Who was William Wallace?
William Wallace was a thirteenth century warrior
and hero to Scottish nationalists.
Date and Place of Birth:
1270, Elderslie, Renfrewshire, Scotland.
Wallace was the second son of Malcolm (or Alan)
Wallace, Laird of Elderslie and Auchinbothie, a small landowner.
His mother was the daughter of Sir Hugh Crawford, Sheriff of Ayr.
From members of his family.
Chronology/Biography of WIlliam Wallace:
was born in a medieval fortification, the foundations of which now
lie below the monument to him in Elderslie. Little of his youth
is known but a wandering minstrel called "Blind Harry"
told many tales of the deeds of Wallace in the 15th Century. How
reliable these are is anyone's guess but it is likely that there
was a good deal of romantic embroidery involved in the stories.
Harry claims that Wallace was already a powerful individual by his
late teenage years and had killed many Englishmen who had crossed
1292: The Scottish
nobles asked for the help of Kind Edward the First of England (Longshanks)
to help solve the dispute as to who should be King of Scotland.
Edward appointed commissioners and after due consideration John
Balliol was decreed to be the right choice.
1296: King Edward
the First of England had become more and more annoyed that John
Balliol, King of Scots was not supplying him with soldiers for his
continental wars. Edward took his army to Berwick upon Tweed to
teach the Scots a lesson. His men sacked the town and it is believed
15,000 people were killed. Berwick was to become an English town.
The Scots fought back at the English army now besieging the castle
at Dunbar but were cut to ribbons by superior forces. One of the
Scottish nobles Andrew de Moray (Murray) was captured and imprisoned
Wallace statue near His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen
which was erected in 1888
(© Anthony Blagg)
1297: The first
indisputable fact about William Wallace comes when he slays Haselrig,
the English Sherrif of Lanark. Harry tells us that this was in retaliation
for the murder of his sweetheart Marion by Haselrig. From now on
Wallace was to become a magnet for disaffected young man and his
army attacked many English held fortifications. Andrew de Moray
also escaped from Chester and raised his standard at Avoch in the
Black Isle. Wallace operating in the Southern parts of Scotland
eventually joined forces with Moray at Dundee. Once they heard of
the English army being sent to attack them they realised that the
English would have to cross Stirling Bridge on their way north and
so they moved their army to the nearby Abbey Craig. Once a section
of the English army had crossed the narrow bridge Wallace and Moray
attacked and cut the head of the the army to pieces. The Battle
of Stirling Bridge was a severe blow to English Morale. In the absence
of a King, Balliol having now been discredited, Wallace and Moray
were promoted to be Guardians of their country. Moray died later
in the year from wounds believed to have been received in the battle.
Late in the year Wallace invaded England and the Scots attacked
many northern towns including Hexham and Brampton. An attempt on
Carlisle Castle failed as they did not have the necessary siege
equipment. As harsh winter weather set in the Scottish army retreated
back across the border but took with them large amounts of booty
and livestock. Wallace was knighted and made Guardian of Scotland
officially at a ceremony at the Kirk of Ettrick Forest near the
town of Selkirk.
1298: William Wallace
sent a letter to Alexander Scrymgeour the official standard bearer
of Scotland to prepare for battle. Edward the First of England raised
another army which he sent north crossing the border at Berwick
and following the east coast. Wallace had put into effect a "scorched
earth" policy burning the lands in that area so that no succor
could be given to the English troops in the hope that their morale
would be broken. The English advance stopped at Kirkliston west
of Edinburgh. The Scots were however betrayed by one of their number
and Edward found out that they were gathered at Falkirk 18 miles
away. At the Battle of Falkirk on the 22nd July the English
cavalry charged again and again but Wallace's spearmen held fast,
however his cavalry left the field. Was it in fear or because these
noblemen disliked his lowborn status? Edward brought his longbowmen
to the fore and they killed thousands of Scotsmen opening up their
ranks for a successful attack by the English cavalry. The day was
won for the English. Wallace escaped the field with his life. After
the battle he ceased to be known as the Guardian of Scotland and
spent much of his time abroad arguing Scotland's case in France
and at the Vatican.
1303: Wallace returned
to Scotland to find it more firmly under the grip of the English.
He returned to his earlier guerilla warfare attacking English garrisons.
He had narrow escapes at Happrew near Peebles and Black Earnside
Hexham Abbey, Northumberland, one of the many northern English
religious buildings sacked by Wallace
(© Anthony Blagg)
1305: William Wallace's
capture finally came at Robroyston just outside Glasgow when he
had been on a mission to meet Robert Wishart, the Bishop of Glasgow
and well known Scottish nationalist. Wallace was betrayed by Sir
John Stewart of Menteith. Wallace was asleep in a barn on 3rd August
with a single companion called Kerlie when they were surprised.
Kerlie was killed outright and Wallace was taken first to Dumbarton
Castle and then south. It took three weeks to reach London as he
was paraded through towns and villages in England en route as a
bogeyman. He was kept in a house in Fenchurch Street in London as
the crowds around the Tower of London were too great to make his
entry there safe. The following day he was tried at a hastily arranged
court in Westminster Hall (now part of the present day Houses of
Parliament). He was condemned as a traitor to be hung drawn and
quartered. Although he was given no right of reply he shouted that
he could never be a traitor as he was a Scot and did not recognise
England as his sovereign nation. Wallace was then taken outside
and dragged by horses through he streets of London for 5 miles to
Smithfield where he was tortured and hung and his entrails pulled
out inch by inch. Edward thought that by making an example of his
horrible death it would put fear into the Scots but instead it made
Monument to William Wallace attached to St Bartholomew's
It marks the spot nearby in Smithfield Market where Wallace was
Scottish patriots lay flowers underneath it to this day.
(© Anthony Blagg)
Some reports suggest that Marion, murdered by
Haselrig was already his wife.
Date and Place of Death:
Executed 23rd August 1305, Smithfield. London,
Age at Death:
Site of Grave:
Head put on a spike on London Bridge. His body
was quartered and sent to be displayed as a deterrent above the
sewers of Newcastle, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Perth and Aberdeen. Some
of his remains found their way to St. Machar's Cathedral, Aberdeen.
Modern day Smithfield Market near the spot where Wallace
(© Anthony Blagg)
Notice explaining the significance of Smithfield in Wallace's
(© Anthony Blagg)
Places of Interest:
Monument to Wallace near His Majesty's Theatre.
Wallace monument on the site of his birthplace.
Site of Battle of Falkirk.
Plaque commemorating his trial, Westminster Hall,
Houses of Parliament.
Granite Plaque nearby the site of his execution in a wall at St.
Bartholomew's Hospital overlooking the square of West Smithfield.
National Wallace Monument, Abbey Craig.