William Wallace was instrumental in freeing Scotland from English rule. Very little was known about his childhood but he was a commoner who couldn’t take the fact his countrymen weren’t free. He had enough of English Noblemen raping their women and stealing their food. The men in the villages couldn’t’ fight back because there wasn’t enough of them plus they weren’t allowed to carry weapons; they basically had rocks and sticks versus spears and swords. With this in mind the English soldiers could do whatever they wanted to their women and if the Scottish men tried to fight back they were killed for interfering with the army. The bottom line is that they weren’t free men.
Wallace knew he’d have to bring all the villagers together in order to create an army. You can imagine how scared these men must have been because they knew they’d probably die taking on England’s mighty military. Wallace motivated them in saying life isn’t worth living unless they’re free. He also reminded them the English Nobles and soldiers would only get worse in terrorizing their families and raping their women.
William Wallace (he wasn’t knighted until later) accomplished some amazing military feats. He won many smaller battles when taking down different forts the English Lords were using to govern his people. The King of England got word that a rebellion was taking place so he sent his army to squash it with a heavy hand so a strong message would be sent to the rest of the commoners. What he didn’t count on was the small Scottish Army was much more motivated than his and it was led by Wallace. Even though Wallace’s background was unknown some historians think he must have had some military exposure while growing up. They say this because Wallace deployed military strategies they’d never seen before and which were adopted later by future militaries.
Wallace solidified his warrior reputation at the battle against England called: “The Battle of Sterling Bridge.” His men were outnumbered by thousands, they didn’t have armor, they didn’t have archers (archers could kill easily at 100 yards), they didn’t have enough swords, they didn’t have horses (Calvary), etc. The English army felt very confident about winning and even thought Sir Wallace’s army would run after seeing their army. They were wrong. Psychological problems began to unfold for England’s army. The Scots didn’t run and instead waved their weapons and screamed war cries. Even if you think you’re going to win a fight it naturally makes you more nervous when you realize the other guy isn’t intimidated.
Another problem England had is there was a lot of military protocol back then. Each competing army would fire off their bows, the Calvary would be sent, then the infantry, etc. It was well scripted and followed by both sides. The Scots didn’t have protocol they had their own unique way of fighting so the English hadn’t prepared for it. The English commander followed the usual battle plan sending one group after another only to see them mowed down by the Scots. He sent army division after army division only to see his soldier’s bodies piling up. Realizing they were getting massacred he ordered a humiliating retreat and it became one of world history’s greatest victories.
After this famous battle Scottish Nobles got together and knighted William Wallace. Nobles were basically men who had been paid off by England and were given land, money, and titles to keep their own people under control. Sir Wallace told them they should pull more resources together and take the fight to England. These Nobles hadn’t participated in the war at that point although they had a lot of men who could fight; they were basically afraid to give up their nice lifestyles which were completely different than the other Scotts who were trying to keep themselves fed. They initially refused to help Sir Wallace saying it would be a suicide mission but after intense pressure they said they’d join the fight which meant significantly more soldiers for the battle. Wallace said that with them or without them he and his men would continue to fight because they wouldn’t stop until Scotland was free.
They lost their next battle at the Battle of Falkirk for a few reasons. The Nobles who said they’d help Wallace didn’t show up for the fight and because King Edward received intelligence as to where the Scots were camped. They caught Wallace’s men off guard and easily beat them but Sir Wallace was able to escape capture. Then in the year 1305 Sir Wallace was betrayed by a fellow Scotsman who was also a Royal Knight and was on King Edward’s payroll. The King gave him some additional money and land for his assistance in capturing Wallace.
They convicted Wallace and told him they would show him mercy and give him a quick death if he would make a public apology and recognize King Edward as the King of Scotland. He refused to do it. They stripped him naked and dragged him through the city by a horse. They asked him again to apologize and he refused. He was hung but released before he died. When he gained his wits they tied him to a post and whipped him. Then they tied his arms to a pole and his legs to a horse and almost pulled him apart yet he still didn’t die. They castrated him and before he bled out they gutted him and pulled out his intestines. Then when he was dead they beheaded him and cut of his limbs. His head was preserved then stuck on a pole. His arms and legs were sent to various locations across Scotland to send a message of fear to the commoners.
It didn’t work. The Scots were so mad at what King Edward did to their hero they took after the English army with a whole new conviction of freedom and revenge. Needless to say they showed no mercy to their enemies as they made their way into England. This information made its way to other English soldiers who began fearing the Scottish army. Their new war cry was “Wallace” and they weren’t going to stop until they sacked England. This didn’t happen. They scared the King of England so much that he freed Scotland allowing them to have their own King if the Scottish army would go home. Sir Wallace’s dream came true even though he wasn’t there to see it.
Sir Wallace (a.k.a. Brave Heart) became a legend. There’s a huge monument to him where he was executed, that looks like the castle at the location where “The Battle of Sterling” took place, along with several other monuments throughout Scotland. He is kind of like their George Washington. Sir Wallace never gave up and he never gave in. He could have taken the easy way out and just say the words that the King of England was also the King of Scotland but he never did and allowed himself to be horrifically tortured. I don’t know about you but I don’t think I could’ve done it.
Sir Wallace knew when he started his mission of freeing Scotland that it was highly likely that he’d die but he wanted his life to mean something. The line from Mel Gibson (he played Sir Wallace) in the movie said it all: “Every man dies but not every man truly lives.” He couldn’t have said better.