Talks

The reputation of William Rufus: the (in)famous king and his critics
by Dr Benjamin Pohl

Date: Thursday 23 January 2020

Was William Rufus a ‘bad king’ by medieval standards?

The reputation of William Rufus: the (in)famous king and his critics
The reputation of William Rufus: the (in)famous king and his critics

In this talk, I will ask whether King William II – better known to us as William Rufus, the (in)famous son of William the Conqueror who succeeded his father on the English throne in 1087 and reigned until his death in 1100 –, was considered a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ king by eleventh- and twelfth-century standards. In order to answer this question, I will look into the works of some of the most important Anglo-Norman historians writing during this period, including William of Malmesbury, Eadmer of Canterbury and Orderic Vitalis, all three of whom had plenty to say about the life and deeds of this particular king. What can their criticism tell us about how William Rufus was seen by his contemporaries, and what can we learn from them about the nature and expectations of medieval kingship more generally?


Dr Pohl received his PhD from the University of Bamberg. Prior to his appointment at Bristol in 2015, he held research fellowships at the Universities of Bamberg, Cambridge and Ghent. He is also a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, as well as a former research associate of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. His main research interests are in Norman and Anglo-Norman history and historiography, with a special focus on manuscript studies, book history, historical writing and cultural memory. He has published widely on medieval Normandy and England, including numerous journal articles and book chapters, his monograph Dudo of Saint-Quentin’s Historia Normannorum: Tradition, Innovation and Memory (Boydell/York Medieval Press, 2015) and the edited volume A Companion to the Abbey of Le Bec in the Central Middle Ages (11th–13th Centuries) (Brill, 2017). He is currently writing his new monograph Medieval Abbots and the Writing of History, c.1000-1300 (Oxford University Press).

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