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William Wallace

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Biography of William Wallace

"Wallace had behind him the spirit of a race as stern and as resolute as any bred among men. He added military gifts of a high order. Out of an unorganized mass of valiant fighting men he forged, in spite of cruel poverty and primitive administration, a stubborn, indomitable army, ready to fight at any odds and mock defeat."

Sir Winston Churchill*

Scotland's National Hero, William Wallace, was born c. 1270, the second of three sons of Sir Malcolm Wallace of Elderslie, Renfrewshire. In 1297, William Wallace led an uprising against the English which spread throughout south and central Scotland. Teaming with Sir Andrew de Moray and his men, the Scottish forces soundly defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Following this victory, Wallace was knighted and became Guardian of the Realm.

A year after Stirling, William Wallace was defeated at Falkirk and spent the next several years on the run, both in Scotland and on the continent, before being captured and cruelly executed as a traitor to England on August 23, 1305.

A two-year campaign, one resounding victory, one final defeat, followed by obscurity and death.

It seems a pretty slim career for a man who has been remembered and honored for 700 years. Why is William Wallace Scotland's National Hero?

Great men and women make history happen through their passion, whether for good or ill. A power-mad, charismatic leader can gain himself an empire, only to have it turn to dust upon his death. Because the hearts of the people have been left untouched. William Wallace was a great man whose passion for national freedom kindled the spark of independence, sheltered within the breast of every Scot, into an unquenchable flame that burns to this day. His impact on the people of his time, and of all time, was immediate and permanent.

In 1320, the Scots nobles sent a letter to Pope John XXII seeking a change of heart on the Bruce's excommunication. Called the "Declaration of Arbroath" it states in part:

For as long as one hundred of us shall remain alive we shall never in any wise consent to submit to the rule of the English, for it is not for glory we fight, for riches, or for honours, but for freedom alone, which no good man loses but with his life.**

Freedom -- of heart, soul and mind -- was the gift of William Wallace to the Scottish people -- a gift to which they have clung ever after.

*Churchill, Sir Winston, The Birth of Britain, Vol. 1 of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples(Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc., 1956).

**Mackie, J.D., A History of Scotland.

For more resources on medieval Scottish history, please visit our History (1296-1603) page or our Robert the Bruce page.

Buy books about William Wallace:

Blind Harry's Wallace
Blind Harry's Wallace

Medieval Epic Poem on which Braveheart movie was based

William Wallace:  Braveheart
William Wallace : Brave Heart

James A. MacKay's biography of William Wallace - as close to true history as available resources allow

On the Trail of William Wallace
On the Trail of William Wallace

David R. Ross follows in the footsteps of his Braveheart hero, William Wallace

The Wallace by Nigel Tranter
The Wallace

by Nigel Tranter

Tranter was Scotland's grandmaster of historical fiction - sure to be a great read - he did a whole trilogy on Bruce also

Wallace:  A Biography
Wallace : A Biography

Peter Reese

Mixed reviews - valuable for bibliographical sources, focuses on William Wallace's military campaigns

Braveheart - The Movie

Soul-stirring movie biography of William Wallace - lax with the facts but accurate with the passion