Lairdxs take on Braveheart

Been working on this for a bit. i hope some of you find it interesting.

The film Braveheart (1995) told the story of Sir William Wallace, one of the most colourful characters in Scottish history. Mr. Gibson has made a very entertaining film - but he would be first to admit that he used a certain amount of artistic licence in most of the film. He has, however, brought Scotland's hero to the attention of the world.

However, there are many inaccuracies in the film. Some of the issues raised are distortions of the truth and some events are entirely fictitious. In order to examine some of these flaws a more detailed examination of the life of William Wallace, the Scottish monarchy and its instability and the English policies regarding Scotland is necessary.

The late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries were troubled times. Alexander III (1249-1286) King of Scots was at logger-heads with Edward I king of England, and was building an alliance with the King of Norway, Erik II for security (at this time the Orkneys and Shetlands were under the control of Norway.) Alexander's queen Margaret had two sons; logically the heir to his throne would be the eldest Alexander.

Margaret died in 1275 at the age of 35, Alexander (the heir) died in 1284. His brother David had passed away three years earlier and only two years after the death of young Alexander he was swiftly followed by Alexander III's daughter who had been married to Eric II King of Norway in 1281, in order to secure peace. When Alexander heard of his daughter's death in Norway, he needed an heir and announced that he had to get married quickly.

A wedding was arranged. Alexander married Yolande, daughter of the Count of Dreux in 1284. However two years later on his return from a council meeting in Edinburgh, he fell off his horse in a storm and tumbled over a cliff to his death. The reign of Alexander III was over. Strangely this event had been predicted by a soothsayer who had “warned the king that his horse would be the death of him.” Yolande announced she was pregnant. After a few months it became clear that she wasn't pregnant and therefore would never produce an heir to Alexander III.

Alexander's daughter, Margaret, had been married to the King of Norway and had a daughter, Margaret. Alexander's only surviving blood relative. She was three years old. The situation in Scotland was worrying. Their queen was a three year old girl, hundreds of miles away in Norway residing with her father the King of Norway who was only 16 years old himself.

The Bruce’s and the Balliol's claimed their right to the throne, saying that they were descended from the line of David I (1124 - 1153). Civil war in Scotland was brewing, and the Bruce and Balliol clans began to seize castles and territory of strategic value.

“Robert Bruce, lord of Annandale, together with his eldest son, the earl of Carrick , raised an army and invaded Galloway, seizing the Balliol stronghold of Buittle and the royal castles of Dumfries and Wigtown.”

Edward’s influence was now stronger than ever before. It was clear that only he had the power to restore the Scottish throne. With Edward’s usual cunning and educated ways he set about putting in place England's terms, Margaret was to succeed the throne as was her birth right. However she was to marry Edward’s son, Edward who would effectively rule Scotland.

Edward prepared ships and sent them on their way to collect the three year old Queen from Norway. He prepared his son, only six years old himself, for marriage. One month later the ships returned having failed in their task to bring the young girl across the sea. Erik II King of Norway had decided to actually send his daughter to Scotland via the Orkneys, but her frail constitution was unable to withstand the turbulent voyage and she died before reaching them - never having set foot in Scotland.

With Margaret’s death, the schemes which Edward had planned ended - a King for Scotland had to be found. A letter was written by Bishop Fraser to Edward informing him of the young Queens death, and requesting that he come to Scotland and put in place one of the rival houses - either Bruce or Balliol. The letter informed him that John Balliol wanted to meet, and if chosen would follow Edward's council and pay him homage: meaning that he would rule Scotland under English superiority. But the letter also warned to handle Balliol with great care and if he did place Balliol on the throne of Scotland and support his claim he would have to deal firmly not only with him but also with the disgruntled Bruce's, who might wage war. Mackay explains.

“In the Dangerous political vacuum created by the death of King Alexander and the minority of his distant granddaughter the guardians were at pains to emphasise that they had been elected by common council.”

Between 1290 and 1292 Edward played arbitrator. This two year period of Enquiry was a credit to both the Bruce and Balliol clans since neither were prepared to wage war and agreed that the matter could be handled with legal proceedings. Both families, claimed decent from the line of David I's daughters. The Balliol claim was form David's eldest daughter, also called Margaret - and the Bruce claim was from his second daughter, Isabel.

Edward placed himself in the position as 'Overlord of the land of Scotland' according to legal principles. Longshanks, the future 'Hammer of the Scots' insisted that all those who claimed the right to the throne would adhere to certain rules. They must accept the judgement of the court and they must accept him as their superior.
During this dispute Edward put in place constables in Scottish castles to prevent trouble from either family. The occupation of Scotland was well under way, and while the houses continued arguing, Edward had a grip on Scotland.

Clans Balliol and Bruce were at the forefront of the courts hearing, but in fact the claims to the throne numbered 15 . The Hastings family, descended from David I's third daughter, Ada, believed that the kingdom should be divided into three. Others based their claims from the descent of King Donald Ban, or other variations of the royal family's bastard offspring: one each from Alexander II and Henry of Huntingdon, five from William the Lion and even Erik II of Norway, with a claim of reverse inheritance. Edward now had 15 potential Kings to choose from.

After a great show of learning, which involved council with major continental universities, the court made up its mind on 6th November 1292. Edward’s liege man, John Balliol was to be the new monarch, unsurprising as two years before he had received the letter from Bishop Fraser recommending exactly that decision.

On St Andrew's Day 1292, King John was crowned on the Stone of Scone. The following month he did homage to Edward I at Newcastle. King John of Scotland did not reign in peace. What with the ambitions of Edward and the disloyalty of the thwarted Competitors, King John never had the peace in which to establish his rule. Edward exploited this; he demanded that the complaints of his Scottish subjects be heard in English courts. When John understandably objected he was threatened, by his Overlord Edward to whom he had previously paid homage, with contempt of court and the loss of three of his major castles and towns. King John was caught in a trap - he ruled a country which didn't want him, and he was not supported by Edward who had exactly what he wanted: A divided Scotland.

The final straw came when Edward insisted that John help him with military service against the French, Balliol had had enough. He did the opposite and forged a treaty with King Philip IV in October 1295 and assembled his host near Selkirk the following March. If Edward wanted any more from King John, then he was going to have to fight for it. This was just what Edward had been waiting for. He had imposed his position on Scotland's king, and then bullied him into striking back. As always the cards were stacked in Edward’s favour. The Scots were no match for professional soldiers. By the end of March Edward had sacked Berwick. Many of the great castles surrendered to his call and with one month, on 27th April the Earl of Surrey and his Scottish allies routed King John's forces at the battle of Dunbar. Edinburgh fell, and John surrendered on July 11th .

At a humiliating ceremony at Brechin, King John had the insignia of royalty, his sceptre, crown, sword and ring stripped from him. Edward marched north, seizing the opportunity which he had been engineering for some time. The conquest of Scotland was now at hand once and for all. John Balliol was taken south to the Tower of London and was eventually released in 1299 to spend the rest of his life in exile in France where he died blind and forgotten in 1313.

Edward left Scotland leaving matters to appointed magistrates, the situation with France had deteriorated and this was more important. His contempt for Scots is shown in a passing remark made to his soldiers when he is reported to have said "Bon besoigne fait qy de merde se delivrer" (He who rids himself of shit does a good job). Scotland had been pacified with minimal English casualties; most of the English army went home and were demobilised, leaving garrisons in Scottish Castles.

It is at this point that Sir William Wallace was to raise his head and around this time that Gibson’s film begins. William Wallace, second of three sons of Sir Malcolm Wallace was born on January 1272, in the town of Elerslie (known now as Elderslie ) His father, Sir Malcolm Wallace, was already a Knight although he had little influence in the politics and the nobility of Scotland. He did not labour in the fields as is suggested in Braveheart and was no commoner.

The Scotland that William Wallace was raised in during the late 1200's was not a wealthy country but it was far from the beggarly picture of a nation which Braveheart gives us. It is clear from the Cathedrals which still stand at Glasgow and Dornoch and the monasteries in Arbroath, Scone, and Dunfermline as well as the palace of Holyrood and houses in Paisley, Dundrennan, Kilwinning, Jedburgh, and Melrose not to forget the chapel at Roslyn near Edinburgh. These splendid buildings could only have been erected in a country with considerable wealth and resources. Scotland is home to hundreds of Castles, the fortified homes of the landed classes. And although Scotland was not as wealthy as England or France the nation was not as poor as we have been led to believe.

William Wallace, like his enemy Longshanks, grew up to become a powerful and sturdy young man, 6 foot 7 inches tall, he was a giant of a man. It is not only his skill at arms which made William Wallace formidable, his mental faculties were considerable. William Wallace was educated and the Film is accurate with it’s depiction of Wallace as a speaker of both Latin and French.

Prior to John Balliol’s coronation, Sir Malcolm Wallace was called to bear arms in a revolt. The idea was to issue a levie which would gather a force together in support of the House of Bruce. William now at the age of fourteen would have been page or esquire to his father , and possibly his elder brother, also called Malcolm. The revolt - if it can be called that achieved little . For around three years there was an uneasy peace and it is during this time of secret meetings that William would have spent some time at Dunipace, Stirlingshire where he lodged with an uncle, a younger brother of his father, who was the cleric at a chapel of Cambuskenneth Abbey. William showed that he could make a career in the Church, which was the traditional role for landless younger sons. Now as a young man his education was taking him into the clergy.

When William Wallace was again united with his family, now seventeen years old, something else was to happen which would take William into the church. During the time of his education, John Balliol was in exile. In order to restore the Gaurdians of Scotland back into govern Scotland they were required to pay homage to Edward. The oath had to be taken by July.

Responsibility for the oath in Ayrshire fell upon Sir Ranald Craufurd, William's grandfather - his mother’s father. When Sir Ranald realised that Sir Malcolm Wallace had not paid homage, he knew that the English garrisons would descend upon Malcolm with Edward’s wrath, he took his daughter and her younger sons into his care. Sir Malcolm and his oldest son fled leaving his wife and two youngest sons William and John behind. After a while they were sent to the Carse of Gowrie where they were looked after by another uncle - a brother of his mothers .

As was customary, the younger brothers followed the education of the church while the eldest inherited lands and title. The uncle who he was now with was also a priest and William continued his education in Dundee. Here William met John Blair, a Benedictine monk, who eventually left his monastery to attend his friend William and become his confessor. In this church Wallace also met and became friends with Sir Neil Campbell of Lochawe , a young man who took part in William's first exploits.

In the film 'Braveheart', writer Randall Wallace and Director Mel Gibson tell that William's mother was already dead. They also do not mention his younger brother John, and in the first half hour or so they kill off his father and older brother when William was a small boy. The situation surrounding his education and his family could have been shown in a more accuracy. However, it would have prevented the fictitious scene of the graveyard encounter and the presentation of the thistle which made good cinema.

The situation in Scotland was turning into civil war; fighting between rival clans was heating up, as was revolt against English occupation. Sir Malcolm Wallace with his son Malcolm was involved in such a skirmish in 1291. William's father was slain.

William Wallace was now nineteen and his older brother Sir Malcolm Wallace was head of the family . (In Gibson’s film he had been slain fighting the English along with his father).

Gibson’s film is also inaccurate in that it claims that William Wallace was outlawed after avenging the murder of his lover. The facts are somewhat different.

Dundee castle was under English control. Owned by Brian Fitz-Alan of Bedale, he had placed the castle under the control of a constable named Selby, who was a hardened veteran of the war in France. Selby had a son just slightly older than William. In December 1291, young Selby caught sight of William, who stood out from the crowd as being someone worth picking a fight with because of his size, but also because of the quality of his attire. Young Selby, accompanied with a number of English friends pulled William aside and made remarks about his attire.

"Thou Scot, abide; what devil clothed thee in so gay a garment? An Irish mantle were the right apparel for thy kind; a Scottish knife under thy belt to carry; rough shoes upon thy boorish feet."

In the fight which followed Wallace killed Selby with his dirk.

William managed to evade capture, fleeing to the house of his uncle where he was greeted by a maid, he told her of what had just happened and she covered him with a cloak and set him in at a spinning wheel. When the English guards searched for Wallace they passed the house assuming that the only occupants were two elderly ladies spinning . It was announced that if the town didn't bring forth the murderer then the whole town would suffer. There is no historical account of the practice of Prima Nocta in Scotland at the time or the murder of Wallace’s lover and they must be attributed to a tendency in Hollywood to portray English characters as villains in recent years.

Wallace and his mother immediately fled to Elerslie. They were met by Margaret's father Sir Ranald who gave refuge to Wallace’s mother. News of Selby's son's death was spreading, and a price was on Wallace’s head. Wallace joined his uncle Sir Richard Wallace at Riccarton.

Sir Richard Wallace is most likely the uncle ‘Argyle’ referred to in the film Braveheart. Blind in one eye, educated, and a skilled warrior. It is possible that ‘Argyle’ is a hybrid of all the uncles that influenced William. Sir Richard, was blinded, and enfeebled through loss of blood in battle with the English.

The victory at Stirling did happen in 1297; from there he invaded England sacking many towns including York. He was not warned of the advancement of the English by the Princess of Wales who did not arrive in England to marry the future Edward II until after Wallace’s execution. Any hint at a love affair between the two is also fiction.

1298 saw his defeat at Falkirk. Braveheart would have us believe that Wallace was betrayed. In reality Falkirk was to set a precedent for the next hundred years with the superiority on the battlefield of the English Longbowmen. As for the portrayal of Robert the Bruce as a troubled yet noble victim of his father’s plotting? This is also very inaccurate. The real Bruce was a brute who, before Bannockburn (1313) flayed an enemy and wore the skin as a baldrick. It is also well documented that the Bruce murdered one significant rival, Red Comyn , whose son was to ally with the English at Bannockburn in the futile hope of revenge.

Wallace was tortured and executed by the English. He was hung, drawn and quartered in 1305 in London. The English spectators were not sympathetic and Wallace had to endure a journey of almost four miles to the site of his execution in order to expose him to the utmost insult and injury.

Edward I did not die during Wallace’s pre execution torture as he does in Braveheart. Ironically he died whilst on a later campaign against the Scots at Carlisle in 1307 not in his bedchamber suffering the taunts of the Princess of Wales. If Braveheart achieves anything it is a demonstration of the doggedness of the Scots in the face of adversity. Fiona Watson summarises.

“Edward I has come down in history as the ‘Hammer of the Scots’ – and that, without any doubt is what he was. Yet he died a bitter and, ultimately defeated man on his way back to Scotland yet again, when he must have felt that he had solved the ‘Scottish problem’ with the submission in 1304”

Braveheart: (1995) 20th Century Fox
Braveheart: Randall Wallace (1995)
The Bowmen of England: Donald Featherstone (1968)
Sir William Wallace: A.F. Murison (2000)
William Wallace: Braveheart: James Mackay (1995)
Scotland: The Story of a Nation: Magnus Magnusson (2000)
Scotland: Your Guide to a Great Driving Holiday: Thomas Cook Publishing (2003)
Under the Hammer: Fiona Watson (1998)
However two years later on his return from a council meeting in Edinburgh, he fell off his horse in a storm and tumbled over a cliff to his death.
He took a tumble near Kinghorn in Fife, which is now home to one of the largest caravan parks seen outside the trailer-trash belt of the USA!
MrPVRd said:
I read somewhere (a long time ago) that William Wallace was captured at a brothel in Dumbarton. Is this true? 8O
I don't believe so although it is entirely possible.
abacus said:
Good enough for ARRSEpedia Lairdx - as are you but you're not in it either.

I have made a contribution anon.
Excellent reading there Lairdx, nice to see the true facts come out, and how much 'artisic' license Holywood used, i am a little supprised in the actual film though ,that america didnt try and say it was them who came to scotland to mass there armys with the scots and conquer the rest of the british isles, or is that for braveheart 2??
Sabre said:
Excellent reading there Lairdx, nice to see the true facts come out, and how much 'artisic' license Holywood used, i am a little supprised in the actual film though ,that america didnt try and say it was them who came to scotland to mass there armys with the scots and conquer the rest of the british isles, or is that for braveheart 2??
........don`t give the muthers ideas mate. I can see it now Mel as Gordon Brown, Tom Cruise as Bliar,Cage as Ingram, Arnie as Darling,not forgetting TCH as TCH. :twisted:

"THE SCOTTISH RAJ" A Gibson/Paxman production.......with a little bit of funding from New Labour :lol:

On a serious note,well done Laird!!
A very interesting and informative read lairdx, cheers. Just one question, if Wallace was 6ft 7", how come an Australian midget portrayed him ? !
he stood on a box and was surrounded by dwarf actors.
MrPVRd said:
I read somewhere (a long time ago) that William Wallace was captured at a brothel in Dumbarton. Is this true? 8O
Captured in "The Cross Keys" KIPPEN,being betrayed to the English by the informer "reversing a loaf of bread" :?:
What are our sources for Wallace's life? You've given us some good stirring quotes, which I assume are taken from some chronicler - but how far can we trust them? Might we not be dealing with a presentation just as artificial, in its way, as Gibson's?

you are right smithie - there are not many sources for wallaces life and most of those that exist were written in hindsight a long time after the event. Both Magnussons and Watson's books do work with the primary sources but Mackays book relies heavily on speculation.
76mill said:
dwarfs/boxes- interested in some vids?
Make it DVD and it's a deal!

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