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William Wallace

Dates

Born sometime between 1270-1276. Elderslie or Ellerslie, Scotland
Died August 23, 1305, London, England. He was disemboweled and decapitated, with his limbs brought to cities at the four corners of England and his head impaled on the spikes at London Bridge

Biography

Little is known for certain about the details of Wallace's life, and much of what was assumed, based largely on poems by Blind Harry, is now coming into question, especially since Wallace's seal was rediscovered in 1999. The following was pieced together in 1998, based on what we could find on the Internet at the time. For more details, we recommend you check out his Wikipedia entry, or buy some of the many books on Wallace.

Sir William Wallace William Wallace was the second of three sons born to Sir Malcom Wallace and his wife Margaret. Sir Malcom Wallace was a knight who held some lands, but was a rather minor figure in the politics and nobility of the time. William grew to be a giant of a man, standing six foot, seven inches when the average man was only five feet tall.

Following the traditional role for a younger son, William was given formal education in preparation for a role with the Church. William spent a number of years learning the classics, first under his uncle at Cambuskenneth Abbey, later at Dundee.

During this time, a struggle for control of Scotland was underway. Alexander III died with no heir to take over the Scottish throne. Scotland was on the brink of civil war as the families Bruce and Balliol each claimed the right to the throne. King Edward I ("Longshanks") of England stepped in to mediate the dispute. Longshanks' actual motive was to take Scotland for himself.

William Wallace statue in EdinburghDuring the sporadic battles that marked this conflict, William's father died in 1291 at Irvine. That year, at the age of 19, William Wallace killed the son of an English noble who had picked a fight with him. Wallace fled to stay with his uncle Sir Richard Wallace in Riccarton. William stayed with his uncle until the day a group of English soldiers demanded a fish he had caught. William killed three of them and again had to flee.

William spent several years hiding in the woods along the River Ayr. He led a group of men who frequently raided English garrisons and troops. Wallace's raids often involving difficult escapes from situation where he was heavily outnumbered, began to inspire those who supported Scottish independence.

A number of nobles joined William Wallace, including future king Robert the Bruce. Wallace's group took the city of Glasgow and Scone in May of 1297. At this time Longshanks sent an army of 40,000 infantry and 300 cavalry to resolve the "Scottish problem". When the armies met in July of 1297, there was dissention in the Scottish ranks. Many of the nobles were unhappy about be led by someone they felt was of inferior status to them. Most deserted to the enemy.

Wallace retreated, and the English believed the revolution was over. Wallace, however, advanced again and laid siege to the castle of Dundee. An English army marched to meet them. On September 11, 1297, English and Scottish armies met at Stirling Bridge. Although outnumbered, the Scots defeated the English and drove them from Scotland.

William Wallace's SwordWallace advanced in to England, going as far south as Newcastle. Longshanks returned to England and formed an army of 100,000 infantry and 8000 horse to crush the Scots. Outnumbered, Wallace retreated and adopted a "scorched earth" policy, slowing the English.

Wallace was betrayed by the Scottish nobles and, in 1305 was captured by the English. Wallace was tried and executed as a traitor.

In 2005, Wallace's sword, which weighed 6 pounds and was 5 foot-4 inches long, left Scotland for the first time since Wallace's death, becoming the centerpiece of a Tartan Week celebration in New York City. A symbolic funeral was held marking the 700th anniversary of his death at the site of Wallace's execution in Smithfield, London.

Braveheart

In 1995, the most famous account of Wallace's life was introduced when Mel Gibson directed and starred in Braveheart. While a commercial and critical success (winning five Oscars, including Best Picture), the film has been heavily criticized for it's historical inaccuracies. We at Manlyweb agree with both sides--we've read some books on Wallace, and there is a ton of stuff in the movie that is "poetic license." At the same time, it's a pretty kick ass movie--it always makes our top 10 list.

Quotes

"I can not be a traitor, for I owe him no allegiance. He is not my Sovereign; he never received my homage; and whilst life is in this persecuted body, he never shall receive it. To the other points whereof I am accused, I freely confess them all. As Governor of my country I have been an enemy to its enemies; I have slain the English; I have mortally opposed the English King; I have stormed and taken the towns and castles which he unjustly claimed as his own. If I or my soldiers have plundered or done injury to the houses or ministers of religion, I repent me of my sin; but it is not of Edward of England I shall ask pardon." -Supposedly Wallace himself, to the King's Justice who was "trying" him as a traitor.

 
 
 

 
 
   
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