Anyone who has seen the movie Braveheart has heard of William Wallace. However! The name Braveheart was not applied to William Wallace, but to Robert the Bruce who followed Wallace. Bruce’s heart was removed from his body and carried on crusade thus earning the name.
William Wallace is believed to have been born in 1272. Although some details of his birth are sketchy, it is believed he was the third son of Alan Wallace and was born in Elderslie in Renfrewshire. At the time of his birth Alexander III was king of Scotland. Alexander died in 1276 after a fall from his horse leaving his young granddaughter, Margaret, Maid of Norway, as queen. Margaret fell ill on the voyage from Norway to Scotland and never made it to the mainland thus leaving Scotland without a ruler. This left the country in chaos. King Edward I of England stepped in at the request of the Scottish nobles.
Edward named John Balliol as king. He was not a good choice. It didn’t take long for the Scottish nobles to rebel against John and Edward. Civil war broke out.
Wallace was outlawed in May 1297 after his assignation of the high sheriff of Lanarkshire. (According to the movie, this was because the sheriff had Wallace’s wife killed. There is no record that the woman killed was Wallace’s wife.)
In September, 1297, Wallace and Andrew Moray led a small army into battle at Stirling. Contrary to the movie which depicts the battle as field battle, the actual fight took place on a bridge over the River Forth. The Scots remained hidden until about half of the English infantry had crossed the narrow wooden bridge. The infantry tried to retreat back into the cavalry that followed them. So many men and horses caused the bridge to collapse under their weight and many of the English soldiers drowned. Although outnumbered nearly six to one, the Scots were victorious.
Following Stirling, Wallace led a raid into northern England. It was sometime around then Wallace was knighted.
In 1297, Edward’s army defeated Wallace at Falkirk. In September, Wallace turned the office of Guardian of Scotland over to Robert the Bruce. Little is known of his activities from then until 1305. It is believed he traveled to France to try to get support from King Philip IV.
In August, 1305, Wallace was betrayed and turned over to Edward by a Scottish noble, John de Menteith. He was accused of treason to which he replied, “I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject.”
On August 23, 1305, Wallace was executed by being hung, drawn, and quartered. (I’ll spare the description.)
One other point regarding the movie: it is doubtful Wallace ever met, let alone had sex with, the Princess of Wales.
Personal note – Wallace’s mother was a Crawford (which I am also).
Wallace monument outside of Stirling – the remains of the old bridge where the battle was fought are visible from the monument. I only made it to the first level (about 1/3 of the way to the top).
William Wallace’s sword. It took a big man to wield that sword.
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