The true story of Braveheart 

Whether you are of Scottish heritage or not; or whether you’ve seen the famous film from 1995, you’ve probably heard about Braveheart or William Wallace in one way or another. Almost everyone has heard the line, “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”. But was this exquisite movie based on fact or fiction? Who was William Wallace and is he really the hero that everyone believes him to be? 

The true story of Braveheart

Well, William Wallace was certainly a real person and he really did lead the Scottish army against an English invasion many, many centuries ago. The historical records of William Wallace are somewhat vague and scarce, so much of his character description as well as his famous line from the movie is poetic interpretation. However, his deeds and heroic acts are recorded in historical texts. 

His birth

Wallace was born into a family of lesser nobility. Unfortunately, this is the extent of the knowledge about his family and their social standing. The family name originates from the South East of Scotland and gets its meaning from the old English word for a Welshman.  Whether this means his ancestors had immigrated from Wales many years before is a subject of debate, but an interesting consideration nonetheless. 

Even the exact date of his birth is not known but historians speculate that he was born somewhere around the year 1270. 

His battle

About a quarter of a century later, there was great political turmoil in the land of Scotland. The two monarchs who had ruled during Wallace’s childhood and early adulthood had passed away in quick succession, which left a big question as to who was the heir to the throne. As many as 13 contenders laid their claim to the throne of Scotlands and this led to the serious threat of a civil war breaking out within the isles. King Edward the First of England was asked by many of the houses to arbitrate the process, but he made a rather brash move in demanding that he be declared Lord Paramount of Scotland before this arbitration. 

The true story of Braveheart

When a monarch, John Balliol, was eventually decided upon, King Edward demanded allegiance from Scotland, especially against his enemy of the time, France. The Scottish people went against their King and decided to elect a new board of leadership that then went on to side with France instead. In retaliation, Edward the First declared war on Scotland. Thus began the First war of Scottish Independence. 

William Wallace entered into the story at a very famous battle that was part of the War of Independence. The battle took place at Stirling bridge in 1297. The battle is legendary because the Scots were outnumbered by about three to one. It was apparently Wallace’s plan that won the Scots the battle.

The English were charging across the very narrow bridge which led to a severe bottleneck for them and allowed the Scotsmen to hold the point against the bigger army. When the English cavalry charged, Wallace executed the order to push the infantry back onto the Bridge as well. The combined weight of the cavalry and infantry caused the bridge to collapse and the loss of many English soldiers. This was seen as a great defeat for the English army and ultimately led to increased confidence and camaraderie between the many Scottish clans. It is believed that this battle is the reason that the clans rallied to fight together against the English in the first War of Independence. 

That is why William Wallace is celebrated as a Scottish hero today. As a fierce and charismatic leader, he was able to unite an entire nation against unfavorable odds. 

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