Little Bits of History

August 23

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 23, 2017

1305: William Wallace dies. Scottish Gaelic would render his name Uileam Uallas and the Norman French would have it as William le Waleys, but regardless of the way his name is given, he was a Scottish knight who became one of the leaders of the Wars of Scottish Independence. There were actually two portions of the wars, with the First War lasting from 1296 to 1328 and ending with the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton and then a Second War from 1332 to 1357 which ended with the Treaty of Berwick. In both of these confrontations, Scotland was able to remain an independent state. They were important for a variety of reasons including the introduction of the longbow as a key weapon of medieval times.

Wallace was born into a family of the lesser nobility and little is known of his early life. He grew into an imposing man, said to be very tall and strong. Alexander III was King of Scotland from 1249 until he fell from his horse in 1286. His rule had brought stability and prosperity to his country. His death without a male heir left the country in upheaval and headed toward civil war and with the power gap, their neighbor to the south looked to take control. Instead of permitting the Scottish nobility come to a consensus about their next King, Edward I of England reversed their rulings and called the Lords to his court to stand as plaintiffs. When they refused, Edward began raids on border towns and war began.

Because of Wallace’s great abilities, it is theorized he had previous wartime experience, but none had been found in the record. But with his country in peril, Wallace began his resistance with the assassination of William de Heserig, the English High Sheriff of Lanark in 1297. Wallace then joined William the Hardy, Lord of Douglas and they continued to resist English incursions. On September 11, 1297 Wallace and Andrew Moray joined forces for the surprising Scottish victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. The Scots continued to hold their own against the British invaders and Wallace continued to fight against them. On August 5, 1305, a Scottish knight loyal to Edward I betrayed Wallace and led to his capture.

Wallace was brought to London and stood trial at Westminster Hall. He denied being capable of treason against the crown, for he “could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject.” He was found guilty anyway and sentenced to death. He was held at the Tower of London and on this day was stripped naked and dragged through the streets at the heels of a horse. Once at the Elms at Smithfield, he was hanged, but before dying he was cut down. He was then emasculated and eviscerated with his bowels burned before him as he watched. He was then beheaded and his body cut into four pieces. His head was tarred and placed on a spike on London Bridge. His body parts were distributed for display in Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling, and Perth.

An independent Scotland – like all countries – will face challenges, and we will have our ups and downs. But the decisions about how we use our wealth will be ours. – Nicola Sturgeon

If you put a frog in boiling water, it’ll jump straight out. If you put it in cold water and gradually bring it to the boil, it’ll sit right there until it dies. Scotland has been sitting in England’s gradually boiling water for so long that many people are used to it. – John Niven

Scotland and England may sometimes be rivals, but by geography, we are also neighbours. By history, allies. By economics, partners. And by fate and fortune, comrades, friends and family. – Douglas Alexander

Without the shepherd’s dog, the whole of the open mountainous land in Scotland would not be worth a sixpence. – James Hogg



Tagged with: ,


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.