William the Conqueror may have conquered England during the Norman Invasion of 1066, but he never conquered his own appetites. He was ruthless, harsh, wrathful—and always hungry. He grew so stout that his tomb proved too small for him, and on his death attendants had trouble stuffing the corpse into place. It burst open during the effort.
His son Rufus moved quickly to seize the throne. He inherited all his father’s vices, none of his virtues, and is remembered as one of history’s worst men. He was officially William II, but commonly called as William Rufus (Rufus being Latin for “the Red”), perhaps because of his ruddy appearance or, more likely, due to having red hair as a child that grew out in later life. He had reason to be red-faced. His cruelty was sadistic, and he derived perverse pleasure by watching animals tortured and innocent men subjected to screaming degrees of pain.
Rufus was incorrigible. Once while recovering from a severe illness he vowed never to become a good man. His sexual appetite was unquenchable. It was said he rose a worse man every morning and lay down a worse man every night.
Rufus passionately hated Christ, Christianity, and the clergy. His profane and blasphemous words continually shocked his contemporaries. He plundered churches, robbing them of their offerings and treasuries. He sold church positions to the highest bidder. He kept the archbishopric of Canterbury vacant before finally appointing good Anselm to the office. And he converted sacred cemeteries into royal parks to satisfy his thirst for hunting.
In a place deigned by his father, called New Forest; on August 2, 1100, while hot on the chase, he was struck by a powerful arrow that flew from nowhere. He died quickly, and to no one’s sorrow. No church bells tolled, no prayers were said for him, no alms given in his memory, no monuments built to his name. His eternal damnation was taken for granted by England, and his younger brother Henry reigned in his stead.
Send your sharp arrows through enemy hearts and make all nations fall at your feet. During the fighting a soldier shot an arrow without even aiming, and it hit Ahab where two pieces of his armor joined. Dogs licked Ahab’s blood off the ground, just as the Lord had warned. (Psalm 45:5; 1 Kings 22:34a,38b)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). August 1.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
1916 – Death of Samuel David Ferguson, a leading educator and bishop of the Episcopal Church in Liberia, and the first African American elected a bishop of the Episcopal Church, although he served in that capacity only in Liberia.
1942 – Edith Stein is seized at her convent by the S.S. and taken to a concentration camp in the Netherlands. A Jewish-Catholic philosopher, she had rejected an opportunity to escape to Switzerland because she refused to abandon her sister who could not obtain a visa.