An essay written by a 16-year-old for world history
Sir William Wallace is a legend that has been around for some time, though it had begun to be forgotten. He was a large man who could kill Englishmen with his five-foot sword as if they were nothing, as well as a brilliant military tactician. It was revived with great strength a few years back with Mel Gibson's self-starring and self-directed movie, Braveheart. While it is inaccurate in several ways (much like Disney animated movies), it is an excellent movie that got good reviews. If you are interested in the legend, please go see it, but keep in mind that it isn't the whole truth. For a long time, the only records of Wallace were from 300 pages of rhyming verse by a blind poet named Blind Harry. However, more accurate facts have been uncovered today with modern historians.
Historians aren't quite sure when the Scottish hero, Sir William Wallace, was actually born. Nor are they totally sure of his ancestors. We do know that he was the second of three sons born to Sir Malcolm Wallace sometime between 1270 and 1276, most likely 1272. He was born in a town called Elerslie (now called Elderslie). Unlike how Scotland was usually portrayed, it was a fairly prosperous country at this time. On August 18, 1274, Edward I, more commonly known by the nickname Longshanks, was crowned King of England.
William Wallace was a very strong and rather large man. Not large as in fat, but relatively large in stature. He was around 6 feet 7 inches tall when the average height for men was only 5 foot! As one of the younger sons, and therefore ineligible for hereditary rights, he studied at the Church. One of his Uncles, who was a priest, taught him. It was probably he who buried in Wallace the great sense of morals and righteousness that he was famous for. The knowledge of equality and liberty.
Unlike in Braveheart, William's father hadn't died yet. He and his eldest son had run away because of not paying homage to Longshanks. It was just William, his younger brother, John, and mother, Margaret left. He and his family took off and came under the care of another uncle, probably from his mother's side. As Longshanks began stretching his arm for absolute control of Scotland, William reportedly had several bad run-ins with English soldiers, making him an outlaw. He split from his family for both their safety and lived with yet another uncle, Sir Richard Wallace. Still more problems with English soldiers drove him to hide in the woods.
According to a few Internet sites, this is where Robin Hood comes in. Here we have an outlaw in the forest, who ruthlessly attacked anything English in the forest. William was joined by about 15 fellow Scots. He had a friend from the Church, a Benedictine monk named John Blair, who joined him. John Blair also recorded all of the party's moves. Still more old friends joined his vendetta through the woods, Tom Halliday, and Edward Little. He also had a love, whom he never married, named Marion Braidfute. She was eventually murdered, driving William even more. We now have a band of outlaw men in a forest attacking troops, a mistress named Marion, a man with the name Little, and a Benedictine monk. Put two and two together, mix with the chaos of generations of storytellers, and you almost get the Robin Hood story (see also hamster dance).
William was also famously involved in raising armies of scots against the English and leading them to battle. He began his campaigne in May of 1297. He burned Lanark and killed its sheriff. He also helped organize an army that fought with English garrisons.* The next big battle hit in Sept 11, 1297 at Stirling. Wallace was outnumbered, overpowered. However, there was a catch. The English were across a narrow bridge from the battle field. When they attempted to cross it, Wallace's men trapped them and decimated them on the bridge. In July 22, 1298, Wallace was defeated at the Battle of Falkirk. Though Scotland had not been lost to the English, Wallace's undefeatable military reputation had. Starting around 1299, there are about 4 to 5 years Wallace is unaccounted for.
On August 5, 1305, he was arrested. At London he was declared a traitor to the crown. Wallace's only defense he claimed was that he had never sworn allegiance to Longshanks, so how could he be a traitor? Braveheart is rather accurate about this part. Wallace was hanged, disemboweled, quartered, and beheaded. His various body parts were sent to different key areas, meant as a warning to any who dare rebel. It had the opposite effect on the scots however. Robert the Bruce led the rebellion in 1306 and won independence for the Scottish people.
* Just because it says Garrison doesn't mean the history lesson was composed under the Influence by a cardboard cutout elementary school teacher.
Copyright © 2000 Samuel Seabold
; used by permission.