Just at this time there was a great stir in Europe. Jerusalem—that holy city, where our blessed Lord had taught, where he had been crucified, and where he had risen from the dead—was a place where everyone wished to go and worship, and this they called going on pilgrimage. A beautiful church had once been built over the sepulchre where our Lord had lain, and enriched with gifts. But for a long time past Jerusalem had been in the hands of an Eastern people, who think their false prophet, Mahommed, greater than our blessed Lord. These Mahommedans used to rob and ill-treat the pilgrims, and make them pay great sums of money for leave to come into Jerusalem. At last a pilgrim, named Peter the Hermit, came home, and got leave from the Pope to try to go to the Holy Land, and fight to get the Holy Sepulchre back into Christian hands again. He used to preach in the open air, and the people who heard him were so stirred up that they all shouted out, “It is God’s will! It is God’s will!” And each who undertook to go and fight in the East received a cross cut out into cloth, red or white, to wear on his shoulder. Many thousands promised to go on this crusade, as they called it, among them was Robert, Duke of Normandy. But he had wasted his money, so that he could not fit out an army to take with him. So he offered to give up Normandy to his brother William while he was gone, if William would let him have the money he wanted. The Red King was very ready to make such a bargain, and he laughed at the Crusaders, and thought that they were wasting their time and trouble.
They had a very good man to lead them, named Godfrey de Buillon; and, after many toils and troubles, they did gain Jerusalem, and could kneel, weeping, at the Holy Sepulchre. It was proposed to make Robert King of Jerusalem, but he would not accept the offer, and Godfrey was made king instead, and staid to guard the holy places, while Duke Robert set out on his return home.
In the meantime, the Red King had gone on in as fierce and ungodly a way as ever, laughing good advice to scorn, and driving away the good Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Anselm, and everyone else who tried to warn him or withstand his wickedness. One day, in the year 1100, he went out to hunt deer in the New Forest, which his father had wasted, laughing and jesting in his rough way. By and by he was found under an oak tree, with an arrow through his heart; and a wood-cutter took up his body in his cart, and carried it to Winchester Cathedral, where is was buried.
Who shot the arrow nobody knew, and nobody ever will know. Some thought it must be a knight, named Walter Tyrrell, to whom the king had given three long good arrows that morning. He rode straight away to Southampton, and went off to the Holy Land; so it is likely that he knew something about the king’s death. But he never seems to have told any one, whether it was only an accident, or a murder, or who did it. Anyway, it was a fearful end, for a bad man to die in his sin, without a moment to repent and pray.