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We know of an Alan Wallace who was a crown tenant in Ayrshire but what connection, if any, there was between the two we cannot say. The same applies in the case of a William Wallace found guilty of theft in Perth. As so often with Wallace, there are more questions than answers. Wallace emerged from obscurity with the brutal murder of William Heselrig, the English sheriff of Lanark, in May Edward then left for the Continent, believing that Scotland was pacified.
In this, he was quickly shown to be mistaken. Rebellion against English rule broke out across the country. In the north, Andrew Murray led the rebels in a series of attacks on centres of English power.
Further south, Wallace became the focal point of resistance. His murder of Heselrig, whether motivated by patriotism or passion, drew the disaffected to him. If not previously an outlaw, he was certainly one now. At once, he demonstrated the vigour and military skill which were his trademarks. Wallace, unsparing of himself and others, had left Dundee to the care of the townspeople on pain of loss of life and limb. Scottish resistance to English rule had not been uniformly successful.
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Wallace and Murray, with the only Scottish army in the field, were now about to face their own test of strength. Warenne and Cressingham at the head of a large army were moving north to deal with them. The English commanders were at odds; Warenne was loth to fight, while Cressingham, by contrast, was intent on glory. Their army, with its impressive heavy cavalry, outnumbered the Scots by a comfortable margin. The easy defeat of the Scots under Balliol almost certainly increased English belief in victory in any battle.
Wallace and Murray, however, were well prepared. Like the enemy, they understood the strategic importance of Stirling Castle, overlooking the crossing of the River Forth. They had positioned their army on the southward-looking slope of the Abbey Craig, about a mile from the only bridge available to the English.
The ground at the foot of the Abbey Craig was unsuitable for heavy cavalry. Warenne, an experienced soldier, may well have realized this and made several attempts to persuade the Scots to surrender. On September 11th, , the English began to cross the bridge.
It was so narrow that no more than two horsemen could ride abreast. When the vanguard had almost crossed, Wallace and Murray released their infantry in a downward charge which crashed into the English. Unable to deploy, the vanguard was slaughtered, while their colleagues watched impotently from the far side of the river. At least a hundred knights perished, among them Cressingham. Warenne fled. It was a remarkable but costly victory. Murray was grievously wounded and survived only until November.
The burden of defending Scotland fell on Wallace. In recognition of his achievements, he was knighted and made Guardian of Scotland, the first individual to hold this office. But his greatest task lay ahead. Wallace knew that only with the defeat of Edward himself could Scotland be free. He began to prepare for the onslaught that was to come.
Edward returned to England from the Continent on March 14th, and at once set about gathering an army, which was to muster at Roxburgh on June 25th. While estimates of the size of the army vary, it is generally accepted that it was the biggest Edward ever raised for any Scottish campaign.
William Wallace, Guardian of Scotland | The Royal Family
Wallace could not hope to match such numbers; he chose to rely on the infantry that had served him so well at Stirling. However, Wallace was anxious to avoid battle if possible. To this end, he engaged in a strategy of withdrawal behind a screen of scorched earth. Edward advanced, his lines of communication quickly overstretched. His army, unable to find the enemy, was in disarray, starving and with dissension in the ranks. By July 21st, Edward was ready to retreat. But he was saved by news from two Scottish earls that the Scots lay less than twenty miles ahead, at Falkirk.
He acted at once with a forced march. He came upon Wallace in a strongly entrenched position, fronted by a morass. If Wallace had not intended to fight, he was nevertheless in a strong position. He had divided the Scottish infantry into four schiltroms, bristling with spears, each surrounded by a fence of stakes.
A small cavalry force under fellow rebel John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch was present. The schiltroms proved their worth against the initial English cavalry charges, their spears inflicting much damage on the enemy horses. The Scottish cavalry meanwhile had fled, for reasons unknown. Edward now called up his archers and they began the systematic decimation of the Scottish ranks. His cavalry completed the rout of the Scots in a further series of attacks.
Wallace left the field with a small force and, at an unknown date, resigned the Guardianship. It has been argued that he should never have fought at Falkirk. In his defence it must be said that his strategy had almost come to fruition, and that he came closer than any Scot of the period to defeating Edward.
Braveheart: The immortality of William Wallace
Indeed, so bruised was the English army at Falkirk that Edward was forced soon afterwards to abandon his campaign. We know of no attempt in the months after Falkirk to capture Wallace, who sought other ways to bring about the restoration of John Balliol. Wallace had seven years to live. At his trial, it was stated that he had spurned an offer of clemency from Edward. A second offer to submit was made, according to the chronicler, Langtoft, in , but again Wallace failed to take the opportunity.
The sources for these offers are both English and must therefore be treated with caution. Edward had, however, displayed an equivocal attitude to Wallace which suggests that the Scot had not yet come to be seen, as he subsequently did, as prey. After his defeat at Falkirk and his resignation of the Guardianship, Wallace travelled to the Continent to argue the Scottish case for freedom at the courts of Europe.
It is possible that he first went to Norway before moving on to France. The latter merely thanked Philip and asked him to keep Wallace in France, hardly the reaction of a man intent on the destruction of the Scot. From France, Wallace went to Rome, to continue his efforts on behalf of Scotland. When precisely he returned to his native land is unclear. By he was once more active in the field against the enemy. Historians are reluctant to see Wallace in charge in these circumstances and it is difficult to disagree; he had been absent from Scotland for a considerable time, and the political situation had changed.
It is not impossible that Edward thought the same. He was in Scotland in the early summer of , about to bring the Scots finally to heel.
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Wallace was the younger son of a Scottish knight and minor landowner. His name, Wallace or le Waleis, means the Welshman, and he was probably descended from Richard Wallace who had followed the Stewart family to Scotland in the 12th century. He was certainly educated, possibly by his uncle - a priest at Dunipace - who taught him French and Latin. Beneath the surface there were deep resentments. Many of the Scots nobles were imprisoned, they were punitively taxed and expected to serve King Edward I in his military campaigns against France.
The flames of revolt spread across Scotland. At the same time in the north, the young Andrew Murray led an even more successful rising. His MacDougall allies cleared the west, whilst he struck through the north east. The Scots suffered one significant casualty, Andrew Murray, who was badly wounded and died two months later. History Trails Stirling Bridge. This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Web sites.
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