TELL The story of William Tell's skill in shooting at and striking the apple which had been placed on the head of his little son by order of Gessler, the tyrannical Austrian bailiff of Uri, is so closely bound up with the legendary history of the origin of the Swiss Confederation that they must be considered together.
Many details are given of the oppressions of the bailiffs: we hear of Gessler, of the meeting of Stoupacher of Schwyz, Furst of Uri, and a man of.
Now Gessler is the name of a real family, the history of which from 1250 to 1513 has been worked out by Rochholz, who shows in detail that no member ever played the part attributed to the bailiff in the legend, or could have done so, and that the Gesslers could not have owned or dwelt at the castle of Kiissnacht; nor could they have been called Von B runeck.
In the final recension of Tschudi's Chronicle (1734-36), which, however, differs in many particulars from the original draft still preserved at Zurich, we are told how Albert of Austria, with the view of depriving the Forest lands of their ancient freedom, sent bailiffs (among them Gessler) to Uri and Schwyz, who committed many tyrannical acts, so that finally on 8th November 1307, at the Riitli, Werner von Stauffacher of Schwyz, Walter Fiirst of Uri, Arnold von Melchthal in Unterwalden, each with ten companions, among whom was William Tell, resolved on a rising to expel the oppressors, which was fixed for New Year's Day 1308.
In particular, while in his first draft he speaks of the bailiff as Gryssler - the usual name up to his time, except in the White Book and in Stumpff's Chronicle of 1548 - in his final recension he calls him Gessler, knowing that this was a real name.