The Inspiration…William Wallace

The name of this blog was inspired by the film, Braveheart, which depicted the life of the legendary Scottish hero, William Wallace.  Historical purists get their feathers all a-ruffle because of the film’s historical inaccuracies and, after reading up on the subject myself, I have to admit that the film did take many liberties.  However, one cannot disagree that it was a well-made and beautifully acted film which garnered an Academy Award for best picture and director (1995) and was on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Most Inspiring Films of All Time (#62), 100 Most Thrilling American Films (#91), and has been one of the 400 nominees for the AFI’s top 100 films list.  The film remains my number one favorite of all time and I can’t see that changing any time soon.

Now I’d like to talk about the real William Wallace. What I discovered in my personal reading (William Wallace: Brave Heart by James MacKay) on William Wallace was that he was in fact quite a tall man for the time period (not the average height of Mel Gibson), he did have a wife that was murdered, although it did not happen the way it did in the film, and he was an excellent battle strategist. He did indeed fashion the long pikes from trees that were used so efficiently in the film’s depiction of the Battle of Stirling. In further reading online, I have learned more, but many of the sites I’ve visited do admit that the line between legend and fact is somewhat blurred. The reality is, there really is not much in the historical record about Wallace. What is written about him is either accounts written by the English which I’m sure are biased toward the English point of view. There is also the account by the bard, Blind Harry, which was composed some 200 years after Wallace’s death. How accurate can that be really? So here I will share with you some bare bones facts (source: that are generally believed to be true regarding Wallace’s life.

  • Wallace was born around 1270 AD. The exact location has been under dispute in recent years. Some site Elderslie in Ayrshire, while others say Ellerslie in Renfrewshire. Both places are located in southwest Scotland.
  • There is an historical account of Wallace having killed the Sheriff of Lanark in 1297. This occurrence is generally sited as the beginning of his ‘guerrilla’ campaign against the English, who were occupying Scotland. That same year the Scottish were to be victorious at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. The English temporarily lost power in Scotland. In 1298, Wallace was appointed the Guardian of Scotland, but would later resign after the Battle of Falkirk.
  • After his resignation in 1299, travelled on diplomatic missions in continental Europe and attempted to garner support from France against the English. Upon his return to Scotland in 1301, he would continue to fight the English king Edward I (Longshanks).
  • In 1305, he was betrayed by Sir John Monteith and captured by the English. He was sent to London, where he was executed most gruesomely (this part the film got right) by being hanged, drawn, and quartered. His head was placed on a pike above London Bridge and the rest of his body parts were sent to and exposed at Newcastle, Berwick, Perth, and Aberdeen. Upon his death, he became a martyr for Scotland’s independence.

When Wallace was accused of treason, this is said to have been his reply:

“I can not be a traitor, for I owe him no allegiance. He is not my Sovereign; he never received my homage; and whilst life is in this persecuted body, he never shall receive it. To the other points whereof I am accused, I freely confess them all. As Governor of my country I have been an enemy to its enemies; I have slain the English; I have mortally opposed the English King; I have stormed and taken the towns and castles which he unjustly claimed as his own. If I or my soldiers have plundered or done injury to the houses or ministers of religion, I repent me of my sin; but it is not of Edward of England I shall ask pardon.”

Whether we choose to believe in the accuracy or inaccuracy of the film, Braveheart, the fact remains the film fulfilled one important aspect in the depiction of a historical figure. It inspired an interest in that historic persona and the time period. If fictional historical depictions do that one thing right, then I really can see no reason to find fault. I credit many films for inspiring my lifelong passion for history. Watching the film, Excalibur, when I was but a preteen sparked an endless fascination and interest in the real King Arthur. Gone with the Wind and Roots made me want to know more about slavery and the Civil War. In more recent years, films such as Braveheart and Rob Roy have provoked an avid interest in Scottish history, and the film Elizabeth and its sequel added to my interest and major admiration for Queen Elizabeth I. I also must mention The Tudors and The Borgias, both excellent premium cable series which also presented rather skewed historical accounts, but still instilled that desire to further investigate the subjects being depicted. To have inspired a lay person to become a scholar of history is a feat that not many textbooks have achieved. You may agree or disagree with me on the subject, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my inspiration for the name of this blog. Please  visit often, as I plan to share my passion for history, for historical books (both fiction and non-fiction), and for the depiction of history and historical figures in art. I certainly would appreciate the company.

To read more about William Wallace, check out the following sites:

Categories: 13th century, historical figures, history, movies, William Wallace | Tags: , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “The Inspiration…William Wallace

  1. Regarding the historical issues… Much like the feather-ruffling of the Tudors, I guess. But I applaud the entertainment value of history and most intelligent movie-goers should realize that they are watching a dramatization and not a documentary.

    • So true, Marie. The entertainment value should not be discredited, especially if it gets people interested in historical topics/figures.

  2. Kelly

    I wholeheartedly agree with you! My interest in history started with Elizabeth Taylor’s portrayal of Cleopatra when I was in 5th grade and my study of History has never waned. My particular interest at the moment is the time of Robin Hood – truth vs legend – researching for my own historical novel.

    Thanks for this blog!!

    • Yes, I loved Liz’s Cleopatra as well. I think my first real interest in history came when I discovered a book about King Tut’s tomb discovery. I was about ten or eleven years old. It just grew from there.

      Interesting topic for your novel. I wish you success with it. My historical novel is set in the Middle ages and is about witches, to a degree.

      Thanks for visiting! I hope to have new content up soon. Please stop by again.

  3. Jillian ♣

    I love this blog. 🙂

    I can’t remember if I told you, but William Wallace is my cousin. My mother’s family traces from present-day Georgia to colonial Jamestown in 1611-ish, to Kilbirnie (Ayrshire) Scotland for several centuries. My great-great-great (etc) grandfather Sir Reginald Crawford’s sister Margaret married Sir Alan Wallace of Ellerslie. They were the parents of Sir William Wallace.

    I don’t know very much about William Wallace yet, but I’m hoping to learn more about the period eventually (especially by reading through Shakespeare’s history plays!). And I definitely plan to read Blind Harry’s Wallace and some Walter Scott.

    • That is so cool, Jillian! To claim that kind of relation would be wonderful. Yes, I need to read Blind Harry’s Wallace too. I have Sir Walter Scott on my classics list with Rob Roy. Another Scottish hero I’m very interested in.

      I’m glad you like the blog. 🙂

  4. terry williams

    wow great blog , i enjoyed that I’ve read many novels on sir william , and its a shame there’s not much information left on the legend , you would have thought somebody. Who lead such a succesfull rebellion against the mighty english of the time , would have been more written about , i guess being so so long ago doesn’t help though , i find he’s story if what they say is true , to be quite engaging , im english and i say hats off to him we were arseholes back then had to rule everybody , we had already annexed the irish and the welsh leading upto the scottish wars of independence , and we never could conquer scotland at least not directly , anmyways fantastic blog , good luck in the future fella

  5. Wow! Finally I got a weblog from where I know how
    to genuinely take helpful information regarding my study and knowledge.

  6. Reblogged this on Le Vanity Victorienne and commented:
    I love this post and I respect Wallace till the end…

  7. The Leather Library

    Could not agree with you more. A film, although not always historically accurate, is watched to indulge in the emotions and the message in which the director and actors personify. If one wants to expand their knowledge in the history of a person or event a film is not the best medium to address.

    Braveheart will always be one of my favourite films, it is a masterful example of a blockbuster history film and spectacular acting. Braveheart will sit in the pantheon of great historical films such as Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven and The Last Samurai.

  8. Have you ever thought about writing an ebook or guest authoring on other websites?
    I have a blog based on the same topics you discuss and would love to
    have you share some stories/information. I know my readers would appreciate your
    work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

  9. as a Scotsman with Irish name when it comes history the English version is fiction , because they twist it around to suite them self’s . they do it with Welsh , Irish ( look what Oliver Cromwell did to Ireland ) by the way his real name is Williams , he changed it by deed pole . He’s the one that self-proclaim himself the first prime minster of the house of commons. try to put the church of England into northern Ireland and they didn’t want a bar of it because they were a republic and set in there ways. So he brought the army into it and the rest is history. because of him you the welsh guard – vs – IRA

  10. I would to address the movie Braveheart director was Mel Gibson himself really awesome movie . I believe he got a 21 gun standing greeting usually for the Queen from Edinburgh Castle fanastic

  11. Tom


    Your site is excellent.

    One observation I would make is that in the graphic with wallace’s speech before Stirling your text says
    They may take our wives.
    I believe this should read
    They may take our lives.

    Thank you

    Alba gu Brath

  12. T. Meador

    I was in college and did a paper on William Wallace. I came across a book, written at the turn of the century, that was verbatum, the text for the movie. I was trying to find it again but I can not remember the title or author. Has anyone heard of this book before?

    • I have not. I’m sorry. If you do end up finding it, can you come back and let me know the title, etc. I would like to read it. Thanks for stopping by!

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