The Dramatic Demise Of William II d’Eu

Count William II d’Eu was a nobleman in the realm of King William II Rufus of England (r. 1087-1100). He came under suspicion in 1095, when the king of England was at war with the rebellious Earl Robert de Mowbray of Northumberland. Count William II must not have played too active a role in the treachery, for during the king’s campaign to besiege the earl’s cities and to capture Robert de Mowbray, there was little mention of the count. Yet, in 1096, after the earl was defeated, William II d’Eu was belatedly accused of treason in connection to Robert de Mowbray’s insubordination. The accuser was a man named Geoffrey Bainard, and there was enough evidence for the king to call for a trial. This case, however, was to be a trial by combat. The duel that followed, and the king’s decision afterward, were recorded in sources such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, The Chronicle of Florence of Worcester, and the Historia Anglorum of Henry of Huntingdon. The former of this trio of sources reported: “Geoffrey Bainard accused William of Eu, the king’s kinsman, that he had been in the treason against the king, and maintained it against him by fight, and overcame him in single combat, and after he was overcome, the king commanded his eyes to be put out, and afterwards to emasculate him” (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, entry for 1096). The disgraced and mutilated count’s steward, too, was caught up in the treason inquiry and was hanged. Count William II d’Eu is thought to have not survived the wounds of his blinding and emasculation in 1096.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Illustration from a manuscript of a Bestiary or Lapidary labeled BL Royal 12 F XIII, f 42v, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and The British Library).



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