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William Wallace: the Man, the Myth, the Legend
William Wallace is said to be Scotlands greatest hero. For this statement, their have been countless legends and myths written about him. Some of these have some fact to them, others do not. One fact that we do know is that he led the Scottish in their struggle to free themselves from England near the end of the Thirteenth century. Though William Wallaces life was not long compared to todays standards, living until 35, he led a life in which few can relate to or be compared with. His legacy has lived on through movies, books, and plays, each telling the story a little different. Though no one knows what truly happened during his life, partly due to the fear he struck in English writers, he was a great warrior of Scotland and natural born leader. Even though accurate representations of his life are available, one thing is for sure; Sir William Wallace is the greatest hero Scotland has ever seen and one of the greatest heroes of the world.
William Wallace was born around the year 1270. He was one of three sons had by his father Sir Malcolm Wallace and his mother whose name is not actually known, but is believed to be the daughter of Sir Hugh Crawford, Sheriff of Ayr. William had two brothers, Williams younger brothers name was John and his older brothers name was Malcolm. Malcolms name was taken from their father, which unfortunately for William being a second son gave him none of his fathers land or titles later in life. As a child William lived with his uncle, a priest, in a town called Dunipace. While William and his younger brother John lived peaceful lives in the country, they also practiced the martial arts of the time, including swordsmanship and horsemanship. These skills of course would later help him in his conquest to free Scotland. By the age of sixteen, William was preparing to follow his uncles footsteps and go into the priesthood. In these times this was very common, the oldest son would gain control of the land and stay with the father while the younger sons would be sent to study at the church. But his uncle had a different direction for William to go in; he wanted William to continue his education, giving William the values of liberty and the essence of freedom which would later become the basis for the journeys in his life.
William continued his education in Dundee. Here he met John Blair, who became a Benedictine monk soon after their meeting. Later he eventually left the monastery and joined his friend William becoming his chaplain and comrade in the resistance against England. In this school he also met and befriended Duncan of Lorn and Sir Neil Campbell of Lochawe. Both of these men would later take part in Williamss battles.
In 1921, Malcolm Wallace was killed in a battle with English troops. This could have only increased Williams drive to fight for freedom from the English. During this time, not very much is known about Williams life. Traveling around as an outlaw is what he most likely did, trying to avoid the English.
Around the time William was born, King Henry III the king of England died. King Edward I came to power on August 18th, 1274. King Edward I was also known as Edward “Longshanks.” He was given this name due to his well proportioned body and above average height. King Edward I felt he was the feudal superior to the Scottish crown and wanted to manipulate a Scottish monarch that he himself would install. By underestimating the Scottish and trying to do this, the Scottish turned against him. In 1297, after Edward marched his armies north to Scotland, he conquered Scotland after a five month campaign. Imprisoning John de Balliol, the ruler of Scotland, King Edward I announced himself ruler of Scotland. The government of Scotland however was placed
in the hands of an Englishman, Hugh Cressingham.
Shortly after these events occurred, widespread disorder and defiance against England arose in the southeast corner of Scotland. This was in part to the national rebellion. In the center of the civil unrest, William was involved in a fight with English soldiers in the town of Ayr. William was captured and put into prison. Starving and left for dead, nearby villagers took him in to help him recover. Soon after his recovery, he recruited several locals to join him in his merciless conquest for freedom. Word spread of William and his support began to grow. On May 1297, with an estimated thirty men, he killed the knight and some of the soldiers responsible for his fathers death. By doing this, he no longer became a local rebel but a military leader who had just become King Edward Is enemy.
One of Williams most famous battles happened near the town of Stirling, on the Stirling Bridge. William and his soldiers maintained their ground on the Orchard Hills, a vantage point were they could see the English forces advance to Stirling Castle. Soon after, the English forces had crossed the bridge and William and his troops headed toward Stirling castle, a stronghold of vital strategic importance to the English. The English must have thought that the William would retreat because they soon began to cross the narrow bridge between the castle and Williams position. The Scottish were greatly outnumber and out skilled, but they had a distinct advantage, their position. The English crossed the bridge and the Scottish destroyed them as they crossed. In the end, the Scottish wiped out almost all of the 100 heavy cavalry, 5,000 foot soldiers, and 300 Welsh archers, who had crossed the bridge that day. Never before this had a Scottish army beaten and English aggressor. In numbers, the Scottish were outnumbered 3:1. Carricks describes Williams skills as a warrior, “All powerful as a swordsman and unrivalled s an archer, his blows were fatal and his shafts unerring: as an equestrian, he was made a model of dexterity and grace; while the hardships he experienced in his youth made him view with indifference the severest privations incident to a military life.” (Campbell, 2) William captured Stirling Castle and soon realized that Scotland was all most rid of the English.
In October of 1296, Wallace invaded northern England. The counties of Northumberland and Cumberland were his primary targets. When he returned to Scotland in December 1297, he was knighted. Soon after, he was proclaimed guardian of the kingdom of Scotland. In less than six years, he had risen from nothing to become Sir William Wallace, gaining control of one of the most powerful posts. But on July 3, 1298 King Edward I returned from