Tuesday, August 23, 2011

William Wallace

William Wallace is a historical figure who has intrigued me since watching Braveheart. Wallace led the Scottish rebellion against Edward I and inflicted a great defeat on the English army at Stirling Bridge. He is not only considered a patriot but also a national hero in Scotland. 

William Wallace was born in 1270 in Elderslie, Renfrewshire, into a gentry family. Unfortunately not much is known about his early years whilst many periods of his life are based on unreliable sources. In 1296 Scottish unrest was widespread after Edward I of England had taken advantage of a succession crisis in Scotland  and imposed himself as ruler with an English administration. In May 1297 Wallace attacked the town of Lanark, killing the English sheriff. This resulted in the prevalence of a full-blown rebellion. Many followed Wallace and achieved to drive the English out of Fife and Perthshire. In September of the same year Wallace defeated a much larger English force at the Battle of Stirling Bridge and due to this and other military successes the English hold on Scotland was weakened. After this William Wallace launched raids into Northern England. As a result of his actions he was knighted and appointed "guardian of the kingdom" in the name of the deposed king of Scotland, John Balliol. 
Following the defeat at Stirling the English rallied around Edward, who then marched north with an army. Wallace's strategy was to avoid confrontation and gradually withdraw. Destroying the country side as he went along, he forced Edward to march deeper into Scotland. The English and Scottish armies met near Falkirk in July 1298, where the latter were defeated. Wallace escaped, at some stage he resigned the guardianship and was eventually succeeded by Robert Bruce and John Comyn.
Wallace returned to Scotland in 1303 after visiting France, where he pursued to obtain support for the Scottish cause. Whilst he was abroad Robert Bruce had accepted a truce with Edward I and John Comyn came to terms with the English in 1304. Wallace was excluded from these terms and the English monarch offered a large sum of money to anyone who killed or captured him. Eventually the Scottish hero was seized in Glasgow and was transported to London in August 1305. He was charged and tried with treason, although denying it, claiming that he had never sworn allegiance to the English king. His execution was held on 23 August, (706 years ago) where he was hung, drawn and quartered. His head was placed on London Bridge, whilst his limbs displayed in Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling and Perth.  

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