Nursery Rhymes

William Tell

Middle Ages - Lords and Ladies

Short Biography profile and facts about the life of William Tell of Switzerland
The following biography information provides basic facts and information about the life and history of William Tell a famous Medieval character of the Middle Ages:

  • Details of William Tell cannot be authenticated

  • He is believed to have  is said to have lived in Burglen, a village of the Canton of Uri in Switzerland in the early 14th century. His great adversary was said to be Hermann Gessler
  • Why William Tell was famous: He is the National hero of Switzerland. His legend tells how he shot an apple from the head of his son

William Tell
The story and legend of William Tell which contains interesting information about the life of this Medieval person.

The Legend of William Tell
In a canton in the valley of the Rhine lived the Hapsburg family, whose leaders in time grew to be very rich and powerful. They became dukes of Austria and some of them were elected emperors. One of the Hapsburgs, Albert I, claimed that the land of the Forest Cantons belonged to him. He sent a governor and a band of soldiers to those cantons and made the people submit to his authority.

William Tell the Mountaineer
In one of the Forest Cantons at this time lived a famous mountaineer named William Tell. He was tall and strong. In all Switzerland no man had a foot so sure as his on the mountains or a hand so skilled in the use of a bow. He was determined to resist the Austrians. Secret meetings of the mountaineers were held and all took a solemn oath to stand by each other and fight for their freedom; but they had no arms and were simple shepherds who had never been trained as soldiers. The first thing to be done was to get arms without attracting the attention of the Austrians. It took nearly a year to secure spears, swords, and battle-axes and distribute them among the mountains. Finally this was done, and everything was ready. All were waiting for a signal to rise.

William Tell and Gessler - William Tell shoots an apple from the head of his son
The story tells us that just at this time Gessler, the Austrian governor, who was a cruel tyrant, hung a cap on a high pole in the market-place in the village of Altorf, and forced everyone who passed to bow before it. Tell accompanied by his little son, happened to pass through the marketplace. He refused to bow before the cap and was arrested. Gessler offered to release him if he would shoot an apple from the head of his son. The governor hated Tell and made this offer hoping that the mountaineer's hand would tremble and that he would kill his own son. It is said that Tell shot the apple from his son's head but that Gessler still refused to release him.

William Tell is imprisonment and escape
That night as Tell was being carried across the lake to prison a storm came up. In the midst of the storm he sprang from the boat to an over-hanging rock and made his escape. It is said that he killed the tyrant. That night the signal fires were lighted on every mountain and by the dawn of day the village of Altorf was filled with hardy mountaineers, armed and ready to fight for their liberty. A battle followed and the Austrians were defeated and driven from Altorf. This victory was followed by others.

William Tell his role in the Republic of Switzerland
A few years later, the duke himself came with a large army, determined to conquer the mountaineers. He had to march through a narrow pass, with mountains rising abruptly on either side. The Swiss were expecting him and hid along the heights above the pass, as soon as the Austrians appeared in the pass, rocks and trunks of trees were hurled down upon them. Many were killed and wounded. Their army was defeated, and the duke was forced to recognize the independence of the Forest Cantons. This was the beginning of the Republic of Switzerland.

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