Sir William WALLACE
- Born: Abt 1270, Ellerslie, Renfrewshire, Scotland
- Marriage: Marion Cornelia BRADFUTE
- Died: 7 Jul 1307, London, England about age 37
Another name for William was Patriot Of SCOTLAND Braveheart.
Wallace, Sir William (1272?-1305), Scottish national hero. The only source of information concerning his early life is a 15th-century biographical poem by the Scottish poet Henry the Minstrel, who was known as Blind Harry. According to this work Wallace was outlawed by the English because of a quarrel that resulted in the death of an Englishman. He subsequently burned an English garrison and led an attack upon the English justiciar, an officer for the king, at Scone, Scotland. In 1297 his name appeared in a treaty of submission to England that was signed by the Scottish nobles who took part in his rebellion. Wallace captured many English fortresses north of the Forth River, and on September 11, 1297, in the Battle of Stirling Bridge, he severely defeated English forces attempting to cross the Forth. He was then elected to the office of guardian of the kingdom. In 1298 Scotland was invaded by a large English force led by the English king Edward I. On July 22, 1298, Edward defeated Wallace's army in the Battle of Falkirk, and Wallace was forced into hiding. He lived in France for a time but returned and was captured near Glasgow by the Scottish knight Sir John de Menteith (died after 1329). He was brought to London, tried for treason, and executed.
The situation leading up the confrontation of loyal Scots under the command of Sir William Wallace against the powerful Anglo-Norman army of Edwards I's Northern English forces at Stirling Bridge is a bit complex. After a properous and relatively peaceful reign under King Alexander III, Scotland was enjoying economic success and some degree of peace with it's southern neighbour England. With Alexander's tragic death in 1286 A.D., all of the old problems and new ones came crashing down on Scotland leading to what is now called the "First war of Scottish Independence".
Background: Scotland, 1286 A.D.
Edward I of England had only recently completed phase one of his conquest of Wales by defeating the forces of Prince Llywelyn. Edward, for all of his disreputable charateristics, was indeed one of England's most powerful and effective rulers ....particularly in his military campaigns. At the time, Anglo-Norman England commanded the most powerful, best equipped and armed military force in all of Europe.
Edward had shown his military tactics in battles in Wales, England and France, to be very effective, if not cruel and ruthless. He was indeed an enemy to be feared.
It was Welsh misfortune to choose to fight with one of England's most powerful rulers. Like other medieval kings, Edward had problems to settle in France, but throughout his reign these were overruled by his determination to increase English influence in Britain. Such a focus of attention, backed up by high military expertise, was bad news for the island's Celtic realms. For, after Wales, Edward set his sights on Scotland. In 1286, against the desires of his advisors, Alexander III, king of Scots, went for a midnight ramble to Kinghorn to see his new, young bride. "Neither storm nor floods nor rocky cliffs, would prevent him from visiting matrons, virgins and widows, by day or by night as the fancy seized him", said one contemporary. But it appears this night, Alexander was intent on being with his young bride. He went out in the dark, steep mountains, plunged over a cliff and was found with a broken neck the next day.
Alexander's heirs, his daughter and wife had died before him, and no direct adult heir was available to fill the now vacant throne of Scotland. Chaos and confusion reigned in Scotland now, instead of a rightful king or queen. Alexander's only direct heir was his grand-daughter, Margaret, an infant child known as the "Maid of Norway", the daughter of King Eric of Norway and Alexander's own daughter Margaret. Alexander's untimely death couldn't have come at a worse time for Scotland. It marked the end of a period of peace and prosperity during which country's borders, always a shifting affair, had been defined and the differing tribal "stew" of groups in the Lowlands of Celt, Saxon, and Norman had to some extent, finally grown into one recognisable nation.
The Highland and the Isles continued to be a land of Celtic and Norse people, but the Lowlands from where the Scots king ruled, was a veritable mix of ethnic groups and Gaelic was beginning to become a secondary language to English and, in places, Norman French or Latin still prevailed.
Edward Becomes Involved in the Political Situation
Edward cleverly sought to arrange a hasty marriage of his son, the Prince of Wales, and the little Margaret, "Maid of Norway". In what can only be said to be , at best, bad judgement on the part of the Scots Nobles, agreement to the marriage of young Margaret and Edward of Caernarvon was signed into treaty, called the Treaty of Birgham. However, fate again dealt a cruel blow to Scotland as little Margaret took ill on her voyage to England from Norway and died of fever in the Orkney Isles. Now the throne to Scotland and her future laid in the hands of 13 claimants for the empty throne.
At the request of Scottish, Norman blooded, Bishop Fraser a letter was urgently sent to Edward asking him to arbitrate the increasingly volatile Scottish situation. Anxious to utilise this new opportunity to unite the whole Island of Britain, Edward readily agreed to arbitrate and hoped to bring all of Scotland under his sovereign control. Acknowledging his feudal and military superiority, the Scots regents allowed Edward to decide who should rule Scotland. The front runners were John Balliol and Robert the Bruce the Elder. Both these lords were descendants of knights of William the Conqueror. For, by this time, Scotland, especially the Lowlands, was dominated by Anglo-Norman landownders ruling estates throughout the realm. Also in consideration was Sir "Red" John Comyn.
John Balliol ran vast estates in France; Robert the Bruce the Younger owned land in Essex. This conquest of Celtic Scotland had been achieved through court politics, (notably the Canmores and David I), intermarriage, and peaceful settlement. In the North, there were still many Scots landownders and clansmen who were of direct Celtic or Celtic/Norse descent, but increasingly the politics of the day was being handled by warlords of Norman or partial Norman blood. Some state that the ensuing Anglo-Scots war was therefore more a power struggle between Anglo-Norman dynasties and not an international war of Scot versus English or Celts versus Normans, as was more true in Wales and Ireland. However, this author and historian sees it as a mixture of both. Clearly in the Lowlands, this was true, but the Highlands of Scotland , not to mention the fiercely independent Isles, the Celtic and Celtic/Norse people were not ruled by Normans. So the confrontations to come were truthfully a mixture: a clash of Norman dynasties and a Celtic and English war, for the independence of Scotland.
That being said, the common people of all Scotland and many of the lower aristocracy, the clansmen, were Celtic and still spoke Gaelic. It was these people, rallying to the cause of their Scots Norman masters, who may have envisaged their battle against the English invader as a national or Celtic struggle for independence. As it turns out, they were correct.
Edward wanted to dominate Scotland. If he couldn't become it's king, then he would choose the most malleable contender. He selected John Balliol, (although according to Celtic customs -- Robert the Bruce had a stronger claim). The elderly Robert Bruce passed his family's claim onto his son, Earl of Carrick, Robert the Bruce. The Bruce's refused to do homage to the new king. Tiring of his humiliating role as frontman for Edward's ambitions, King John Balliol renounced his allegiance to the English king and renewed the Auld Alliance with France, preparing the way for war with England. Robert the Bruce refused the call to arms for various reasons. At the time, loyal to Edward, it seemed now that Balliol might be displaced in favour of the Bruce claim. Much politics was in play on the part of the Bruces and his indecision which appears to make him weak, was actually a carefully played plan to eventually be on the throne of Scotland. Balliol was in his forties, seemingly not very intelligent and rather weak-willed. Edward treated him with brutal contempt, using him merely as a feudal puppet to carry out English policies in Scotland. Finally, tired of this constant humiliation, Balliol renounced his oath of allegiance and opposed Edward. The English King, deeply embroiled in a bitter war with France in Gascony and confronted by yet another Welsh rebellion, stormed north to deal with Balliol and his followers.
Although involved in a war in France and Wales, king Edward rode north with an army of English Knights and Welsh archers. It may, incidentally, be thought remarkable that the Welsh should form such a major part of Edward's army so soon after their own defeat at his hands. But the defeat was against the Welsh Celtic Nobility, whereas the ordinary Welshman was happy to fight for money and food, due to famine, on any side. For many of the Celtic nobility, however, Wales had ceased to be their homeland and several Welsh nobles served abroad as mercenaries. The French chronicler Froissart, for instance, mentions an Owain of Wales who offered his services to the French King during the Hundred Years War.
The English army arrived outside the town of Berwick at the end of March 1296 to find the citizens and castle prepared for a long siege. So confident were the inhabitants of Berwick that they jeered at the English army over the battlements. But the experienced English troops, now wild with rage, and at the very urging of their king, captured the town nearby in a bloody matter of minutes and then spent the rest of the length of the day slaughtering it's citizens, men, women and children all under the direct orders of Edward I "Hammer of the Scots". It is said that so many townspeople were killed, that the stains of their blood could be seen, like a watermark, on the walls of the city for decades. Seeing the horrifying result of resistance to Edward, the castle opened its gates and surrendered that evening.
But Edwards bloodlust was not assauged yet. With Berwick in his hands, he sent his most senior lieutenant, John de Warrenne, to take Dunbar. De Warrenne's detachment consisted of the best cavalry, numbers of Welsh bowmen, and a good force of infantry raised in the northern levies. On arriving at Dunbar, 29 April 1296, de Warrenne found this castle also prepared for a siege, and the main Scottish army outside its walls at a place called Spottsmuir. It was commanded by John "Red" Comyn, Earl of Buchan. De Warrenne ignored the castle and offered battle to the main body of Scottish troops. The Scots, not lacking in courage but ill disciplined, broke ranks and hurled themselves at the English troops, only to be showered by thousands of Welsh arrows.
Broken and confused, they were trampled into the ground by de Warrenne's cavalry, who rode among the Scots slaughtering even the few remaining survivors with sword, lance, axe and mace. De Warrenne totally routed the Scottish army killing over 10,000 men, many of whom were injured and lying helpless on the field.
The result was a total English victory and the loss of Scottish men, women, children and Scotland's pride. Aside from the dead, John "Red" Comyn, three other Scottish Earls and more than a hundred of Comyn's most important followers were captured. Edward followed his victory at Dunbar with a triumphant march through Scotland, taking his army further than any previous ruler of Britain since the Romans.
Balloil's Fall from Power, Scotland under English Domination
Parading in triumph through Scotland, Edward demanded the abdication of Balliol. At Montrose, the two kings confronted each other. In front of both English and Scots courtiers, Balliol's coat of arms was ripped from him and thrown on the floor. His humiliation was complete. But Edward's arrogance had further heights to reach. Through fear alone, he received the homage of the Scots magnates. At Perth, he commanded that the sacred Stone of Scone (pronounced Skoon) -- upon which generations of Scots Kings had been crowned -- be removed and delivered to Westminster Abbey. Also stolen were all of Scotlands historical records (which have never been recovered) and the Holy Rod of St. Margaret. Ignoring the Bruce claim, Edward appointed an English viceroy over the Scots. Scotland it seemed was now part of the English Empire. As Edward I returned over the border, a chronicler recorded his rude parting comments of Scotland : " It is a good job to be shot (rid of) of such shit (Scotland)."
This original composition was written exclusively for SCOTWEB's Online History pages (www.clan.com/history/), and Skye's Scottish and Medieval History Web Site.
With the phenomenal success of Stirling Bridge under his belt, Sir William Wallace, Guardian of the Realm of Scotland, continued his campaign of guerilla warfare upon the Northern English counties.
In November 1297, after the battle of Stirling Bridge, Sir Andrew de Moray, Wallace's friend and right hand military advisor died of the terrible wounds he had received at Stirling Bridge. Wallace was now the sole Guardian of Scotland, holding it, many feel, for Toom Tabard (John Balliol), meaning "empty coat". The truth is there is no absolute proof that Wallace was indeed fighting to restore Toom Tabard to the throne, but there is compelling evidence that he at did at the very least invoke the king's name when in need of supporters of funds. Either way, Wallace was now alone in his fight to secure Scotlands freedom.
Throughout the rest of 1297, Wallace ravaged the Border land of England for corn and cattle. Such a turn of events wrenched Edward I back from his negotiations in France with King Philp. He transferred his headquarters to York. Now he would hammer the Scots. Feudal dues were called upon. Gascon crossbowmen and Welsh archers were recruited. So were foot soldiers from Ireland.
De Warrenne, the Earl of Surrey and Sussex having failed at Stirling to stop Wallace, necessitated Edward's march north himself. He assembled at York the largest invasion force to enter Scotland since the days of Romand general Agricola. It consisted of perhaps as many as 2,500 heavily armoured knights and at least 12,500 infantry. Eight earls joined Edward: the Marshal, the Constable, Ralph de Monthemer, Arundel, Guy of Warwick and the young Earls of Lancaster and Pembroke, each bringing their own large contingents of minor knights and infantry, swelling his host to a monstrous size.
King Edward, in the month of June 1298, reviewed at Roxburgh his army, which consisted of 12,500 infantry, English, Welsh, and Irish, alongside a body of splendidly mounted and disciplined cavalry; the veterans of his French wars: 3,000 of these rode horses completely armoured from head to crupper, and some sources say there may have been as many as 4,000 light cavalry. In addition to these were 500 Life Guards from Gascony, nobly mounted and magnificiently accoutred. (Some figures according to Cassell's British Battles, 1875).
Edward Returns; Marches against Wallace
In the beginning of 1298 the hope and support from France ended bitterly for the Scots, with peace between French King Philip and Edward, the Plantagenet came home from Gascony to deal with the Scots. As mentioned he moved the seat of his government to York (a better base of operations for an invasion of Scotland), and on 3 July, he crossed the Tweed by Coldstream with 12,500 or more foot (infantry) and over 2,500 horse, veterans of his campaigns in France and Wales. Eight earls, two of them his kinsmen and one Scot of Angus, rode behind him with their knights and tenants. Bishop Bek of Durham, armed for a cause that was surely God's, commanded thirty-two bannered knights, all his liege-vassals. The dust of the great baggage-train, wheels, feet and hooves, hung above the forest, lances leafed with pennons, as the summer sun struck bright sparks from helm and shield. Above them all the tall figure of Edward on a black horse, his yellow hair now white, his aging back held straight in it's cuirass of steel. As this mighty force moved northward by Roxburgh and Lauderdale, skirting Edinburgh toward the Stirling plain, swallowing lonely castles and digesting their burnt stones, it was less powerful than it might have seemed to the watching Scots on the hills. It was hungry. The fleet that should have provisioned it had been delayed by weather. It was undisciplined. Welsh archers quarrelled viciously with Gasons, and sickness raddled its splendid chivalry. At Kirkliston, near Linlithgow, Edward decided to fall back on Edinburgh, where he might calm and feed his mutinous men.
Wallace's Peasant Army
Wallace, indefatigable and undismayed, had meanwhile collected from amid the peasantry, of whom he was guardian, and to whom he was an idol, a resolute force of 8,000-10,000 total men, including the reserves (mostly cavalry and infantry) brought by Red Comyn. With these he moved to Falkirk, in West Lothian, where, with great skill, he chose a strong position, having on its front a morass impassable for cavalry, and his flanks covered by breastworks of palisades driven into the earth and bound together by ropes. As Edwards massive formations crossed the Border, Wallace withdrew into the hinterland, removing or burning all sources of food. He knew that Edward's army was far too big to be maintained totally by its own commissariat. When he reached Edinburgh, Edward was forced to wait fourteen days whilst the Bishop of Durham's troops destroyed Direlton and two neighbouring castles. Then the English army trudged on again: hungry, tired and with diminishing prospects of a decisive battle. Desertions increased, and fighting again broke out between English men-at-arms, Gascons versus Welsh archers. Then, on 21 July 1298, Wallace led his army forward to meet the English. In the early dawn of the following morning scouting parties from the two opposing forces met each other near Falkirk, heralding the opening of battle.
Provisions became scarce in Edward's camp at Kirkliston and the fleet from Berwick was looked for anxiously. The surrounding country, having been many times wasted by fire and sword (by Wallace), had English soldiers complaining bitterly of their scanty provender, and a change of quarters was contemplated. Only a small supply was received as the great body of the fleet was still being detained by adverse winds. A dangerous mutiny broke out in the English ranks. Under his banner Edward had vast numbers of Welsh bowmen, led by their chiefs, whom he had recently subjected to his stern sway. The famine was allowed, by the English, to be pressed hardest on the Welsh before the English. A supply of wine sent to them brought on a crisis and during the ride north, Edwards new Welsh archers, got into a killing fight with the English soldiers, which nearly broke up the whole invasion force in a sudden paroxysm of national antipathy. The Welsh turned upon the English in their tents at night. Edward's trumpets sounded promptly to horse, and charging the Welsh he slew more than eighty of them, and eventually restored order. Exasperated and sullen, the Welsh chietains now openly threatened to join Wallace.
"Let them do so" said Edward scornfully; "let them go over to my enemies. I hope soon to see the day when I shall chastise them both". Wallace had heard of the troubles in Edwards Army and had planned a night attack upon the English camp, but two ignoble peers, jealous of his power, went to the English King's side and warned him. These traitors, unnamed, told Edward where Wallace was encamped in the forest near Falkirk and told of Wallaces' position and intended tactics.
"Thanks be to God, who hath hitherto extricated me from every peril!, exclaimed Edward. "I shall go forth to meet them".
Whilst camping one night, Edward's horse was startled by something, and the charger trod heavily upon his royal master breaking three of his ribs.
Wallace Prepares and Invents - The Schiltron
Sir William Wallace feared the greater numbers of English horsemen for good reason. To counter them, he positioned his spear-carrying foot-soldiers behind boggy land, with woodland and rough terrain guarding their flanks. The 12 foot spears of the Scots were like long pikes and they stood in crowded phalanx formations -- called schiltrons (pronounced skil-trons) -- presenting the enemy with a forest of iron points.
This clever invention, was Wallace's own creation. Wallace, it is believed, had no prior knowledge of the great Greek and Macedonian phalanxes used by armies such as those of Alexander the Great centuries before. This classical literature and the wealth of information it contained remained a secret from most Europeans until Spanish Lords captured the great palaces in the Moorish Kingdoms of Granada, and earlier in Spain itself. Much classical knowledge was reclaimed from the Spanish Reconquista, or the "reconquering" of Spain, by Christian Europeans.
Discovering a weath of books and information all written in Arabic from original Greek texts, one Spanish lord sought help to decipher them. He found that his Jewish man-servant had a knowledge of Arabic language, having lived so near the Moors and Arabs. The servant translated the texts thus unlocking vast stores of information about Greek, Macedonian, Persian, and Roman history which had been lost to Europe. Therefore, many experts feel, and I would agree, Wallace had no prior knowledge of the phalanxes used by the ancients as sometimes stated in older Scottish history texts.
Wallace is credited with the invention of the schiltron units (long speared units of men, to fight horsemen) that were later employed with tremendous success by the Flemish warriors against the French chivalry at Courtrai, in 1302, and again with astounding success when used by Robert Bruce at Bannockburn in 1314.
In front of the spearmen, stakes were hammered into the ground with ropes joining them. Groups of short-bow Ettrick archers gathered between the schiltrons. The few Scots horsemen (most under the command of the "Red" Comyn)waited in reserve, hoping to exploit any break in the enemy.
Wallace had badly misjudged the fighting condition of the English army, but he came to the field well prepared. He realised that his infantry must defeat Edward's cavalry and this had not happened for centuries. With the experience of Stirling Bridge behind him this seemed possible, although it was a rare event in medieval warfare of that period. He had trained his ferocious and hearty soldiers to fight in four tight box or oval formations, as mentioned above, called schiltrons. In addition to the front row of spear points, the unit was further protected by two more rows (triple rows) of the twelve foot spears, pointing outwards, the front rows kneeling whilst those behind stood.
Early sketch of Edward I of England
By an unusual twist of historical fate, Edward also came to Falkirk with new tactics. He had learned from bitter experience in his Welsh Wars of the devastating firepower of the South Welsh longbowmen; and despite the cost and difficulty of dealing with the Celtic Welsh and their constant quarrelling with the English, he now included large numbers of them (for a price) in his army and began to use them as part of his coordinated battle plan. It would set the tone of English battle tactics for the next two centuries and would serve the English remarkably well in France during the One Hundred Years War.
The Battle Opens
On St. Magdalen's day, 22 July, the army came in sight of the Scot's position. Edward proposed to refresh his soldiers, but, confident in their overwhelming numbers, they clamoured to be led against the Scots. Edward consented, "in the mane of Holy Trinity", and the English advanced in three columns. The first was led by Earl Marshal, the second by the Bishop of Durham, and the third by Edward himself.
Wallace had drawn the Scots up in four schiltron columns, each of 1,500 to 2,000 men. These were composed entirely of peasantry; for jealous of his increasing popularity, few knights and still fewer barons joined him. Under this, however, there served as leaders Sir John Stewart of Bonhill, Sir John the Grahame of Abercorn and Dundaff; Duncan MacDuff, 11th Earl of Fife and John "Red" Comyn, son of the Lord of Badenoch.
Whilst the Bishop of Durham had been celebrating a Mass upon the hill for the English, the same sacrament was performed in the Scottish ranks; then all awaited steadily the advance of the foe.
Author/Medieval Historian: Robert M. Gunn,
When King Alexander III's grand-daughter and heir, the Maid of Norway, died in 1290, succession to the throne of Scotland was in dispute. Edward I of England, claiming to be "Lord Paramount of the Kingdom of Scotland" intervened to arbitrate, and chose John Balliol as the rightful heir. Because of the patronising way in which he was treated by Edward, King John was provoked into armed resistance. The result was that Edward invaded Scotland, captured John, and took him South where he imprisoned him in the infamous Tower of London.
Sir William Wallace of Elderslie, who was about 22 years old, emerged as a skilled guerilla leader in the subsequent struggle against English domination. Moving around the country with a band of fighters, he managed to stay one step ahead of the English occupying forces, eventually defeating them at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. Edwards forces withdrew, and in turn Wallace invaded England....
At this time he wrote:
"The Kingdom of Scotland, thanks be to God, has been recovered by war from the power of the English."
The English retaliated, defeating the Scots at Falkirk a year later, but the war of independence dragged on for many years longer, during which time Wallace himself was betrayed to the English and executed in London. But his bravery had inspired a wave of patriotism which lived on...
In 1814 the Earl of Buchan commissioned this monumental 7 metre high sandstone statue situated on a hillside overlooking the River Tweed near Dryburgh, secluded in woodlands of beech and scots pines.
Little is known about the origins of Sir Williams sword for it carries no makers mark and is therefore difficult to date. We do know, however, that King James IV ordered the sword to be rehilted in 1505, so that it would be more fitting to Scotlands National Hero.
The sword, which is a traditional two handed broad sword, is approximately 66 inches in length with the blade itself being around 52 inches long. The quality of the metal used for the blade suggests that it may have been forged in Scotland, unlike other swords of the period which were often Flemish or German in origin.
It is reasonable to assume that in order to carry, let alone weild, the sword Sir William Wallace must have been a man of considerable physical, as well as virtuous, stature. In fact it is estimated that to be able to weild the sword Sir William must have been more than six feet six inches tall.
The sword was traditionally kept in Dunbarton castle until 1869 when, of course, it was more fittingly placed in the New National Wallace Monument.
Battle of Falkirk
Date - 1298
Combatants - Sir William Wallace (Guardian of Scotland) .v. King Edward I of England
Setting - Falkirk, Scotland
After Wallace's victory at Stirling, he was knighted and given the title 'Guardian of Scotland'. Edward I, on the other hand, was in Flanders, hoping to secure new land for the English crown. On hearing of the defeat of his entire northern army, he headed home. He then marched north with 87,500 troops. Wallace could only muster about one third of that. When Edward arrived in Kirkliston, he considered retreating after he saw the Lothians had become a desert. However, two Scottish knights sent a message to him, betraying Wallace's whereabouts.
The following day, Edward's army rode to Falkirk where they attacked the Scots. The Scottish knights also betrayed Wallace, turning and riding from the field at the vital moment. Like most of the Scottish nobles, they would rather have fought for the English where they believed chivalry was best served. The Scots army suffered severe slaughter. The retreating body of Wallace's men was too small to hold Stirling and had to pass it by. There was little gain in Edward's victory, but he had defeated Wallace. On the banks of the River Forth, Wallace sadly renounced his guardianship. He was now an outlaw again.
William married Marion Cornelia BRADFUTE. (Marion Cornelia BRADFUTE was born about 1260 in Scotland.)