Scotlands History

William Wallace

William Wallace - The Wallace - is world famous; a national hero who fought and died to free Scotland from English rule.

William is thought to have been the younger son of a Scots landowner, Alan Wallace. In the Scotichronicon, around the end of the 14th century, Walter Bower describes Wallace as:

...a tall man with the body of a giant, cheerful in appearance with agreeable features, broad-shouldered and big-boned... pleasing in appearance but with a wild look, broad in the hips, with strong arms and legs, a most spirited fighting-man, with all his limbs very strong and firm.

Wallace may have been outlawed for killing the son of an English constable in Dundee, and may have killed two English soldiers who demanded the fish he had caught at Irvine Water. The English authorities saw Wallace as nothing more than a dangerous outlaw.

In May 1297 Wallace was in Lanark. It is said that he was visiting his wife, the beautiful Marion Braidfute, who he had married in secret. Lanark Castle was held by an English sheriff, Sir William Heselrig. When Heselrig’s soldiers learned that Wallace was with Marion they surrounded him. Wallace escaped but Marion was captured by Heselrig. The English sheriff had Wallace’s wife put to death.

That night Wallace and his men made their way back to Lanark Castle under cover of darkness. Wallace broke into Heselrig’s bedchamber and hacked the English sheriff to death.

In 1297 leaders of an uprising against Edward’s rule ignited across Scotland. The ‘noble’ revolt died almost before it had begun but in the north-east Andrew Moray led a Scots uprising in a successful campaign against English-held castles.

Bishop Wishart met with Wallace in Glasgow. The Lanercost Chronicle condemned Wishart for supporting Wallace and conspiring against King Edward:

Robert Wishart, bishop of Glasgow, ever foremost in treason conspired with the Steward of the Kingdom, named James, for a new piece of insolence, yea, for a new chapter of ruin. Not daring openly to break their pledge to the king, they caused a certain bloody man, William Wallace, who had formerly been a chief of brigands in Scotland, to revolt against the king and assemble the people in his support.

Wallace fought a guerrilla war against English rule. He led a growing uprising to Scone. When William Ormesby, the English Justiciar in Scotland, heard that Wallace was coming he fled with his troops to Edinburgh then to the safety of England. Wallace laid siege to the English-held Dundee Castle.

Edward I turned his attention from war with France to the troublesome Scots. He ordered John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, and Hugh de Cressingham, the English Treasurer of Scotland, to raise an army and destroy the uprising.

As the English army marched north Wallace broke off his siege, sent a messenger to Andrew Moray and prepared to meet the Edward’s army head on at Stirling.

The stage was set for the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

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Listen to the transcript of the trial of William Wallace.