About Sir William Wallace of Elderslie, Kt.
Sir William Wallace Ellerslie (1272-1305), William was born at Ellerslie (Elderslie),which is in either Ayrshire or Renfrewshire, being the fact that there are two locations of this name. He was born sometime between 1270 and 1276. He studied at Paisley Abbey. William was made Guardian of Scotland, William was executed at London, 23 August, 1305. William did love Marion Braidfute, but it is not clear if they were legally married. William is listed as William Wallas in some some sources. Among his relatives who witnessed his execution were: Adam, Richard, and Simon Wallace (cousins); Patrick Auchinleck (uncle); William de Crauford (uncle); Ecward Little (nephew); and Tom Halliday (nephew).William was said to have resided with his mother a Dunipace and also at Kilspindle. He became an outlaw for killing a man called Selby, the son of a constable.
William Wallace, born near Pasiley, Renfrewshire, was hanged, disemboweled, beheaded and quartered in 1305. He thus suffered the same fate as Welsh leader Dafydd ap Gruffudd some 22 years before and for the same reasons: both had dared the might of the English crown; both had dared to raise armies against Edward I and both had fought for the independence of their nations. In order to understand Wallace's significance in his country's history, we have to look at the situation in Scotland that led to his arrival as leader of his people in the vacuum that Robert the Bruce was not ready to fill until he was perfectly sure of success.
A new struggle for control of Scotland had begun at the death of Alexander III in 1286, leaving as heir his grandchild Margaret, the infant daughter of the King of Norway. English King Edward, with his eye on the complete subjugation of Scotland suggested that Margaret should marry his son, a desire consummated at a treaty signed and sealed at Birgham. Under the terms, Scotland was to remain a separate and independent kingdom, though Edward was to keep English garrisons in a number of Scottish castles. When the young princess died, all plans changed: the succession was now open to many claimants, the strongest of whom were John Balliol and Robert Bruce.
After the decision had gone in favor of Balliol, he declared himself King of Scotland and declared that he would answer only to his own people; refusing to supply military service to Edward, who had supported his election. Overestimating his strength, he then concluded a treaty with France prior to planning an invasion of England.
Edward was ready. He went north to receive homage from a great number of Scottish nobles as their feudal lord, among them Robert Bruce, who owned estates in England. Balliol immediately punished this treachery by seizing Bruce's lands in Scotland and giving them to his own brother-in-law, John Comyn. Yet within a few months, the Scottish king was to disappear from the scene. His army was defeated by Edward at Dunbar in April 1296. Soon after at Brechin, on 10 July, he surrendered his Scottish throne to the English king, who took into his possession the stone of Scone, "the coronation stone" of the Scottish kings. At a Parliament, which he summoned at Berwick, the English king received homage and the oath of fealty from over 2,000 Scots. He seemed secure in Scotland.
It was an illusion. The rising tide of nationalist fervor in the face of the arrival of the English armies north of the border created the need for new Scottish leaders. With the killing of an English sheriff following a brawl with English soldiers in the market place at Lanark, young nobleman William Wallace, with his fierce hatred of foreign occupation, found himself at the head of a fast-spreading movement of national resistance. At Stirling Bridge, a Scottish force, led by Wallace, won an astonishing victory when it completely annihilated a large, lavishly-equipped English army under the command of Surrey, Edward I's viceroy.
Yet Wallace's great victory, successful because English cavalry were unable to maneuver on the marshy ground and their supporting troops had been trapped on a narrow bridge, proved to be a Pyrrhic one. Bringing a large army north in 1298, and goading Wallace to forgo his guerrilla campaign into fighting a second pitched battle, the English king's forces were more successful. At Falkirk, they crushed the over-confident Scots.
This time the English cavalry was able to maneuver and the archers (many of whom had been recruited in Wales following that country's virtual annexation by the Statute of Rhuddlan less than twenty years before) inflicted heavy damage on the massed ranks of the Scots. Falkirk was a grievous loss for Wallace who never again found himself in command of a large body of troops. After hiding out for a number of years, he was finally captured in 1305 and brought to London to die a traitor's death. At his trial, he declared that he was not a traitor to Edward, for Edward was not his king.
Much of the story of Wallace came to us in the late 15th century romance ascribed to Henry the Mistral (Blind Harry). In 1938, Sir James Ferguson published his William Wallace, Guardian of Scotland, and of course, the name of Wallace became known throughout the world after the release of the highly successful Hollywood movie Brave Heart in 1995. (Just in time for the 1997 referendum that restored Scotland's Parliament after an absence of more than 300 years).
Perhaps Wallace's main contribution to Scotland's history (apart from showing his people that English armies could be defeated) was that he brought forth Robert the Bruce, stirred out of his lethargy, ashamed of his homage to England and now ready to do his own bit to reassert the independence of Scotland.
Response to concerns that Wallace was not married:
In those days, noblemen in Scottish clans married. Like other noble clan marriages at that time in history, marriages were kept secret because the English over-lord claimed a first right of bedding any new wife before the new husband, and so men wanted to protect their bride, and some kept their marriage secret as long as they could from the English.
After William Wallace was executed by the reigning crown, his name was disgraced, and no one could risk being associated with him for about 100 years. His children were at risk of execution too. The children of the last Welsh Prince of Wales went into hiding too for centuries.
It is extremely unlikely he was not married. Even gay-inclined men married, as marriage and inheritance was the key way in the feudal economic system for each generation to further establish claims to property and feudal authority.
Marriage was above all a property contract. (Even today marriage is a property contract.) In the feudal period property conferred wealth and power. Property was passed on the basis of birthright. Men of noble lineage or property married women with similar noble lineage or property in the feudal period.
Jobs were determined by what your father did, and men married women whose father was in a similar class and profession. Princes married princesses, and fishermen married fisherman's daughters. A match was rarely random, it with someone suitable for their inherited profession, and of the same religion, tribal or national loyalties.
Wallace was a nobleman and had a social obligation to identify suitable brides and limit falling in love with one who was suitable as a wife for his line of work. A nobleman's job was to act as a warrior of behalf of those to whom was shared a fealty obligation of protection.
A wife was an alliance and contract with society as a whole not just between two people. Wars could be fought over noble marriages that harmed the populace it affected.
In Wallace's day, the noblemen of Scottish clans were basically illegally booted out of their land rights by the English noble lines.
It would have been unseemly for a nobleman like Wallace to have no wife from a suitable Scottish family.
in that political era, there were some secret marriages, and after Wallace was executed, any descendant would have feared for their life to claim Wallace as an ancestor.
The Scottish clans were never reinstated, although gradually some married into English noble lines. In time, a great bulk of the dispossessed Scottish clans were pushed into emigrating to America. After the Battle of Culloden, the highland clans were murdered en masse and survivors fled to America. Later, the Highland Clearances saw the English set fire to thousands of Scottish clan homes at a time, leaving the dead and destitute.
The native Scotsman had very good reason to keep Wallace as an ancestor a secret. Wallace was once enemy number one of England, and the English would have suppressed any revitalization of the Scottish nationalistic claims of Wallace. In a feudal world where paternity was destiny, revealing the rebel Wallace as an ancestor would have been unwise.
William Wallace was not Braveheart. The true Braveheart was Robert the Bruce.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjbMeqgiX4Y William Wallace documentary
"The Great Patriot" Guardian Of Scotland (Brave Heart)
[October 11] 1297 A. D.: “William Wallace declares Scottish ports open to foreign trade.” Source: The Highlander: The Magazine of Scottish Heritage, Volume 34, No. 5, September/October 1997 issue, 30.
ADDED BY COLIN CAMPBELL
More Myth than Man: The True Story of William Wallace
Image source: DailyRecord.co.uk
Many people know the name of William Wallace. In fact, in the film Braveheart, we see the story of a man who was broken and embittered by his tragic encounter with the English. The truth is, however, that just because we have heard the traditional account of William Wallace doesn’t mean we actually know the real story.
Yet, the truth about William Wallace is that his life was entirely shrouded in mystery. Historians are baffled by the lack of information about the man and the few historical sources that we have on his life tend to be either conflicting or a little grandiose. His story becomes far more interesting once we realize that his background, motives and aspirations were almost entirely a secret.
To understand the story of William Wallace, we must take a look at the political climate of Scotland in 1286. King Alexander of Scotland had recently died due to an accident and now there was a great clamor for who would take over the Throne of Scotland. As the King’s only heir had died in 1290, there was no secure lineage to the throne, leading many different competitors to come out boldly and claim the throne for their own. This quickly grew to a boiling point where the question of civil war began to rise up in Scotland.
The King of England, Edward the I stepped in after being requested to arbitrate by the Scottish Nobility. He would choose who would take over the Throne. Edward had a condition, however. He wanted to be recognized the Lord Paramount of Scotland, to which they agreed. A court decided who would be the rightful heir to the throne and John Balliol was selected.
Yet Edward had very little interest in allowing the Scots to live free. He levied taxes upon them, which they accepted well enough, but eventually he also demanded that the Scots provide a military service in the war effort against France. The response to Edward’s demand was a renouncement of paying homage to the King of England by the Scots and an attempt to secure an alliance with France to wage war against the English.
Upon learning about such a decision, King Edward moved his forces into Scotland and sacked the city of Berwick, seizing control of it and demand John Balliol surrender the rest of his territories. The Scots fought back and at the Battle of Dunbar were utterly crushed and John Balliol abdicated the throne, earning him the nickname of “empty coat.” It was this point that the English occupation of Scotland became a reality and the nation was more or less conquered by King Edward.
This created tension within Scotland but with their king’s leadership failing to inspire a great fight against the British and the occupation of their lands, there was not much that they could do without a leader. It would seem that as long as the English stood strong, they would ultimately be subjugated by King Edward.
This is where the story of William Wallace begins. No one knows about his background, where he grew up or what the start of his life had been like. The poet known as Blind Harry chronicled much of William Wallace’s life, but Harry’s descriptions were somewhat generous and most historians now hold that the majority of things he said about William Wallace were somewhat untrue or exaggerated.
A minor noble without any real background to speak of, William Wallace came on the scene in 1297, a year after Scotland had been invaded by the British. Wallace’s first actions became the spark that would go on to set off the powder keg that was the political climate of Scotland. His first act was an assassination.
Rebellion was nothing new to the Scottish people, in fact even before William Wallace began to fight, there were a great many who were leading raids against the British occupations. William’s part in these rebellions up until Lanark was unknown. Lanark was the headquarters of the British Sherriff William Heselrig. Heselrig was in charge of administering justice and during one of his courts, William Wallace rallied up a few soldiers and promptly killed Heselrig and all of his men. This was the first time that William Wallace was mentioned in history, and while his action wasn’t the first act of rebellion in Scotland, it started his career as a warrior immediately.
The reason for why William assassinated this man is unknown. The myth was that Heselrig had ordered the execution of Wallace’s wife and William was looking for revenge, but we don’t have any historical evidence of such a thing. Either William had coordinated with other nobles in an act of uprising or he had chosen to act alone, regardless the message to the English was very clear. The War of Scottish Independence was still alive.
Wallace was a brutal man. He was able to sufficiently build enough forces to lead an army against the English and after a few extensive campaigns, he and his ally, Andrew Moray took control of Scottish lands. With the Scottish moving quickly and retaking land, the English grew nervous about the security of their sole remaining territory in Northern Scotland, Dundee. In order to secure the city, they began to march soldiers toward Dundee. The only problem was that they would need to cross the Stirling Bridge to get there, and that was exactly where Wallace and his forces were waiting.
The English forces, led by Earl of Surrey, were in a precarious position. They would need to cross the river in order to reach their objective, but the Scottish resistance fighters on the other side would engage as soon as they crossed. After much debate and discussion, the English made the decision to cross the bridge, despite the fact that it would be too narrow for more than two horsemen to cross side by side.
William Wallace’s forces were smart. They didn’t attack immediately, but rather they waited until enough enemy soldiers crossed over the bridge and would attack swiftly, moving in from the high ground with spearmen to route the cavalry. Despite the fact that Surrey’s forces were numerically superior, Wallace’s strategy cut the first group off from the bridge and the English forces were promptly slaughtered. Those who could escaped did so by swimming in the river to get away.
This immediately killed any of Surrey’s will to fight. He lost his nerve and despite still having a main force in his control, he ordered the bridge to be destroyed and for his forces to retreat. The idea of cavalry losing to infantry was a shocking concept and this defeat shattered the English’s confidence against the Scots. This would be a major victory for Wallace and he would continue in his war campaign.
His brutality, however, still showed at this battle. Hugh Cressingham, the treasurer to the King of England, had been slain in the battle and Wallace along with the other Scots, flayed his skin and took pieces of Hugh’s flesh as a token, displaying his hatred for the British.
It was after this daring attack that Wallace was appointed as Guardian of Scotland by the deposed King John Balliol. Wallace’s strategies were different from the traditional viewpoint on warfare. He utilized terrain and guerilla tactics to fight against his opponents, leading his soldiers to fight using ambush tactics and taking opportunities where he saw them. The English forces were numerically superior, but with Wallace’s tactics, it didn’t really matter when sheer force alone wouldn’t win a fight.
Eventually William Wallace was knighted for his actions. He was regarded as a hero in Scotland and his quest to expel the English occupation was seen as just and righteous by the nobles. As he conducted his campaign, the English mustered up forces and led a second invasion of Scotland.
King Edward’s forces were dispatched in a large number, tens of thousands of them, in the hopes of being able to draw William Wallace out and fight him. Wallace was content, however, to refuse to engage in battle, waiting until the large army had exhausted their supplies to strike. As the English forces marched, taking back territory, their morale decreased significantly as the supplies dwindled. Riots broke out within the English forces and they were forced to quell them internally. The Scots were patient, waiting for the English to retreat, for that was when they intended to strike.
A crack in the plan was found, however, when King Edward discovered the hiding spot of Wallace and his forces. King Edward quickly mobilized his forces and moved them toward Falkirk, where they fought fiercely against William Wallace. It was at this battle where the tide of William Wallace’s career would turn, however, as he was unable to lead his men to victory against Edward’s forces. Rather they were quickly overpowered by the vastly superior English bowmen. These bowmen did an excellent job of breaking Wallace’s defenses and Edward’s superior discipline allowed for him to keep his cavalry in line until eventually the Scottish broke into disorder. Then a charge was made and the Scots were routed. William Wallace barely escaped with his life.
It was this time that Wallace’s reputation as a military leader was hit hard. While they were skilled fighters, in an open battle against experienced soldiers, they didn’t have a chance. Wallace stepped down from his role as Guardian of Scotland and decided that he would journey to France, hopefully to secure the French King’s assistance in the War for Scottish Independence.
There isn’t much else known about his time abroad other than the fact that he did meet with the French King. It has been suggested that he might have met with the Pope but there was no evidence that such a meeting ever happened. Regardless of what his goals were in his time abroad, when Wallace returned home, he would resume his actions of aggression against the English.
William Wallace’s career and life would soon come to an end however, when Sir John de Menteith, a Scottish noble, betrayed William and turned the once Guardian of Scotland over to the English. Wallace’s life would not last much longer, for after he was captured he was quickly brought before Westminster Hall and was tried for his crimes. He was charged with treason, to which he merely replied “I could not be a traitor to Edward I, for I was never his subject.” He was found guilty and was sentenced to death.
To say that William Wallace’s execution was horrible is an understatement. So hated was he by King Edward I that when it finally came time to order the death of the man, the punishment would be far more severe than most executions. William Wallace was stripped naked and dragged through the streets of London by horse. He was hanged but they didn’t allow for the hanging to kill him, rather they waited until he was barely on the edge of consciousness before the cut him down. Then, he was disemboweled, stabbed, cut and emasculated. Then, after such torture and humiliation had been done, he was beheaded. His body was cut into several pieces and his head was stuck on a pike atop the London Bridge. Such a type of execution says a lot about a man. To his friends, Wiliam Wallace as a hero, befitting of praise and glory. To his foes, William Wallace deserved one of the most brutal executions possible.
His execution was a nightmarish affair, but his legacy of being a hero to Scotland would forever live on in their history. The war for Scottish Independence raged on for quite some time after that. Even with the fierce fighting that Wallace had taught to his people, they never were able to get their footing again. Ultimately, the Scottish would never be able to regain their independence, something that they had fought so hard to protect. Despite these failures, William Wallace’s legacy as a fierce fighter, loyal leader and valiant warrior live on to this day
Sir William Wallace of Elderslie, Kt.'s Timeline
Paisley Parish, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Paisley Parish, Renfrewshire, Scotland
August 23, 1305
London, Middlesex, England
Aberdeen City, Scotland, United Kingdom