell pub in Brook.

The nobility were glad to see an end to his conflicts with his brother Robert and the common people hated him because he had increased the punishments given to people who hunted in the King’s Forest.

That he should be killed in the New Forest whilst out hunting is an interesting irony.

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Jack Wilson is a tour guide with SeeSouthampton.co.uk .