Stony Cross, King William Rufus

by Unknown

Letter T.

This is the place where King William Rufus was accidentally shot by Sir Walter Tyrrel. There has been much controversy on the details of this catastrophe; but the following conclusions, given in the "Pictorial History of England," appear to be just:—"That the King was shot by an arrow in the New Forest; that his body was abandoned and then hastily interred, are facts perfectly well authenticated; but some doubts may be entertained as to the precise circumstances attending his death, notwithstanding their being minutely related by writers who were living at the time, or who flourished in the course of the following century. Sir Walter Tyrrel afterwards swore, in France, that he did not shoot the arrow; but he was, probably, anxious to relieve himself from the odium of killing a King, even by accident. It is quite possible, indeed, that the event did not arise from chance, and that Tyrrel had no part in it. The remorseless ambition of Henry might have had recourse to murder, or the avenging shaft might have been sped by the desperate hand of some Englishman, tempted by a favourable opportunity and the traditions of the place. But the most charitable construction is, that the party were intoxicated with the wine they had drunk at Malwood-Keep, and that, in the confusion consequent on drunkenness, the King was hit by a random arrow."

In that part of the Forest near Stony Cross, at a short distance from Castle Malwood, formerly stood an oak, which tradition affirmed was the tree against which the arrow glanced that caused the death of Rufus. Charles II. directed the tree to be encircled by a paling: it has disappeared; but the spot whereon the tree grew is marked by a triangular stone, about five feet high, erected by Lord Delaware, upwards of a century ago. The stone has since been faced with an iron casting of the following inscription upon the three sides:—

"Here stood the oak-tree on which an arrow, shot by Sir Walter Tyrrel at a stag, glanced and struck King William II., surnamed Rufus, on the breast; of which stroke he instantly died, on the 2nd of August, 1100.

"King William II., surnamed Rufus, being slain, as before related, was laid in a cart belonging to one Purkess, and drawn from hence to Winchester, and buried in the cathedral church of that city.

" That where an event so memorable had happened might not hereafter be unknown, this stone was set up by John Lord Delaware, who had seen the tree growing in this place, anno 1745."

Stony Cross is a favourite spot for pic-nic parties in the summer. It lies seven miles from Ringwood, on a wide slope among the woods. From the road above, splendid views over the country present themselves.

Stony Cross, New Forest.