Scotlands History

The execution of Wallace

William Wallace had become the hated enemy of King Edward I. Edward put a price on his head and ordered the Scots nobles to deliver Wallace to him.

In 1299 Wallace left Scotland and sailed to France on a diplomatic mission to the French King Philip the Fair. Scotland needed allies and Wallace called on Philip to honour his treaty with the Scots. Philip gave Wallace a letter of introduction to Pope Boniface VII. John Balliol had been handed over to the Pope by Edward I. Wallace hoped to see the King of Scots restored to his throne but it was not to be. Balliol was released by the Pope into the protection of the French king but he never returned to Scotland.

Wallace sailed back to Scotland and it is thought that he joined Sir John Comyn and Sir Simon Fraser as they defeated three English armies in a single day at the Battle of Rosslyn on 24 February 1303.

On 3 August 1305 Wallace was captured in Robroyston, north of Glasgow. He was taken by Sir John Menteith, the uncle of Sir John Stewart who had fallen at the Battle of Falkirk. Menteith had been made sheriff of Dumbarton by Edward. From Dumbarton Castle the captive Wallace was taken south to Carlisle then paraded, bound hand and foot, to London.

Wallace was tried in Westminster Hall on 23 August 1305. A list of his crimes, including murder and treason, were read out. Wallace denied that he was guilty of treason - he had never sworn allegiance to Edward. The verdict and the punishment were decided before the trail began. Wallace was to be given a traitor’s death - he was to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

William Wallace was strapped to a wooden hurdle. He was dragged though the streets to the Elms at Smithfield. There he was hanged from a gallows but cut down while he still lived. He was disembowelled before his head was hacked off and his body was cut into pieces.

The quarters of Wallace’s body were sent to Berwick, Newcastle upon Tyne, Stirling and Perth to show the price of treason. Wallace’s head was spiked above London Bridge. Edward thought this humiliating death would be the end of the matter - that Wallace would be forgotten. He was wrong. The common folk of Scotland told tales of the Wallace. They recalled his deeds to their children and their children’s children.

Finally, around 1470, a poet named Blind Harry wrote down the story of William Wallace.

  • Detail of stone memorial describing the execution of William Wallace
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Listen to Flores Historarium - the Flowers of History - on William Wallace.