Unbeknownst to many people, William the Conqueror (actually called William the Bastard in his own lifetime because he was illegitimate) had four sons, not just the three you hear about (Robert, William Rufus, and Henry). William’s second son was named Richard, but he died young; consequently, not much is known about him.
According to William of Malmesbury in his Gesta Regum Anglorum (The History of the English Kings), Richard was a good egg. He “encouraged in the mind of his great-hearted father the hope that he would make his mark: he was an elegant boy and, for a child of that age, had high ambitions; but all that promise of a springtide flowing was quickly preyed upon and wasted by an early death. The story goes that while shooting stags in the New Forest he caught some sickness from breathing the foggy and corrupted air.” To die courtesy of the New Forest was a form of poetic justice on William, as he had actually moved entire villages out of the area which was to become his “New Forest.” So sadly, karma came back and bit William in the ass for wronging some poor Anglo-Saxon villagers, although it does seem a tad unjust of karma to kill his son instead of him.
And while Richard was the first of the Conqueror’s sons to die in the New Forest, he was not the last. William Rufus, the third son (who probably became King of England because Richard was dead) also died while hunting in the new Forest (he was shot by an arrow). And a grandson of William’s, Richard son of Robert (the eldest son), also died in this same forest, either due to being shot by an arrow or hanged on a tree branch after his horse ran under it. All in all, the New Forest was not a good place for William’s immediate male descendants.
On a lighter note, there’s been a Richard in the news as of late. Perhaps you heard about the woman who honored her sister’s dying wish – marrying her husband! The dying married sister was the mother of three, and she wanted her sister to step in and help her husband raise the kids. Although initially put off by the idea, the single sister eventually changed her tune and married the widower. And, of course, the husband in question is named Richard!
Read the story here.
Information and quote from William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regvm Anglorvm: The History of the English Kings, Vol. I, ed. and trans. by R.A.B. Mynors, R.M. Thomson, and M. Winterbottom (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 503, 505.