William Tell is a folk hero of Switzerland. His legend is recorded in a late 15th-century Swiss illustrated chronicle. It is set in the time of the original foundation of the Old Swiss Confederacy in the early 14th century.
According to the legend, Tell—an expert marksman with the crossbow—assassinated Gessler, a tyrannical reeve of Habsburg Austria positioned in Altdorf, Uri.
On this day in 1307, Tell visited Altdorf with his young son and passed by the hat (which Gessler had placed and demanded be saluted by anyone who passed), publicly refusing to bow to it, and so was arrested. Gessler—intrigued by Tell’s famed marksmanship yet resentful of his defiance—devised a cruel punishment: Tell and his son would be executed, but he could redeem his life by shooting an apple off the head of his son, Walter, in a single attempt. Tell split the apple with a bolt from his crossbow.