Little Bits of History

Falkirk

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 22, 2011

William Wallace statue at Aberdeen (photo by Axis 12002)

July 22, 1298: The battle of Falkirk takes place. The combatants were the Scots and the Brits. Scotland had a period of stability that ended in 1286 when King Alexander III died after a fall from his horse. His four-year-old granddaughter was proclaimed Queen, but she died while traveling back from Norway. This left Scotland without a ruler and before civil war could break out, King Edward of England, stepped in to help settle the matter. By 1292 and before helping out, he insisted all Lords recognize him as Lord Paramount of Scotland. The Lords themselves selected John Balliol as their next ruler. King Edward reversed their decision. The Scots and Brits took up arms to defend their say.

The Battle of Dunbar resulted in a Scottish defeat and King John was forced to abdicate. The nobles were forced to pay homage to King Edward or else be held prisoners of war. Animosity remained and in 1297 William Wallace came to attention when he assassinated William de Heselrig, the English High Sherriff of Lanark. Wallace and William Douglas the Hardy next carried out the raid of the Scone – a rebellion matching many others across Scotland. While many nobles surrendered to the English in July, Wallace and Moray were not among them. They continued their rebellions.

On September 11, 1297, Wallace’s men won a surprising victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. They were greatly outnumbered, but managed to hold the bridge and keep the British from crossing while suffering great casualties. Emboldened by this victory, Wallace led a large scale raid into northern England in November 1297. It was around this time that Wallace was knighted.

The Battle of Falkirk did not have the same topography and the Scots were once again terribly outnumbered. There were about 6,000 Scottish warriors facing 15,000 British soldiers. The English had twice as much cavalry and two-and-a-half times the infantry. Wallace used a devised technique called a schiltron where his soldiers were lined up behind a rounded shield wall. The British were using the longbow and were able to strike behind the shield wall from a great distance. The schiltrons fell apart and the British could move in to victory. Wallace lost many of his supporters and was forced to leave his position of leadership. He was captured in 1305 after a traitor turned him in. He was found guilty of treason and hanged, but not until dead, then he was castrated and eviscerated with his bowels being burnt in front of him. He was then beheaded and quartered. His head was tarred and placed on pike on London Bridge while his limbs were displayed separately throughout England.

“I have brought you to the ring, now dance if you can.” [before the Battle of Falkirk]

“I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject.”

“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”

“I’m William Wallace, and the rest of you will be spared. Go back to England and tell them… Scotland is free!” – all from William Wallace

Also on this day:
Public Enemy #1 – In 1934, John Dillinger met his end – maybe.
Cleaveland – In 1796, Cleveland, Ohio was named for the leader of the surveying party.

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