Early in the fourteenth century, Albert I, the Habsburg Emperor, appointed Albrecht Gessler as governor of Switzerland, with the task of subduing the Swiss to Austrian rule.
GOVERNOR Gessler had the bright idea of putting his hat on a pole in the prosperous town of Altdorf, and ordering every passer-by to bow respectfully before it.
After William Tell and his son walked by the hat without so much as a nod, Gessler’s men arrested them and brought them before the Governor.
Such was Tell’s reputation as an expert with the crossbow, that Gessler could not resist a sporting wager: Tell could be executed at once, with his son, or he could have one attempt to shoot an apple off the boy’s head, and if he succeeded, go free.
Tell drew two bolts from his quiver, and fired the first, straight and true, through the centre of the apple. Gessler was grudging in defeat, but fair, and ordered Tell released.
“Why” the Governor asked in parting “did you pick out two bolts? You were allowed only one shot.”
“Because had I missed,” said Tell, “the second was for you.”
Cumbria has its own answer to William Tell (with a bit of Robin Hood thrown in), William of Cloudsley.