of Falkirk, 1298
The English nobility had been on the edge of civil war with Edward
I. They were disgruntled over his wars in France and Scotland, however,
faced with the humiliating defeat by the Scots at Stirling Bridge,
they united behind him in time for the Battle of Falkirk.
later tales, Wallace told his men: I hae brocht ye to the
ring, now see gif ye can dance, however, as one historian
has called it, it was a dance of death, as Wallace had
seriously misjudged Edwards battle tactics. His Welsh archers
proved to be the decisive weapon: their arrows raining death on
the Scots spearmen.
Wallace the Diplomat.
After Falkirk, the Scots nobles reasserted their role as guardians
of the kingdom and continued the war with Edward. Wallace was assigned
a new role as an envoy for the Scots to the courts of Europe.
crucial to the Scots war effort and Wallace, by now a renowned figure
across Europe, played a high profile role. In 1299 he left Scotland
for the court of King Philip IV of France. He was briefly imprisoned
for various political motives, but was soon released and given the
French kings safe conduct to the papal court. Wallace returned
to Scotland in 1301, with the diplomatic effort seemingly in good
French abandoned Scotland when they needed Edwards help to
suppress a revolt in Flanders. With no prospect of victory, the
Scottish leaders capitulated and recognised Edward as overlord in
1304. Only Wallace refused to submit, perhaps signing his own death
warrant at this time.
Here was the
crucial difference between Wallace and the key players from amongst
the Scottish nobles - for Wallace there was no compromise, the English
were his enemy and he could not accept their rule in any form. However,
the nobles were more pliable and willing to switch sides, or placate
the English, when it served their own ends. Wallace had become a
nuisance to both his feudal superiors and the English.
of William Wallace
Wallace was declared an outlaw, which meant his life was forfeit
and that anyone could kill him without trial. He continued his resistance,
but on August 3rd, 1305, he was captured at Robroyston, near Glasgow.
His captor, Sir John Menteith, the false Menteith, has
gone down in Scottish legend as the betrayer of Wallace, but he
acted as many others would have. Menteith was no English lackey,
and in 1320 he put his seal to the Declaration of Arbroath.
taken to Dumbarton castle, but quickly moved to London for a show
trial in Westminster Hall. He was charged with two things - being
an outlaw and being a traitor. No trial was required, but, by charging
him as a traitor, Edward intended to destroy his reputation. At
his trial he had no lawyers and no jury, he even wasnt allowed
to speak, but when he was accused of being a traitor, he denied
it, saying he had never been Edwards subject in the first
place. Inevitably he was found guilty and was taken for immediate
execution - in a manner designed to symbolise his crimes.
Wrapped in an
ox hide to prevent him being ripped apart, thereby shortening the
torture, he was dragged by horses four miles through London to Smithfield.
There he was hanged, as a murderer and thief, but cut down while
still alive. Then he was mutilated, disembowelled and, being accused
of treason, he was probably emasculated. For the crimes of sacrilege
to English monasteries, his heart, liver, lungs and entrails were
cast upon a fire, and, finally, his head was chopped off. His carcase
was then cut up into bits. His head was set on a pole on London
Bridge, another part went to Newcastle, a district Wallace had destroyed
in 1297-8, the rest went to Berwick, Perth and Stirling (or perhaps
Aberdeen), as a warning to the Scots. Edward had destroyed the man,
but had enhanced the myth.
became a martyr, the very symbol of Scotlands struggle for
freedom. He entered the realm of folktale and legend. From Blind
Harry's 'Wallace' to Mel Gibsons Braveheart, William
Wallace continues to haunt the Scottish imagination with a vision
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