Known as William Rufus because of his ruddy complexion, he was the third son of William the Conqueror (William I) and inherited the English throne from him.
William was born in around 1056 and almost nothing is known about his childhood. At his death in 1087, William I bequeathed his original inheritance, the Duchy of Normandy, to his eldest son, Robert Curthose. He gave England to William, his third and favourite son, who was crowned in September 1087. In 1088, William faced a baronial rebellion inspired by his uncle, Odo of Bayeux, in favour of Robert. But Robert failed to appear and the revolt soon collapsed. In 1089, he laid claim to Normandy and waged war against Robert, who he defeated and reduced to a subordinate role. In 1096, Robert went on Crusade, mortgaging Normandy to William (for 10,000 marks), who raised the money by levying a heavy and much-resented tax in England.
William faced opposition from Scotland and in 1091 he compelled Malcolm III, King of the Scots to acknowledge his overlordship. Malcolm revolted in November 1093, but William's forces crushed his army near Alnwick and Malcolm was killed. Thereafter, William maintained the Scottish kings as vassals.
William also had difficult relations with the church. He kept bishoprics vacant to make use of their revenues, and had numerous arguments with Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093. When Anselm left for Rome in 1097 to seek the advice of the pope, William seized his estates.
On 2 August 1100, William died when he was shot by an arrow while out hunting. It was accepted as an accident, but could have been an assassination. It has been suggested that his alleged slayer, Walter Tirel, was acting under orders from William's younger brother, Henry, who promptly seized the throne as Henry I.