We are all aware that there is some controversy as to where the great Scottish hero was born. Some say in Ayrshire and others Elderslie. For the purpose of this website we are going to go along with the Elderslie argument, as to us it is the one that makes the most sense.
William Wallace, second of three sons of Sir Malcolm Wallace was born on January 1272, (although many will debate the year to fall somewhere between 1270 and 1276 - 1272 seems to be the most precise), in Scotland in the town of Elerslie (known now as Elderslie.
His father, Sir Malcolm Wallace, although endowed with the title of a knight held little rank in the world of politics and the nobility of Scotland . He owned a certain amount of land under his title and lived a relatively peaceful life.
Wallace was born into a land of plenty. It is made out by some propagandists, that Scotland was a poor place to live, but this was not the case. Scotland was abundant with wonderful buildings, cathedrals and churches that could only have been built by a wealth nation. Studded with hundreds of Castles, regal, baronial and knightly, the fortified homes of the landed classes: it was an age in which emerged a prosperous bourgeoisie.
Around the time that Wallace would be born King Henry III died and was succeeded by Edward Ist of England . This man was to become known as “Hammer of the Scots” and was also to be William Wallace's most deadly enemy. He was crowned on 18 th August 1274 and indeed lived up to his name of ‘Longshanks' he was thirty-five years of age and was very tall.
William Wallace also grew up to become a powerful and sturdy young man, with a height of 6 foot 7 inches and a physique to match, he too was a giant of a man.
However, it is not only his physical attributes which made William Wallace such a hero, his mental faculties were considerable. Nobody really knows exactly where William Wallace gained his education, but wherever it was they did a good job on him.
William was showing his intellect that he could easily make a career in the Church, which was the traditional role for landless younger sons. Now at the age of 16 his education was taking a more mature direction. His uncle instilled in him moral maxims compactly framed in Latin, and referred frequently to the great classic authors. William's passion and love of liberty that would become his basis for his glorious career can also be credited to his uncle-priest who inculcated the very values and essence of freedom and liberty with in his mind. This was a precept which remained firmly implanted in William's mind till the United again with his family, and now 17 years old, something else was to happen which would take William into the care of the church. During the time of his education (14 - 16 years old), John Balliol had been exiled and in order to restore the Guardians of Scotland back into govern Scotland they first had to pay homage to Longshanks. The taking of this oath had to be outright, and the deadline for taking the oath was set for July of that year.
Responsibility for administering the oath for Ayrshire fell upon the hands of Sir Ranald Craufurd, William's grandfather - his mothers father. Anyone not paying homage to Longshanks was in for severe penalties, and when Sir Ranald noticed that Sir Malcolm Wallace's name was not on the list, and realising that retribution from the English garrisons, which now governed Ayr and Irvine (where they were), was about to descend upon Malcolm he took his daughter and her younger sons under his care.
Sir Malcolm and his oldest son fled north leaving his wife Margaret and two youngest sons William and John behind. After a short while with Margaret's father Sir Ranald, he sent them all to Kilspindie in the Carse of Gowrie where they were kept by another uncle of William's - probably a brother of his mothers.
As was the custom in those days, the younger brothers followed the education of the church while the eldest would inherit lands and titles. The uncle who he was now with was also a priest of the district and it was here, now at the age of 17 or 18 that William continued his education in Dundee . It was here that William met John Blair, who soon after became a Benedictine monk, following that he eventually left his monastery to attend his friend William and become his chaplain and comrade in arms.
In this church school William also met and became friends with Duncan of Lorn and Sir Neil Campbell of Lochawe, both young men like William who were to take a major part in William's first exploits. Why such a well-built and physically strong youth would follow the career of a priest is easily answered. As I have already said it was the custom for both the Wallace family (his fathers side) and the Craufurd family (his mothers side) to send the youngest sons to the church for their education, and in unsettled times as there were, it was prudent to have a firm grasp on languages and politics and the learning's of the church, as the church was a major power.
Also with his older brother Malcolm and his father Sir Malcolm on the run in the north it was clear that William, being the largest and strongest family member would be in a good place to take care of his mother and his younger brother John. Oddly enough, Dundee was also one of the few places at this time where there was little revolt against the English takeover - he could sleep safely out of the way of the troubles.
Scotland was building up into a bitter civil war. The fighting between families, neighbours and rival towns was escalating at an alarming rate. There was also the ongoing struggle against English tyranny. Fighting turned into riots - riots turned to ambush and sporadic battles. Sir Malcolm Wallace was back in the south with his son Malcolm. Sir William Wallace was to lose his father that day in 1291 at Loudoun Hill near Irvine . This was the start of William's personal resentment of the English that would later develop into total hatred and loathing.
The young giant William Wallace was only nineteen at this time. It was to be the first time he bore arms in earnest. His mother was devastated and his older brother Sir Malcolm Wallace junior was now the head of the family. The cruel treatment of his oppressed country by the English, the exile of his mother into hiding, the death of his father by an Englishman called Fenwick at a minor scuffle in Irvine : it was all too much for him to comprehend.
Throughout his life so far he would have been protected as a scholar of the church and the talk on the lips of his friends, who would also have had fathers and brothers already with sword in hand ready for the fight, would surely have been revenge. As a Scot he would have been more than ready to stand with his family and claim their rights in their own lands.
The moment was fast approaching when Wallace would strike the first blow in his life as a freedom fighter for Scotland .
A man named Brian Fitz-Alan of Bedale was running the castle in Dundee for the English. He in turn had given the running to a man named Selby, who hated the Scottish with a passion.
Selby had a son who was arrogant and thought he could do as he pleased. In December of the year 1291, Selby's son decided to have a bit of sport with a tall man dressed all in green. Selby and his friends approached the person. The man stood out from the crowd and this was more than likely why Selby junior picked on him. "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 saying these he was basically demanding the handsome dirk at William's belt. William's response was swift and dramatic; grabbing the Englishman by the collar, he drew his blade and thrust it through his assailant's heart. His friends attempted to draw their swords but were prevented from doing so by the crowd who had gathered. Wallace made good his escape but was pursued. He avoided his enemies by posing as a woman weaving at a loom.
The ruse worked. It was announced that afternoon that there was a warrant out for the murderer of Selby's son, if the town didn't bring forth the murderer then the whole town would be burnt to the ground and everyone within it. William made his way home to his mother who having already heard the news was beside herself with worry. Everyone knew that it was William that they were after as no one else could fit the description of the man they wanted.
William and his mother immediately left for Dunfermline , but William insisted that they return to Elerslie where they were from and her family was. After a cunning escape and quietly trudging their way to Elerslie Margaret's father Sir Ranald met them. Sir Ranald informed them that the news of Selby's son's death was quickly spreading, and a price had been placed on William's head and he was labelled an outlaw. Not wanting to make life any more difficult for himself he told them that he could look after his daughter but could do nothing for the outlaw William, his best advice was for them to split up and for William to join his uncle Sir Richard Wallace who lived in Riccarton. After some time William reached Riccarton by February 1292 and stayed with them until April.
William soon settled down and found a friend in his uncle's page. It is reported that one-day when he was fishing on the Irvine a garrison of English soldiers rode passed. The last five soldiers, who were impressed with William's catch, decided that they should have it for themselves. Wallace told them that the catch was intended for the super of an elderly knight, the English soldiers said that they had their permission to continue fishing in order to catch more. Everything was all very peaceful and when William asked if he could at least keep half of the catch as this would be 'fair', the ring-leader of the five Englishmen became angry at being talked to so familiarly by an upstart Scot; he drew his sword and lunged for Wallace.
Wallace fended of the blow with his fishing-pole and struck the soldier squarely on the chin, knocking him to his feet and sent his sword flying. William rushed for the sword in order to arm himself, he decapitated the next soldier with a hard blow to the neck and turned to the other soldiers who had already dismounted and were making their way to aid their injured comrades. Wallace's blood was at boiling point as he hacked one on the collarbone, another he struck on the arm with such force that both sword and arm fell to the ground. While the other two soldiers made off, William Wallace quickly finished off the man he had just maimed by running him through with an English sword.
On return to his uncle's house, he explained what had happened and told his uncle that he would leave his home in order to spare him the revenge of the English who would no doubt be there at any time now. Wallace gathered together his possessions and prepared to leave. William and his new page, (who would also have been targeted with a price on his head), took to the woods in the north just like his father and brother had done a several years before. Meantime, John Balliol was about to be crowned and the divide in Scotland was thickening. William Wallace was now deemed to be an outlaw for, what would have been seen as, multiple cold-blooded murders. He was an outlaw, a criminal and a man with a price on his head. His family were scattered to various parts of southern Scotland , his father was dead and Wallace had no choice but to fight or die, the penalties for what he had done was death. He was only 20 years old.
On the sixth day of November 1292, while acting as the Lord Paramount of Scotland, King Edward I ruled in favour of John Balliol against Robert Bruce 'the Competitor' for the Crown of Scotland. On the day following King Edward I's ruling, Robert Bruce 'the Competitor' retired from the Scottish political scene to his Annandale estate and later died on the first of April 1295 . On the second day after the ruling, Robert Bruce's 'the Competitor' eldest son, Robert Bruce, 1 st Earl of Carrick resigned his earldom to his eighteen years old son, Robert Bruce (the future king of Scotland), and then went on an extended European tour. Finally on the seventeenth of November 1292, King Edward I declared that John Balliol as the rightful heir to the Scottish Crown. Two days later as a token gesture King Edward I ordered that twenty-three of the leading Scottish castles to be placed under the charge of John Balliol. Then as a token of English supremacy the Great Seal of Scotland (used by the Guardians of the Peace since the death of Alexander III) was broken up and sent to the English Treasury in Westminster , London . At Norham on twentieth of November 1292, John Balliol swore an oath of allegiance to King Edward I as his Lord Paramount.
On St. Andrews day 1292, John Balliol was crowned as the King of Scotland on the Stone of Destiny, at Scone palace in Perthshire; King John Balliol presided over a technically English occupied nation even though he was in charge of the twenty-three leading Scottish castles. But these twenty-three Scottish castles were still effectively under English control because they still had an English constable and garrisoned by English soldiers. At Newcastle on Boxing Day in the year of 1292, John Balliol had to repeat his oath of allegiance to King Edward I, but this time as the crowned King of Scotland. Therefore King John's action denounced Scotland as nothing more than a region of England .
William Wallace was bored so he decided to visit the nearby market town of Ayr in disguise. Of the many street entertainers William Wallace encountered, there was one that stood out from the crowd. It was a large burly Englishman, which for one groat (a silver coin worth four old pence) dared anybody to strike him with the pole he was carrying. William Wallace couldn't resist the temptation and offered three groats for the privilege; Wallace whacked the oaf so hard that it sent him sprawling across the street and broke the oaf's back in the process. This single act of defiance by William Wallace would have sent the oppressed locals into an uproar, then a patrolling group of English soldiers made for Wallace. After the English soldiers were dispatched William Wallace escaped back to Leglen Woods, amid the confusion and chaos that ensued. In another excursion into Ayr , William Wallace came to the aid of one of his uncle's (Sir Reginald de Crauford) servants who was being bullied by one of Sir Henry de Percy's (the Captain of Ayr) stewards. The steward's answer to William Wallace's intervention was to lunge at Wallace with his hunting staff. In self-defence William Wallace grabbed the steward and plunged his dirk into the steward's heart, killing him instantly. Suddenly the mass of the English garrison at Ayr converged at William Wallace's location. William Wallace offered stiff resistance and slaughtered a considerable number of English soldiers, but by their shear force of numbers Wallace was eventually cornered; then captured and finally thrown into gaol.
Due to the injuries sustained during his capture and mistreatment in gaol, William Wallace succumbed to a fever, and on the day of his trial he had lapsed into a coma. The gaoler assumed that William Wallace had died from his fever and disposed of his body on the refuse tip outside the gaol, to rot with the other carcasses. Having heard the news of William Wallace's untimely demise his former nanny sought permission from the English authorities to give the corpse a decent burial. Having retrieved William Wallace's body, the former nanny noticed that there was a weak sign of life; therefore she and her daughter slowly nursed Wallace back to health, whilst they kept up the pretence of Wallace's death.
While visiting St. Mary's monastery at Faile near Mauchline, Sir Thomas Rymour of Ercildoune 'True Thomas the Rhymer' heard the rumour of William Wallace's death. Sir Thomas Rymour sent a servant to Ayr to see if the rumour can be substantiated, on hearing that the rumour was false he declared: This prophecy from Sir Thomas Rymour (a widely regarded soothsayer and prophet) predicted that William Wallace was the one that will drive the English out of Scotland . William Wallace was by now fully recovered from his near death experience, sent his former nanny and her daughter into the care of his mother in Elerslie, because of potential reprisals from the English authorities once it becomes apparent that she had aided him. Then armed only with a rusty old sword William Wallace walked towards Riccarton to visit his uncle, Sir Richard Wallace. During William Wallace's trek to Riccarton he was stopped; then interrogated by an English soldier called Longcastle and two guards. Longcastle became very suspicious during William Wallace's interrogation and therefore wanted to further detain Wallace in order to verify his story at Ayr . Suddenly William Wallace revealed his concealed sword; he dispatched Longcastle and then the two guards. William Wallace then mounted one of the horses and resumed his journey, together with the other spoils from his small escapade: - two horses, provisions and weapons.
On his return to Riccarton William Wallace was once again reunited with his uncle, Sir Richard Wallace, who only had just been grieving his nephew's death. While convalescing at Riccarton William Wallace heard Sir Thomas Rymour's prophecy and would have contemplated it's meaning - was he really destined to deliver Scotland its freedom. The combination of William Wallace's exploits against the English; the biblical connotation of resurrection from his near death experience; Sir Thomas Rymour's prophecy; inspired many of his kinsmen, closed friends and other sympathetic Scots to rally to him, as the leader that will liberate Scotland. Some of William Wallace's kinsmen which joined the ranks at this stage were: - Adam, Richard and Simon Wallace
Edward Little, Patrick Auchinleck of Gilbank, Tom Halliday, William de Crauford. The value of kinship to William Wallace can't be overstated; since even kin in positions of modest power offered their discreet support and this kinship formed the backbone of a very effective intelligence network
B ack in July of the year 1296, William Wallace received intelligence reports that Fenwick (the very same English knight who murdered his father in 1291) was to command a convoy laden with gold and silver from the English garrisoned stronghold of Lanark to Ayr . The intelligence report was so comprehensive that William Wallace even knew the exact date, route and strength of Fenwick's convoy, enabling Wallace to plan a guerrilla attack. William Wallace tactfully chose Loudoun Hill to concentrate his guerrilla attack on Fenwick and his convoy. Since at Loudoun Hill the track to Ayr narrows as it passes through a steep gorge, requiring the riders to pass at no more than two abreast. William Wallace ordered his band of fifty partisans to further narrow the track by fabricating that a landslide had occurred, there by forcing riders to pass the obstacle in a single file.
Without warning William Wallace and his band of partisans sprang from their concealed positions, as Fenwick and his convoy slowly milled around the obstacle. The first wave of William Wallace's attack concentrated on the front of Fenwick's convoy, in a bid to halt its progress. The partisan's thrust their swords and spears into the relatively unprotected underbelly of the English heavy cavalry. As the fatally injured armoured horses collapsed, the cavalrymen or knights would be thrown from their mounts and then dispatched by the sword-wielding partisans. Chaos and confusion soon plagued the English ranks as William Wallace launched the second wave of his attack, this time on the main section of Fenwick's convoy. Again the same tactic was employed against the heavy cavalry. As it forced the cavalrymen or knights to be dismounted and thus becoming easy prey for the partisans or to be trampled to death by their own startled horses or to be crushed by one of their fatally injured horses.
Amid the ensuing mêlée William Wallace noticed, and made for Fenwick, in order to avenge his father's death. Though Fenwick offered some resistance he was soon toppled from his armoured horse by a calculated slash from William Wallace's claymore, as it sliced Fenwick's saddle straps. Then William Wallace's cousin, Robert Boyd of Kilmarnock was bestowed with the honour of dispatching Fenwick.
William Wallace's first exploit as a guerrilla leader netted him two hundred packhorses heavily laden with provisions and treasures, heavy cavalry, armour and weapons. It cost William Wallace the lives of three of his men to defeat Fenwick and his convoy, but out of one hundred and eighty men from Fenwick's convoy only eighty survived Wallace's onslaught. However the English paid an even stiffer penalty for their humiliating defeat, the publicity that fifty lightly armed men managed to shatter the myth of the invincibility of the heavy cavalry.
On hearing the news of William Wallace's devastating guerrilla attack on Fenwick and his convoy, the Great Council at Glasgow eventually decided that it was wiser to make a truce with this 'awful chieftain'. Sir Reginald de Crauford was then immediately summoned to appear before the Great Council at Glasgow , where Sir Henry de Percy (now the Warden of Ayrshire and Galloway) dictated the terms of the truce. It was also made crystal-clear to Sir Reginald de Crauford that his nephew, William Wallace, had to agree to these terms or else he would forfeit his land and sheriffdom.
In August 1296, Sir Reginald de Crauford traced his nephew, William Wallace to his hideout at Clyde 's Forest and briefed him about the truce being offered by the English. Advised to accept the truce by his kinsmen and to save his uncle's position, William Wallace reluctantly agreed to the terms of the truce. Then William Wallace and his band of partisans parted their separate ways, and Wallace returned to Crosshouse to lodge with his uncle, Sir Reginald de Crauford.
Without his uncle's knowledge, William Wallace paid a visit to the nearby market town of Ayr . While in Ayr , William Wallace was subsequently recognised by a group of English soldiers, who then broke ranks to avenge the deaths of their fellow comrade-in-arms. William Wallace tactfully withdrew to Leglen Woods, but he left in his wake a trail of twenty-nine dead or dying English soldiers.
In September 1296, Sir Reginald de Crauford was yet again summoned to appear before the Great Council at Glasgow to answer for his nephew's actions in Ayr , as it violated the terms of the truce. To see that Sir Reginald de Crauford complied with the summons, Sir Henry de Percy and his men were sent to escort him. William Wallace and his fellow kinsmen, Gray and Kerly, also accompanied Sir Reginald de Crauford.
During the journey from Crosshouse to Glasgow , Sir Henry de Percy's horse stumbled due to fatigue. Eager to exercise his supremacy, Sir Henry de Percy ordered one of his servants to exchange for Sir Reginald de Crauford fresher horse with his own exhausted one. Sir Reginald de Crauford eventually submitted to Sir Henry de Percy's bullyboy tactics rather than to cause a scene were blood would be shed. William Wallace was incensed by Sir Henry de Percy's treatment of his uncle, galloped off, and closely followed by Gray and Kerly.
William Wallace together with Gray and Kerly caught up with Sir Henry de Percy's baggage-train at East Cathcart . William Wallace then decided to vent his anger on Sir Henry de Percy's baggage-train, due to Sir Henry de Percy's treatment of his uncle. This incident resulted in five of Sir Henry de Percy's men being killed and William Wallace netted: - heavy cavalry, money, packhorses, provisions and weapons. Then William Wallace, Gray and Kerly headed for the safety of Lennox .
Meanwhile at Glasgow , all the Great Council could do was to brand William Wallace an outlaw yet again, after his attack on Sir Henry de Percy's baggage-train was declared as highway robbery. By outlawing William Wallace the Great Council just attracted even greater interest about Wallace and his exploits against the English.
The publicity generated by outlawing William Wallace attracted Irish exiles (e.g. Stephen of Ireland who became one of Wallace's trusted comrade-in-arms), outlaws etc. to join him in the wilds of Dunbartonshire and he soon recruited a band of sixty partisans. William Wallace instructed his kinsmen, Gray and Kerly to act as his bodyguards, until he could trust the men that had joined him. Since most of the recent recruits were a rough bunch of murderers, cutthroats and some could even have been assassins/spies sent by the English authorities.
William Wallace and his band of armed partisans (arms came courtesy of Sir Henry de Percy) marched north to Gargunnock, near Stirling , with the intention to capture its peel tower. The two scouts William Wallace sent ahead of the main party, reported that the peel tower's security was lax, as the drawbridge was down, its guards were asleep, workers going in and out without being questioned.
Still under the cover of darkness, William Wallace and his partisans crept up to the peel-tower and found its door was bolted shut by an iron bar. Therefore William Wallace wrenched the iron bar free from its fixing, then kicked the door down. The noise woke up the guard, but he was quickly silenced. Then the bemused constable, Captain Thirlwall and twenty-two of his men stumbled into the scene, only to be swiftly dispatched by William Wallace and his partisans. However William Wallace spared the women and children from the same fate. The guerrilla attack was so skilfully executed that it had over whelmed the English before they even realised what was going on. William Wallace and his partisans stayed in the peel-tower for a period of four days, before carting off its cache of provisions and weapons; then they finally torching the peel-tower.
William Wallace and his band of partisans then marched to Methven Wood, first crossing the river Forth at Kincardine; then the river Teith; and finally the river Earn. They were hiding during the day, trekking at night, and showing no mercy to any English soldiers they met.
Arriving at Methven Wood, William Wallace with seven companions headed to Perth for a reconnaissance mission, while the rest of the partisans made camp. Then it became apparent to William Wallace that he didn't have the necessary resources to liberate the town of Perth . However William Wallace also learned that Sir James Butler would be returning home to Kinclaven with a convoy well laden with money, provisions, weapons, and only guarded by a detachment of ninety-three cavalrymen. Since the odds were much more favourable, William Wallace settled on attacking Sir James Butler's convoy, and therefore dashed back to Methven Wood to plan his ambush.
A scout informed William Wallace that three outriders from Sir James Butler's convoy had ridden by, but Wallace waited until the main party was in sight before he revealed his position. The cavalrymen acknowledged them as nothing more than a mere bunch of lightly armed bandits and therefore charged at them, with the notion that they will either scatter in disarray or get trampled. However William Wallace and his partisans stood their ground as the ninety strong cavalry lowered their lances and charged, at the very last minute they swiftly stepped aside to avoid the being skewered or trampled by the charging cavalry. Then they slashed at the horse's legs or belly as it thundered past, causing the rider to thrown from his mount and therefore allowing the rider to be easily dispatched.
Sir James Butler together with sixty of his cavalrymen was slaughtered in the ambush. The surviving thirty cavalrymen fled in a state of panic for the safety of the nearby Kinclaven castle, with William Wallace and his partisans close on their heels. In the gatekeeper's eagerness to let his fleeing colleagues into the safety of Kinclaven castle he also inadvertently allowed William Wallace and his partisans to enter the castle. William Wallace and his partisans then purged all the English soldiers from the castle, but five partisans lost their lives as the English soldiers offered stiff resistance. However the women, the children and two priests were spared from the bloodshed. The castle was systematically plundered; then set ablaze, before William Wallace and his fifty-five remaining partisans retired to Shortwood Shaw with their spoils.
Lady Butler and the rest of the survivors of Kinclaven castle made haste to Perth to inform its Governor, Sir Gerard Heron, of William Wallace's attack. On hearing the news, Sir Gerard Heron was so incensed that a mere outlaw had the sheer audacity to not only slaughter his men, but also to capture one of his castles. Sir Gerard Heron immediately mobilised six companies of heavy cavalry, totalling one thousand men, to search and destroy William Wallace. Eventually William Wallace was traced back to Shortwood Shaw. Five companies formed a security net around Shortwood Shaw to prevent William Wallace from escaping and the sixth company, commanded by Sir John Butler (Sir James Butler's son), would head the direct assault against Wallace.
William Wallace anticipated that Sir Gerard Heron would employ his heavy cavalry to stage a counter-attack. So William Wallace's plan was to lure Sir Gerard Heron's heavy cavalry into a fortified corral within Shortwood Shaw, were they would be picked off en route and finally be slaughtered at the corral. Since William Wallace knew that in a heavily forested terrain horses are cumbersome and a liability to their riders.
In the morning, Sir John Butler and his men advanced into Shortwood Shaw, shortly afterwards William Wallace launched his guerrilla attack. As anticipated the riders of the heavy cavalry proved to be easy prey and were eliminated one by one as they travelled deeper and deeper into Shortwood Shaw. Eventually Sir John Butler acknowledged the vulnerability of his heavy cavalry in such a heavily forested terrain and summoned the support of one hundred and forty highly skilled archers plus eighty spearmen.
So now during each guerrilla attack, the English archers would answer back by firing volley after volley of arrows in the general direction of William Wallace and his partisans, showering the area in a deadly hail of arrows. William Wallace immediately acknowledged the strategic importance of an archer, and therefore ordered his men to concentrate on taking out the English archers first. However William Wallace only had twenty archers with a limited supply of arrows and therefore employed the strategy of one arrow one kill. After all the arrows were used up William Wallace and his partisans embraced the enemy in closed quarter fighting using their two handed claymores. Then an English marksman fired an arrow, which managed to piece the left side of William Wallace's protective steel collar, inflicting a debilitating and painful wound.
By the afternoon Sir Gerard Heron had suffered heavy loses among his ranks, but was still not any closer in achieving his goal. Therefore Sir William de Lorraine (Sir James Butler's nephew) was sent back to Perth for a further three hundred soldiers to reinforce Sir John Butler's assault on William Wallace.
The skirmish intensified as a further three hundred English soldiers, commanded by Sir William de Lorraine, converged on William Wallace's location in Shortwood Shaw. Confronted with an English army now ten times greater than his, William Wallace tactfully decided to withdraw deeper into Shortwood Shaw, along with his remaining fifty partisans. As William Wallace and his partisans seemed to have "melted away" within the heavily forested terrain without a trace, Sir John Butler then ordered his soldiers to fan out and search for them.
William Wallace and his partisans were eventually located near an impassable steep craggy ascend within Shortwood Shaw by one of Sir John Butler's search parties.
The alarm was raised as to the whereabouts of William Wallace, immediately Sir John Butler, Sir William de Lorraine and the rest of the English army stampeded to Wallace's location. With their backs against the steep craggy ascend, William Wallace and his partisans confronted the search party head on in a desperate bid to escape before the full force of Sir John Butler's soldiers descended on their location. In the ensuing mêlée the English search party were swiftly slaughtered and those who were foolhardy enough to stand in their path also suffered the same fate.
As the full force of Sir John Bulter's soldiers finally descended on the steep craggy ascend, all they witnessed was a bloody scene littered with the carcasses of their former colleagues. Then on hearing the news that William Wallace butchered Sir William de Lorraine, Sir Gerard Heron unleashed his remaining five companies of heavy cavalry to go in for the kill. However William Wallace and his partisans had already slipped passed Sir Gerard Heron security net via the north side of Shortwood Shaw, but seven comrades had sacrificed their lives in order to secure their escape. William Wallace and his surviving forty-three partisans then nursed their wounds in Cargill Wood, while the English were still frantically searching for them in Shortwood Shaw.
Twenty-four hours later under the cover of darkness, William Wallace and his partisans returned to Shortwood Shaw, to recover their concealed cache of booty; then they headed for an area within Methven Wood called Elcho Park .
Bored after a period of inactivity within Elcho Park , William Wallace decided to see his girlfriend in Perth . On their second meeting William Wallace was informed by his girlfriend that the English authorities had set a trap for him, after they forced her to divulge details of their rendezvous. William Wallace then immediately fled to the relative safety of Elcho Park , leaving behind a trail of dead English soldiers in his wake. The English soldiers vented their anger and frustration, over the deaths of their colleagues, by murdering William Wallace's girlfriend.
Aided by bloodhounds, Sir Gerard Heron along with six hundred soldiers finally tracked William Wallace down to Elcho Park . Then Sir Gerard Heron along with half of his soldiers surrounded Elcho Park , while Sir John Butler lead the direct assault on William Wallace with the remaining three hundred soldiers.
A bit apprehensive at first, Sir John Butler and his soldiers marched into the thick vegetation of Elcho Park . On their initial contact both parties just stared at each other over no man's land, in an effort to out psych their opponents. Then suddenly Sir John Butler gave the nod for his soldiers to charge, but William Wallace and his forty-three partisans stood their ground. In the furious mêlée that ensued, Sir John Butler suffered forty casualties while William Wallace suffered fifteen casualties.
Finding that the area was indefensible, William Wallace and his partisans tactfully withdrew from the scene, but were finally cornered as they encountered the river Tay . Unable to navigate the river Tay , William Wallace was faced with the decision of either to fight or die.
With their backs against the river Tay , William Wallace yelled out a battle cry, then charged straight at their pursuers, closely supported by his partisans. Sir John Butler's defences collapsed as William Wallace and his partisans carved through Butler 's ranks, slaying sixty English soldiers and scattering the survivors in disarray. By the time Sir John Butler was in a position to give chase, William Wallace and his partisans had already breached Sir Gerard Heron's security cordon. As dusk approached, William Wallace finally ordered his partisans to scatter, in a bid to evade being captured by the pursing English.
After an arduous trek William Wallace finally reached the river Earn, but was spotted by a sceptical Sir John Butler, who suspected that this bloodstained young man was one of his father's assailants. Therefore Sir John Butler moved in closer to investigate, and looked down on the bloodstained young man, as both men made eye contact, Butler instantly knew it was William Wallace. Then Sir John Butler immediately reached for his sword, but William Wallace had already slashed open Butler 's thigh, and was proceeding to slit Butler 's throat. William Wallace then mounted Sir John Butler's horse and galloped off, closely pursued by the mounted English soldiers.
When the mounted English soldiers caught up with William Wallace, a running battle ensued, in which a total of twenty soldiers were killed. Fifteen miles later, near Blackford, William Wallace's horse stumbled and then died of exhaustion, this resulted in Wallace having to trek on foot the rest of the way to Dunipace.
But firstly William Wallace had to negotiate the river Forth , to avoid detection; Wallace had to swim the river at Cambuskenneth. The icy currents of the river Forth took its toll on William Wallace's battered and bruised body, as he just barely managed to crawl out onto the south bank of the river.
In his weaken state, William Wallace was forced to ask for shelter at a hut occupied by a widow and her three sons, near Torwood. Then the widow tended to William Wallace's wounds; feed and provided him with dry clothes, before concealing him in a nearby thicket, guarded by her two sons, whilst the third son contacted Wallace's uncle in Dunipace.
William Wallace's uncle was pleased to see that his nephew was alive and well, but pleaded with him that this was the time to make peace with the English. Since King Edward I would have surely rewarded him with gold and land, if he just yielded to his rule. His uncle's advice had the negative effect, as it stiffened William Wallace's resolve, that he wasn't motivated by greed, as befouled other "Scottish nobles", but for the principle of freeing Scotland from the tyranny of English domination.
Meanwhile William Wallace was now joined by two of his most trusted men, Stephen of Ireland and Kerly of Cruggleton, who were ecstatic that Wallace was alive and kicking, and not as rumours have it drowned in the river Forth . The old priest was still concern was about his nephew's safety, therefore he provided horses and provisions for his nephew, William Wallace and his two friends. The three of them decided to lie low for a period of time, and rode off towards Dundaff moor, for Dundaff in Stirlingshire.
Having reached Dundaff, the Lord of Dundaff greeted William Wallace and his friends with a frosty reception, Sir John Graham Sr. Though Sir John Graham Sr. was sympathetic to William Wallace's cause, but this elderly Lord preferred a quite life and had already made peace with the English by yielding to their rule. His son, Sir John Graham Jr., however didn't share the same views, and goes on to become one of William Wallace's loyal-band of followers, until his death on the 22 July 1298 at the Battle of Falkirk. William Wallace and his two friends stayed for three nights before heading south to Gilbank, a small estate in Lesmahagow parish.
William Wallace passed the Christmas period of 1296 at Gilbank with his cousin, Patrick Auchinleck, as quietly as possible, but he wasn't totally inactive. William Wallace sent Stephen and Kerly touring around Scotland to drum up support for his next campaign, and Wallace himself wound slip into the town of Lanark for "sport", by slaying all those of English origin.
It was during this period that William Wallace met and fell in love with Marion Braidfute, the eighteen years old daughter and heiress of Hugh Braidfute of Lamington, whilst he was visiting St. Kentigern Church in Lanark. As their relationship flourished, William Wallace wound discreetly visit Marion Braidfute at her dwelling, in the centre of Lanark. Their relationship were further complicated by the fact that the Sheriff of Lanark, Sir William Heselrig, had desires on her valuable estate, and planned to marry Marion Braidfute off with his son.
Soon after the Christmas festivities William Wallace together with his friends Adam Wallace, Kerly, Patrick Auchinleck and Robert Boyd rode towards Corheid in Annandale . To rendezvous with Edward Little and Tom Halliday, both veterans of the Shortwood Shaw campaign, and with the cleric John Blair, they were all ecstatic to see that William Wallace was still alive and kicking. With their ranks increased to a total of fifteen, William Wallace headed towards Lochmaben, with the clear intention to seize this strategically important castle.
Leaving most of his men in a Knock Wood, near Lochmaben, William Wallace together with Edward Little, Kerly and Tom Halliday rode off to celebrate mass in a local parish church. Whilst they were still in the church, Clifford, the young nephew of Sir Henry de Percy, along with his bully-boy friends strutted passed, and they instantly despised the fact of Scots owning horses finer than theirs. Hearing all the commotion outside, William Wallace and his friends rushed out, only to see Clifford and his bully-boy friends smugly admiring their handy work of removing the tails from their horses. William Wallace and his friends answer to the mutilation of his horses were to put Clifford and his bully-boy friends to the sword.
They immediately fled the scene on their injured horses, but were closely pursued by a number of mounted English soldiers. Their horses began to subdue from blood loss and pain, allowing the English soldiers to gradually gain ground. William Wallace acknowledged the fact that riding to Knock Wood was now futile and he therefore must make a stand know now. Rapidly dismounting, William Wallace and his friends with their swords at the ready, standing still and facing the enemy head on, as they thundered nearer and nearer. The ferocity of their defence left fifteen dead or dying English soldiers, the survivors retreating and was waiting for reinforcement before they even consider another confrontation with William Wallace.
This gave William Wallace the opportunity to contact the rest of his men at Knock Wood, thus enabling him to organise an effective counter-attack against their English pursuers. In the ensuing skirmish that followed, the opposing English side suffered twenty casualties, including the much-noted Sir Hugh de Morland, and was totally annihilated. The reinforcement in the guise of Sir John de Graystock, the English commander of the region, was so incensed at the death of Sir Hugh de Morland that he kept up the pursuit. Forcing William Wallace and his men to fight a rear guard action, as they once again fled from the English soldiers.
By sheer luck William Wallace met up with Sir John Graham Jr. with thirty of his men and Kirkpatrick of Torthorwald who had a further twenty men, at Queensberry. With the reinforcements, William Wallace has now sixty-seven men under his command, and he decided it was now the time to make a defiant stance against his pursuers, Sir John de Graystock. Therefore William Wallace and his men turned round, faced the enemy head on and charged straight at their pursuers, this had the effect of scattering the English soldiers in disarray, except for Sir John de Graystock and one hundred of his men who held their nerve. William Wallace then gave the honour to an eager Sir John Graham Jr. to engage Sir John de Graystock and his remaining one hundred men, Graham carried out his order with such efficiency that the English force were totally annihilated.
Then William Wallace concentrated on taking Lochmaben Castle, the stronghold of the 6 th Lord of Annandale, Robert Bruce (the father of the future King of Scotland and currently the governor of Carlisle Castle), due to its of strategic importance. As Lochmaben Castle straddles the main trade route between Carlisle and Glasgow effectively controlling the movement of traffic in Annandale .
Being natives of Annandale , Tom Halliday and Watson were assigned as pathfinders, so they rode ahead of the main force heading for Lochmaben Castle . The gatekeeper recognised Watson as being a local and therefore he opened the gates to let him through, Tom Halliday then swiftly dispatched the unsuspecting gatekeeper. The gates were thrown wide open, allowing William Wallace and the rest of his men to storm the castle, but they found that it was only occupied by servants, women and children. The survivors from the Queensberry conflict were now starting to limp back to base in twos and threes. Watson would casually wave them pass the gates; whilst Wallace and his men were lurking in the shadows ready to seal their fate.
With Lochmaben Castle finally secure, William Wallace appointed Johnstone of Eskdale as its Captain, before riding north with Sir John Graham and forty men to assault the Lindsay stronghold of Crawford Castle in Lanarkshire. After he laid waste to Crawford Castle William Wallace retreated back to Dunduff Castle to wait out the rest of the winter months.
During the spring of 1297, William Wallace accompanied by nine friends left Dunduff Castle and rode south to Gilbank to visit his cousin, Patrick Auchinleck. By the time of April 1297, he would been sneaking into Lanark, heavily disguised, to visit his girlfriend, Marion Braidfute. It was also about this time that William Wallace and Marion Braidfute got married, and shortly afterward she gave birth to a daughter, who later married a 'squire of Balliol's blood' called Shaw.
After a period of time William Wallace discarded his disguise, as he grew more and more confident that the occupying English garrison would not harass him as he ventured into Lanark. By now William Wallace was joined by Sir John Graham Jr. together with fifteen well armed men, boosting their numbers to twenty-six. The Sheriff of Lanark, Sir William Heselrig, wasn't a man who would tolerate such an act of defiance to his authority for long. Together with his garrison Captain, Robert Thorn, Sir William Heselrig conspired a plan to capture the outlaw William Wallace either dead or alive.
The opportunity for Sir William Heselrig to put his plan into action occurred in May 1297. As William Wallace and Sir John Graham Jr. had just finished attending their regular Sunday mass at St. Kentigern Church, and were walking down Lanark High Street. Then one of Sir William Heselrig's soldiers stood directly in William Wallace path and started to taunt him. Immediately a further two more English soldiers joined in the taunting, then a few more. Rather than to get drawn in, William Wallace kept his cool, looked around, noticed that the locals were a little edgy and there were English soldiers disguised as locals loitering about. Sensing an ambush and his current position indefensible, as it would have forced him to fend off attacks from all flanks, William Wallace and Sir John Graham Jr. immediately retreated to one of the side streets that lead off the High Street.
By now the English mob had swollen to two hundred in numbers and lurking in the background was Sir William Heselrig, who finally ordered the mob in for the kill. But due to the width of the side street, the English soldiers could only confront William Wallace and Sir John Graham Jr. at two abreast in any one time. Whilst the majority of the English soldiers merely acted as spectators to the slaughter of their comrades further up the field, as William Wallace and Sir John Graham Jr. fought a rear guard action.
Leaving a trail of fifty dead or dying soldiers in their wake, they made for the refuge of Marion 's house at the foot of the High Street, where William Wallace and Sir John Graham Jr. were hastily admitted. They then immediately fled out the back door, across the garden, over the town walls and headed for their hideout in the Cartland Crags. In close pursuit were the remaining English soldiers and Sir William Heselrig. Marion desperately played for time to allow her husband to escape, but Sir William Heselrig grew impatient of her delaying tactics and kicked the front door down. Once inside Sir, William Heselrig saw that William Wallace had escaped through the back, in frustration Heselrig murdered Marion and finally torched her house.
On hearing the news of his wife's murder, William Wallace was madden with rage and consumed with grief, since now the English have murdered both his wife and father, and persecuted his mother until her recent demise. This event proved to be a turning point in William Wallace's life as previously he was content just to liberate Scotland , but now it grew into a personnel vendetta against the English. But firstly, as honour demanded it, William Wallace must return to Lanark to avenge the death of his wife.
At nightfall, William Wallace and a select band of men sneaked into Lanark from the various gates in the town walls, in ones or twos and at random intervals, as not to arouse the suspicion of the guards. They rendezvoused at a pre-determined location within Lanark, and waited until their contingent was at full strength.
William Wallace led the assault on Sir William Heselrig's abode; he kicked the front door down and stormed up the stairs to confront a startled Heselrig. Sir William Heselrig immediately arose out of his bed, only to be struck down by an almighty blow from William Wallace's sword. Jets of blood spurted from Sir William Heselrig's headless torso, hitting William Wallace in the face temporary blinding him. As he wiped the blood from his face, Wallace in a defiant gesture kicked Heselrig's head down the stairs. Heselrig's son at this stage was at the bottom of the stairs and watched as his father's head tumbled down the stairs. Heselrig's son immediately rushed up the stairs clutching a sword, suddenly his sword hand was amputated by William Wallace and then with another swipe of the sword, sliced open Heselrig's son abdomen, allowing his entrails to spill onto the floor. Finally William Wallace sealed this bloody act of vengeance by torching Sir William Heselrig's house.
Under the hands of Sir John Graham Jr., the Captain of the Lanark garrison, Robert Thorn, also suffered the same fate as Sir William Heselrig. Then for the rest of the night, William Wallace and his men went on a killing frenzy, slaughtering in total two hundred and forty men of English origin. The surviving English nationals from the night of carnage (priests, women and children) were forcibly evicted from the town and left destitute.
A fter massacring the English in Lanark William Wallace and his men travelled westwards into the familiar territory of Ayrshire . The news of William Wallace's latest attack on the English would have rippled through out Scotland , and it had the effect of rallying like-minded men from all over Scotland flocking to join him. Before long William Wallace found himself in command of three thousand well armed men, all rallying under the banner of freedom. From Kyle and Cunningham alone a thousand men on horseback were raised, old friends like Adam Wallace and Robert Boyd, and new ones like Sir John Tinto, also joined, together with their vassals. One notable recruit to join the rebel forces was Gilbert de Grimsby, a Scot who enlisted in the English army and served under King Edward I in Flanders , Picardy and distinguished himself in the Battle of Dunbar in 1296. Gilbert de Grimsby deflection from the English army would have brought valuable intelligence about their numbers and tactics to the rebel forces.
The build up of a rebel army in Ayrshire certainly didn't go unnoticed by the Bishop of Glasgow, Robert Wishart, especially that the commander was William Wallace, as he would have no doubt heard about his exploits against the English. Since Robert Wishart required men like William Wallace to transform his plan into a reality, he therefore actively sought out Wallace and recruited him to fight for the cause of freedom, but in the name of John Balliol. The blessing of Robert Wishart gave William Wallace and his rebel army a veil of respectability, as previously the nobles considered Wallace as nothing more than a mere outlaw. Another advantage in allying with the church was that it was well versed to conduct underground activities, as it already had in place the logistical and communicational infrastructure that is requires sustaining and co-ordinate a rebel force. The rebellious nature of Robert Wishart stems from the fact that King Edward I planned to anglicanize the Scottish church by replacing its clergy with English priests, this included his position which was decreed to be subordinate to Antony Bek, the Bishop of Durham.
Shortly after his release from captivity in the latter months of 1296, Sir William Douglas (the former governor of Berwick) joined the rebel ranks of William Wallace. On the strength of this information, that his brother-in-law, Sir William Douglas had joined the rebels, Robert Wishart finally convinced the ever cautious James the Steward (one of the 1286 Guardians of the Peace) to support his cause.
One of the first acts that Sir William Douglas undertook as a rebel was to lead the assault and subsequent capture of Sanquhar Castle , but the Captain of Durisdeer later besieged it. William Wallace immediately headed south after he heard of the situation, and defeated the English at Dalswinton, having killed five hundred of them in the progress.
Since April 1297 the north of Scotland was also in revolt, with Andrew de Moray and his right hand man, Alexander Pilche, raising the banner for freedom in the name of John Balliol. These minor gentry led a small rebel army of common men across the country attacking and devastating every English garrisoned castle from Banff to Inverness . Possibly under the guidance of Robert Wishart they employed the same hit and run guerrilla tactics that worked so well for William Wallace, as they harassed and killed the English at will. By now practically the entire Moray region was in revolt, as the remaining burgesses hastily abandoned their sworn allegiance to King Edward I and united with Andrew de Moray, under the banner of freedom.
It was not until early June 1297 that King Edward I received intelligence reports about a northern revolt in the province of Moray . Determined to stamp it out immediately, he released some of the Scottish nobles captured in the Battle of Dunbar in 1296, under the condition that they curb the northern revolt. They included John Comyn (Earl of Buchan), Comyn of Badenoch (Alexander de Balliol) and the Earl of Menteith. How effective they were at dealing with the rebellion is open for question. Since it wasn't until some time after 28 August 1297 that King Edward I knew that the rebel leader of the north was Andrew de Moray, a Comyn Kinsman.
Also in early June 1297 William Wallace, at the Bishop of Glasgow's (Robert Wishart) request, planned a symbolic strike to liberate Scone , the seat of the English appointed Justiciar of Scotland, William Ormesby. It was from Scone , a site held sacred by the Scots, that William Ormesby would dispense heavy-handedly his form of English justice. Since William Ormesby's primary mandate was to force all Scots that haven't done so already to swear allegiance to King Edward I by whatever means at his disposal.
Riding northwards with an elite contingent of his rebel army, William Wallace rendezvous with Sir William Douglas, the former governor of Berwick castle, at Perth and together they headed for Scone . The Justiciar of Scotland, William Ormesby, was forewarned of William Wallace imminent assault on Scone ; with the massacre of the English in Lanark fresh in Ormesby's mind it immediately struck a cord. As William Wallace rode into Scone he came across little resistance as his fearsome reputation had surpassed him, since the English soldiers, including William Ormesby, had already hastily fled, abandoning a very large cache of booty.
12 June 1297 , King Edward I received intelligence reports that Sir William Douglas had deflected to the rebels. He immediately ordered the seizure of Sir William Douglas's estates in Essex and Northumberland and entrusted the 2 nd Earl of Carrick, to deal with Douglas . Henceforth the 2 nd Earl of Carrick, Robert Bruce, together with his father's vassals of Annandale was dispatched to attack Sir William Douglas stronghold in Douglasdale. But the Bishop of Carlisle, Walter Hemingburgh was suspicious of the Earl's loyalty and therefore made him swear on both the bible and the sword of St. Thomas a Becket to reaffirm his allegiance to King John Balliol, before he could leave Carlisle .
Capturing Sir William Douglas's stronghold of Douglas Castle was a relatively easy affair. But the 2 nd Earl of Carrick found that Eleanor Ferrers held the castle, Sir William Douglas's second wife, as Douglas himself had gone to Ayr to be with William Wallace.
Then for no apparent reason the 2 nd Earl of Carrick done an abrupt U-turn and changed sides. Using the walls of the castle as a platform, the 2 nd Earl of Carrick rallied his father's vassals to join him, but his appeal had fallen on deaf ears.
He was dishearten but not surprised by their answer, the 2 nd Earl of Carrick together with Lady Douglas and her family then travelled westward into Ayrshire. With his wife and family in the custody of the 2 nd Earl of Carrick, Sir William Douglas was forced to align himself with the 2 nd Earl of Carrick, probably as a means to secure their release. At Carrick the Earl had better luck at mobilising his own vassals, from there on they went on an orgy of wanton destruction and ethnic cleansing of the English from southern Ayrshire.
By the 14 June 1297 , King Edward I couldn't tolerate the deteriorating situation any further, therefore he ordered the Governor of Scotland, John de Warenne to henceforth return back to Scotland and restore feudalism. As John de Warenne had retreated to his estates in Surrey on the onset of winter in 1296 and left Hugh Cressingham in control of Scotland .
King Edward I lost his patience as John de Warenne dithered about, and it wouldn't be until the end of July 1297 that Warenne eventually reached Berwick. Therefore King Edward I assigned Sir Henry de Percy and Sir Robert de Clifford 'to arrest, imprison and justify all disturbers of the peace in Scotland and their resetters'. Alarmed about the mounting crisis sweeping Scotland the English authorities in Ayrshire were determined to nip it in the bud. In the name of King Edward I, the English Judge, Arnulf of Southampton, summoned all the leading Scots to attend an eyre-court in Ayr , on the 18 June 1297 . The eyre-court was held in a large lofty building, known locally as the Barns, situated on the outskirts of Ayr . English soldiers who herded the Scots into the building in a single file guarded the only entrance into the Barns. As the Scots entered the building they were immediately restrained; gagged and a noose placed around their necks before they were finally strung up from the rafters. In total three hundred and sixty Scotsmen were lured to their deaths, in an incident called 'the Barns of Ayr'.
But on the 18 June 1297 , William Wallace travelled to Kingace rather than to attend the eyre-court and listen to the rantings from one of King Edward I's representative. Returning back to Ayr in the afternoon, he was informed that the eyre-court had been an elaborate trap, but what incensed him the most was the underhanded nature by which the English authorities had massacred his fellow countrymen. William Wallace wanted to return the favour and therefore sent word to his rebel army to rendezvous with him at Leglen Wood.
A couple of days later, during the middle of the night, William Wallace and his rebels stealthy entered the town. As they encroached on the town dwelling they secured all the doors that had been marked, trapping its English occupants. Fifty men, including Robert Boyd made for Ayr Castle and kept it under surveillance, whilst the rest followed William Wallace to the Barns. Their information proved to be accurate, as they found the English judge together with a large contingent of English soldiers sleeping off the effects of a heavy night of drinking. They immediately barricaded the door and strategically placed brushwood around the building; then it was doused with oil; finally the signal was given to torch the place and instantly the building was set ablaze. By now alarm bells were ringing at the castle, as the burning building lit up the night sky. The English soldiers hastily stumbled out of the castle to aid their colleagues, but were ambushed; then slaughtered by Robert Boyd and his party.
Prior Drumlay and his monk also carried their revenge for 'the Barns of Ayr' incident and executed one hundred and forty English soldiers as they slept in the priory, in an incident known as Prior of Ayr's Blessing.
By dawn the estimated English death toll had reached five thousand men, while the rebels suffered minimal casualties.
By the end of June 1297 the whole of Scotland was practically up in rebellion. Its English occupiers were virtually in a state of siege, as the English soldiers had retreated to their castles and they were confined to the towns, which can be supplied by the sea, since the rebels had severed all other means of communication. Two English chroniclers of the time clearly named Andrew de Moray, James the Steward, Robert Wishart (the Bishop of Glasgow) and William Wallace as the principal instigators of the rebellion
It was not until early July 1297 that Sir Henry de Percy and Sir Robert de Clifford crossed the Anglo-Scottish border and marched into Annanadale with an English army consisting of three hundred cavalry and forty thousand foot soldiers.
Inspired by the success of William Wallace in the south, Andrew de Moray in the north, the Bishop of Glasgow, Robert Wishart, urged the Scottish nobles for solidarity. The Scottish nobles answered Robert Wishart's call, and hastily gathered at Irvine with their vassals, united by a kindred spirit of nationhood and determined to rid Scotland of the English.
Sir Henry de Percy and Sir Robert de Clifford continued their march north through Nithsdale, Sanquhar, Cumnock and finally into Kyle where they came across the "Scottish army" encamped at Irvine .
By now the solidarity that had united the Scottish nobles was nothing more than a distant memory, as a bitter internal power struggle ravaged through the Scottish ranks. Incensed by the bickering of the Scottish nobles, who were more concern about the structure of command rather than concentrating on battle tactics, that it forced Sir Richard Lundie to leave in disgust and deflected to the side of Sir Henry de Percy and Sir Robert de Clifford.
On the 7 July 1297 , the Scottish nobles surrendered ignominiously, without even striking a single blow in anger, as the nobles were more interested in their own self-preservation rather than in any conflict. Sir Henry de Percy promised the nobles that he would honour the conditions of their surrender by firstly sparing their lives, then with no infringement of their personal liberties and then finally there will be no forfeiture of their estates, but only if they provided hostage(s) or enlist for the expedition into Flanders.
In the case of the 2 nd Earl of Carrick, he agreed to hand over his infant daughter, Marjorie as a hostage, but later he reneged on the deal and suffered no reprisals. The fate of Sir William Douglas was less fortunate as he neither provided any hostage(s) or enlisted and as a result he was incarcerate in Berwick Castle , then from 12 October 1297 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London till his death on 20 January 1299 . Then finally for the part that he played in the uprising, the Bishop of Glasgow, Robert Wishart was forced to surrender himself into English custody and then was incarcerated in Roxburgh Castle .
King Edward I may have cowed the Scottish nobles, but William Wallace was still at large and operating in the field. At the same time as the Scottish nobles were grovelling to Sir Henry de Percy, William Wallace continued the campaign by harassing Sir Henry de Percy's baggage train, cutting lines of communications and killing the stragglers. In total five hundred English soldiers perished in the ordeal and for his efforts William Wallace was rewarded with a vast quantity of booty.
Reprisals for the Bishop of Glasgow, Robert Wishart's internment was swift in coming, as William Wallace launched an attack on Glasgow . Antony Bek's seat of administration. At 9.00am William Wallace led three hundred horsemen across Glasgow Bridge and rode into the High Street where they engaged Antony Bek's guards, the elite troops of the St. Cuthbert's Host. Whilst Adam Wallace and Patrick Auchinleck led one hundred and forty men along the North East Row to attack the rear flank of the English troops. By 12.00p.m. , four hundred English troops were killed during the course of the battle, but William Wallace's primary target Antony Bek had eluded capture, and by 1.00p.m. , Wallace and his rebel army were well north of Glasgow .
William Wallace regrouped his forces at Dunduff, and then they indulged in a five-day period of R and R. Then an old friend called Duncan of Lorn together with his elderly guide, Gilmichael, finally tracked William Wallace down and brought him the bad news. That the Earls of Atholl, Buchan (John Comyn), Menteith and John of Lorn ( Duncan 's nephew) have aligned themselves with MacFadyen, the English appointed Lord of Argyll and Lorn. With their combined force of fifteen thousand men, MacFadyen engaged on a campaign of wanton destruction throughout Argyll and they had overwhelmed the local resistance organised by Sir Neil Campbell of Lochawe.
William Wallace swiftly responded to Duncan 's appeal for help, and set off with over two thousand men, with Gilmichael acting as the pathfinder. The trek proved to be an arduous affair and in forced William Wallace to leave the bulk of his men in Strathfillan, while he continued with an elite band of one hundred men on horseback. They were closely followed by Sir John Graham with a further one hundred men and finally by Adam Wallace with a reserve force of five hundred men.
At Glendochart, William Wallace rendezvoused with Gilmichael and the local resistance leader, Sir Neil Campbell; they reported that MacFadyen's army was beyond Loch Dochart. William Wallace then attacked MacFadyen's army at dawn on the following day, utilising the advantage of surprise, even though Wallace had been briefed that he was outnumbered.
The ensuing battle raged on for more than two hours, at one stage it could have gone either way, but gradually William Wallace gained the upper hand. The surviving members of the Irish contingent in MacFadyen's army were summarily executed, as they neither asked for nor any quarter was given. But William Wallace spared the lives of the Scottish contingent, as laid down their arms and begged for mercy.
As for MacFadyen himself, he fled from the scene as soon as he knew that defeat was inevitable. But Duncan of Lorn closely pursued him and a large band of men, who found him hiding in a cave under Craigmore, shielded by fifteen bodyguards. Duncan returned triumphantly holding aloft MacFadyen's head as a trophy, 'which Lord Campbell placed high in Craigmore upon a stone, for the honour of Ireland '.
At Ardchattan, a mountainous region in Lorn, on the shores of Loch Etive, near Oban, William Wallace held a council at which he formally handed back Duncan of Lorn and Sir Neil Campbell their ancestral lands. Some of the prominent figures attending council were Sir John Ramsay of 'Ouchterhouse' (Ochtertyre) and the Co-Adjutor of Dunkeld, William Sinclair.
Possibly with the intention of reinstating William Sinclair to his cathedral, after he was evicted from his diocese in 1294, William Wallace marched his rebel army cross-country to Perth . From a reconnaissance mission Sir John Ramsay noticed that the walls of Perth were considered to be low, when compared to general lie of the land, as the height of the walls were exaggerated by a deep moat dug beneath them.
Armed with this information, William Wallace spent four days at Dunkeld, employing the skills of the local craftsmen to build siege-engines (possibly a form of covered ladder), and then they were floated down the river Tay to Perth .
William Wallace then ordered the first wave of the attack on Perth , as earth and stones were tossed into the moat, so allowing the siege-engines to reach the town walls. The English put up a stout defence as they bombarded the rebels with large rocks from their arbalests and mangonels, and the archers showered the rebels with deadly hails of arrows. But finally the siege-engines were in place, and the rebels swarmed up the town walls, with William Wallace attacking the centre of the town, while Sir John Graham and Sir John Ramsay lead the assault on the turret bridge.
In total two thousand Englishmen were slaughtered by the rebels at Perth . A rebel knight called Ruthven, who had brought thirty men to the rebels, distinguished himself in battle and was rewarded by being appointed the Captain and Sheriff of Perth, with the hereditary Lieutenancy of Strathearn.
William Wallace now headed east with his rebel army, to Cupar, where he found that the English abbot had fled on hearing news of his approach. William Wallace then headed northeast, crossing the river Tay , and rendezvoused with the Bishop of Dunkeld at Glamis, then by the evening they had reached Brechin.
By the next morning William Wallace led his rebel army through Mearns to Dunottar Castle . At the head of the rebel column there were the standard-bearers who proudly displaying the banner of St. Andrew, and as the rebels marched passed settlements they managed rekindled a sense of patriotism among the locals.
Dunottar Castle , an enormous fortification, defended on three sides by cliffs, as it stands on a promontory. Some four thousand Englishmen and their supporters had sought refuge within the castle, as they fled from the surrounding areas, when they heard the news of William Wallace's approach. The Bishop of Dunkeld pleaded with William Wallace to spare the lives of the people that had sought sanctuary within the walls of Dunottar Castle and to also let them leave in peace. But with 'the Barns of Ayr' and other atrocities that the English had inflicted on the Scots still fresh in William Wallace's mind, he had no hesitation in stating that no quarter would be given.
The castle's defences crumbled as it suffered the full onslaught of the rebels' attack. As the rebels stormed through the castle's gates, many of its inhabitants ran and sought refuge within its church, instead of pursuing them into the church, the rebels just set the church alight, roasting its occupants alive. A courageous few confronted the advancing rebels head on, but were swiftly slain, while some couldn't even bear to face the rebels and committed suicide by jumping off a cliff.
Amazingly after the massacring the English at Dunottar Castle some of the rebels knelt before the Bishop of Dunkeld and asked for absolution. In response to his men's actions William Wallace replied sarcastically: 'I forgive you all. Are ye men of war, and repent for so small a matter? They rued not how they did to us in the town of Ayr , where they hanged our true barons.'
Meanwhile Sir Henry de Percy and Sir Robert de Clifford had travelled across the central belt from Irvine , and were at Roxburgh by the 15 July 1297 . Where they rendezvoused with Hugh Cressingham, the Treasurer of Scotland, together with his contingent of three hundred heavy cavalry and ten thousand foot soldiers.
23 July 1297 , in a dispatch to King Edward I, Hugh Cressingham reported that Sir Henry de Percy reckons that the rebellion has been quashed, but Cressingham urged caution:
- a clear reference about the continuing activities of William Wallace north of the Firth of Forth, in Dunbartonshire, Stirlingshire and Perthshire. Cressingham then suggests: 'even though peace had been made on this side of the Scots water, yet it would be well to make a chevauchée on the enemies on the other side'
'An attack should be made upon William Wallace, who lay then with a large company - and does so still - in the Forest of Selkirk, like one that holds himself against your peace.' As intelligence reports shows that William Wallace was within Selkirk Forest . But the three commanders (Hugh Cressingham, Sir Henry de Percy and Sir Robert de Clifford) decided to wait at Roxburgh for the arrival of John de Warenne, the Governor of Scotland, and his army. As Selkirk Forest in those days was spread over much of southern Scotland and they knew that looking for a man like William Wallace who has perfected the art of guerrilla warfare, was liken to looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Then on the 24 July 1297 another dispatch from Hugh Cressingham to King Edward I read:
'Not a penny could be raised, until my lord the Earl of Warenne shall enter into your land and compel the people by force and sentence of law'.
As Treasurer, Hugh Cressingham had been ordered to raise money from the rent and taxes of Scotland to finance King Edward I's expedition into Flanders . Hugh Cressingham then goes on to explain the situation in greater detail:
'Sire, let it not displease you, by far the greater part of your counties of the realm of Scotland are still unprovided with keepers, as well by death, siege, or imprisonment; and some have given up their bailiwicks, and others neither will nor dare return; and in some counties the Scots have established and placed bailiffs and ministers, so that no county is in proper order, except Berwick and Roxburgh, and this only lately.' Hugh Cressingham paints a stark picture about Scotland , in which its nobles may have been subdued by their greed and selfishness, but it was a totally different story with the general populace.
Immediately after the assault on Dunottar Castle , William Wallace and his rebel army quickly marched up the east coast to Aberdeen (it was a strategically important supply route for King Edward I's northern garrisons and an administrative centre for the region). Where William Wallace found an armada of one hundred English ships, heavily laden with provisions and soldiers, still anchored within its harbour. It was obvious to William Wallace that the English were hastily leaving, and the speed of his arrival from Dunottar Castle had caught the English unawares.
William Wallace waited until it was low tide, then the rebels charged at the stranded ships in the harbour, they slaughtered its crew and soldiers, liberated its cargo, and then finally they burned the ships. Amid the confusion of the rebel's attack, the English Sheriff of Aberdeen , Sir Henry de Lazom took the opportunity and seized control of Aberdeen Castle in the name of King John Balliol.
Then William Wallace and his rebel army headed north to Crimond in Buchan and then westwards to rendezvous with Andrew de Moray on the Spey. By 1 August 1297 , William Wallace was back at Aberdeen to oversee the set up of the region's administration, but shortly afterwards he was called away to supervise the siege at Dundee .
Also in 1 August 1297 , the Governor of Scotland, John de Warenne was at Berwick, and from there he sent a dispatch to King Edward I, in which it stated that Sir Henry de Lazom had seized Aberdeen castle. Then it goes on to say that he had not heard of Lazom's fate, but pledged that 'if caught, he shall be honoured according to his deserts'. As a result of John de Warenne report, Sir Henry de Lazom had his estate in Lancashire seized and was subsequently branded 'a rebel adherent of the Scots'.
By August 1297, the lands north of the rivers Clyde and Forth were largely in the control of the rebels. With the notable exceptions of Dundee and Stirling Castle , as they were still staunchly defended by their English garrisons, unlike Aberdeen and Perth which fell with relative ease.
John de Warenne proceeded to travel north, and rendezvoused with Hugh Cressingham at Roxburgh, and the merger of the two forces produced a formidable army, totalling one thousand heavy cavalry and fifty thousand foot soldiers. Also a further reserve division of three hundred heavy cavalry and eight thousand foot soldiers was marching north from Carlisle, commanded by Sir Henry de Percy.
On the 14 August 1297 , at his own bequest, Sir Brian Fitz-Alan as the Guardian of Scotland replaced John de Warenne, due to the fact that he was ill at the time and was anxious to return to his estate in Surrey . But he was ordered to remain at his post for the time being, therefore John de Warenne pressed on from Roxburgh, with the clear intentions of reinforcing the English garrison at Stirling and to raise the siege of Dundee . Confident that John de Warenne would crush the rebellion, King Edward I left for Flanders aboard his flagship, the Cog Edward, on the 22 August 1297 , and he wouldn't return until 14 March 1298 .
Meanwhile William Wallace was still engaged in the siege of Dundee Castle , though the town itself had succumbed to his attack. He was briefed on the intelligence reports that John de Warenne was making his way north to Stirling with an army, intent on routing the rebellion. As the siege was proving to be a drawn out affair, William Wallace delegated one of his lieutenants, Alexander Scrymgeour and, and a token rebel force to continue with the siege. Then he regrouped the rebel army and together with Andrew de Moray, William Wallace marched down south for the show down at Stirling with John de Warenne.
S tirling , the gateway to the north, and the key to this gateway was a narrow wooden bridge that spanned the river Forth . This strategically important town was watched over by a castle that was perched on a lofty crag that towered above the plain of the Forth valley.
10 September 1297 , from his vantage-point on the Ochil Hills, William Wallace watched John de Warenne and his army advanced from the south, onto the town of Stirling . As they rendezvoused with the castle's garrison and its constable, Sir Richard de Waldegrave.
John de Warenne had amassed a formidable army, totalling a thousand heavy cavalry and fifty thousand foot soldiers. With a formidable reputation to match as they were the most seasoned warriors of the time, the most experienced army in Europe, and more importantly they were an army that never known defeat. Morale was high, as the rank and file were confident of the general ship of their commanders, and the Scottish rebels were rated as nothing but a mere bunch of amateurs. Since the Scots had displayed poor field craft and a general lack of discipline in Dunbar ; disunity among their leaders, so evident at Irvine ; and the lack of support from the nobles. As most of the Scottish nobles had been tamed: they were either serving with King Edward I in Flanders , imprisoned, or hamstrung by hostages.
In comparison William Wallace had ten thousand men, and Andrew de Moray had brought six thousand men, including one hundred and fifty armed cavalry. The rebels were lightly armed, poorly trained, and with a total of sixteen thousand men they were out-numbered by 3:1. But they did have an unquenchable fighting spirit, as what they lacked in experience it made up in motivation. With the armies ranks motivated mainly by a sense of patriotism and little else. They were prepared to fight and even die, rather than to endure the tyranny of English occupation a daylonger.
William Wallace decided to make his stance on the opposite bank of the river Forth , occupying the high ground, on the slopes of Ochil Hills, thus forcing the English to fight uphill. But firstly John de Warenne had to navigate the river Forth , and the only effective means was a wooden bridge, as the fords at Cambuskenneth and Kildean were only passable at low-tide. But the wooden bridge was narrow, as it restricted riders to cross at most two abreast. The causeway on the far side of the bridge was no wider, and on either side of the causeway the ground was much too soft and swampy for the heavy cavalry to operate. Once across the narrow wooden bridge the English would have no means of a quick escape, whilst the rebels, with the Ochil Hills as a backdrop, had the opportunity to melt away into the hills.
Two - three days earlier, some of the Scottish nobles, including James the Steward and the Earl of Lennox, caught up with John de Warenne, as he made his way to Stirling . For the nobles offered to parley with the rebels to prevent unnecessary bloodshed, a scene all too reminiscent of the incident at Irvine . But taking a charitable view the nobles were probably just gathering intelligence about Warenne forces. Then on the 10 September 1297 , the nobles returned with the news that William Wallace refused to yield, and as an act of good faith the nobles promised to contribute sixty men to fight for the English cause.
By the morning of 11 September 1297 , James the Steward and the Earl of Lennox dutifully returned, but only with a handful of men, well short on the numbers originally promised. Their story was that they were unable to persuade any more of the rebel's rank and file to deflect.
John de Warenne was now a little apprehensive about the situation, as it was becoming clear that the rebels were in the mood for a fight. And from his vantage point he saw that the rebels commanded the high ground, on the slopes of Ochil Hill, thereby placing the rebels in an unassailable position. Warenne also he noted that from their current position the rebels would threaten the left flank of any force that crossed the river and advanced along the causeway. While the swampy ground on either side of the causeway would be useless for the horses to operate in and that narrow bridge would prove to be a bottleneck. Finally Warenne would have thought, if only he could entice the rebels off the high ground and onto the plains north of Stirling , near the hamlet of Cornton, where they would become easy prey for the heavy cavalry.
In accordance to military protocol, John de Warenne offered the rebels the opportunity to surrender before the armies engaged in battle. Therefore Warenne sent two Dominican friars across the bridge and up the causeway to invite William Wallace to accept the King's peace, and a promise of remission for past deeds. William Wallace rebutted John de Warenne's offer and submitted a counter-offer of his own: 'Tell your people that we have not come here to gain peace, but are prepared for battle, to avenge and deliver our country. Let them come up when they like, and they will find us ready to meet them even to their beards.'
The expression on the faces of the English commanders said it all, as they stood there flabbergasted by Wallace's defiant reply. Far from being intimidated, William Wallace openly challenged them to do their worst. This and the inherently strong defensive position of the rebels unnerved the English, and spread dissension among its ranks. With one group urging John de Warenne to call the outlaw's bluff, whilst the other group urged caution. John de Warenne hastily convened a war council with his field commanders, to resolve the matter.
One of the knights who addressed the war council was none other than Sir Richard Lundie, a Scot who deflected to the English at Irvine : 'My lords, if we go on to the bridge we are dead men; for we cannot cross it except two by two, and the enemy are on our flank, and can come down on us as they will, all in one front. But there is a ford not far from here, where we can cross sixty at a time. Let me now therefore have five hundred knights and a small body of infantry, and we will get round the enemy on the rear and crush them; and meanwhile you, my lord Earl, and the others who are with you, will cross the bridge in perfect safety.'
The war council rejected Sir Richard Lundie proposal, on the grounds that it was unwise to divide the forces. It was probably due to their arrogance, and the general feeling of mistrust that some of the war council members had for the turncoat, mindful of the earlier actions of James the Steward and the Earl of Lennox. But there were a few members of the war council that agreed in principle with Sir Richard Lundie's proposal, and continued to staunchly argue in favour of Lundie's proposal with their fellow war council members. It was at this stage that things degenerated into chaos, with everyone squabbling with their neighbour.
At this point Hugh Cressingham stood up and shouted down the babble, and then he continued to address the members' of the war council: 'There is no point in dragging out this business any longer, and wasting our King's revenues for nothing. Let us advance and carry out our duty as we are bound to do.
John de Warenne resented Cressingham's outburst, as it clearly painted him as a ditherer. This and the infighting between his field commanders finally pressurised John de Warenne into giving the order for his army to cross the bridge and to go in for the kill.
By now it was mid-morning, and Sir Marmaduke de Thweng had rode ahead of the main column with an advance guard of heavy cavalry to secure the northern perimeter of the causeway and provide cover for the English advance. But just as Sir Richard Lundie had earlier pointed out, the wooden bridge was indeed narrow, allowing riders to cross at no more than two abreast, and only with great care and difficulty.
Just under half a mile away, on the slopes of Ochil Hills, the rebels watched the English as they slowly negotiated the narrow wooden bridge. It must had been an awe inspiring sight, with the standard-bearers carrying the colours of King Edward I, and the Earl of Surrey, the knights with their great warhorses, the guidons, pennants and oriflammes of the leading knights and barons, together with all the pageantry and panoply of medieval warfare. Among the notable figures that made it across were Hugh Cressingham, Sir Robert de Somerville and Sir Richard de Waldegrave (the constable of Stirling ).
The tension mounted as more and more English troops crossed over the wooden bridge and poured on to the marshy plain. Yet as a testament to the discipline instilled by Andrew de Moray and William Wallace, the rebel army held their nerve, resisting the temptation to madly hurl themselves down the slopes to attack the English troops, just as they had done at Dunbar in 1296.
From the summit of Abbey Craig, William Wallace surveys the advance of the English, as he carefully weighs up the exact moment to launch his attack. Since if he launched the attack too soon, his rebel army would stand a much better chance in defeating the smaller English force which had managed to cross the bridge. But it would have left the main division of Warenne's army still intact, and in a position to launch a counter-attack. On the other hand if he waited until Warenne's entire army had crossed, his lightly armed rebel army would be outnumbered by 3:1 and overwhelmed.
At eleven o'clock , William Wallace gave the signal to attack by a single blast of the horn. The rebels had been eagerly waiting for this moment, charged en masse, brandishing their spears and swords, and yelling 'On them! On them! On them!'. Gathering momentum as they ran down the slopes, with their spears at the level, straight into the English ranks.
A detachment of rebels broke away from the main force, hell bent on securing the bridgehead and thereby closing the trap, as they hacked and stabbed their way to the bridge. This caused a stampede on the bridge, as the English troops suddenly found themselves unable to proceed forward, but were still being pressed hard by those coming up behind. Many of them fell or jumped into the river and were drowned in its deep waters, weighed down by their armour and equipment.
While the main rebel force ripped through the English lines, sending a wave of panic through its ranks. Those who tried to escape floundered with their mounts in a sea of mud and were speared to death, while the survivors were sent sprawling on to the ground only to be trampled into mud by the advancing rebels. The ferocity and speed of the rebels' attack caught the English off guard, and they were quickly driven towards the loop of the river, southeast of the causeway and the wooden bridge.
The rebel cavalry thundered down the causeway from the north, Sir Marmaduke Thweng kept his nerve, turned his charger to face the rebels, then he gave the order to charge. His squad of heavy cavalry easily dispersed the more lightly armed rebels, but instead of giving chase Sir Marmaduke Thweng stopped and took stock of the general situation. To his horror he noted that the colours of both King Edward I's and The Earl of Surrey's had disappeared, drowned in a sea of bodies, and the rebels had secured the bridgehead, blocking his retreat.
He paused for a while, then with the body of his nephew slung across his saddle Sir Marmaduke Thweng charged straight at the rebels, hacking and slashing a path with his great broad sword to the bridgehead. And as soon as Sir Marmaduke Thweng and his squad had recrossed the river to safety, the order was given to destroy the bridge.
The three hundred strong detachment of Welsh archers tried to offer some resistance, but were jostled by their English colleagues scramble to evade the wrath of the rebels, with no room to manoeuvre the archers were swiftly dispatched. Within the chaos and mayhem of the English ranks, its foot soldiers were being trampled to death, by the hooves of their own cavalry, or by their own colleagues, and those knights who were thrown off their mounts also suffered a similar fate. Others jumped or fell into the river, and were drowned, but a few managed to divest themselves of their armour and swim the river to safety.
From his vantage point on the south bank of the river, John de Warenne watched aghast as the remains of his vanguard were corralled and then systematically butchered by the rebels, as they worked themselves into a killing frenzy. For he was reduced to a mere helpless observer, as he had committed all of his archers in the vanguard, otherwise he could have been able to direct deadly fire across the river. And he couldn't even mobilise his remaining troops to their aid, as he had already severed the only lines of communication with his vanguard.
By 12 o'clock , the battle was all but over, but the mopping-up operation would have taken much longer, as the rebels typically took no prisoners. At a single stroke the rebels wiped out almost all of the one hundred heavy cavalry, and five thousand foot soldiers, including three hundred Welsh archers, who had crossed the bridge that day. This clearly demonstrated that an army of 'common men' with the discipline, the courage to fight and die for their country, were able to shatter the myth of English invincibility.
The rebel losses were negligible, but Andrew de Moray was seriously wounded, and died from his injuries several weeks later. Andrew de Moray's death marked a turning point in William Wallace's future, since de Moray's family connections would have lent Wallace the necessary credentials to ensure a firm commitment to his cause by others in the Scottish nobility. As they continued to view Wallace as a commoner, an outlaw, and a major threat to their feudal grip of power. They were the very members of the upper class whose disgraceful behaviour was graphically illustrated at Irvine when they surrendered without even striking a single blow in anger, as they were more interested in their own self-preservation rather than in any conflict. And now they were to hinder and ultimately undo Wallace's efforts to govern Scotland .
John de Warenne had seen enough and gave the order for a hasty evacuation, pausing long enough to appoint his kinsman, Sir William Fitz-Warine, the new constable of Stirling , and with the promise that he would return within ten weeks. Mounting his horse, Warenne led his remaining men south with due haste, not pausing until they had reached the safety of England .
Once the outcome of the battle was certain, those like James the Steward and the Earl of Lennox, who were waiting on the sidelines, now openly supported the rebels. And to demonstrate their allegiance, James the Steward and the Earl of Lennox led a squadron of their vassals from a hidden location in Torwood, to harass the retreating English army, cutting down the stragglers and attacking the baggage trains.
As soon as the tide had ebbed sufficiently the rebel cavalry crossed the river at Abbey Ford, near Cambuskenneth. The rebels then stalked and harassed the retreating English army through Torwood, Haddington, seizing their pack animals and repeatedly attacking them from the rear, but finally they broke off their chase at Belton, near Dunbar .
William Wallace then returned to Stirling , whilst a token force under the command of Henry de Halburton continued to harass a now demoralised English army to as far as Berwick. Where de Halburton found the town abandoned by its garrison, but the Earl of March, a fanatical Anglophile, and a few of his followers occupied its castle and refused to surrender. With neither the manpower nor the resources for a siege Henry de Halburton was satisfied with just occupying the town, and he remained there with his men until Wallace's invasion of England (in 18 October 1297 ).
After the battle the rebels systematically stripped the dead of their armour and weapons, where they came across the body of Hugh Cressingham, the much-hated Treasurer of Scotland. Not content in stripping the corpse of its armour and clothing, the rebels flayed and mutilated him, and as a token of their hatred towards the man they distributed his skin among themselves. For which the chronicle of Lanercost Priory reported that the rebels dried and cured Cressingham's hide and 'of his skin William Wallace caused a broad strip to be taken from his head to the heel, to make therewith a baldric for his sword'.
Ironically on 12 September 1297 , the Prince of Wales, regent during his father's absence, sent a dispatch to John de Warenne, ordering him to remain in Scotland till the rebellion had been quashed. But by the time the dispatch finally caught up with Warenne he was two hundred miles south in York .
After a brief siege, the garrison at Stirling Castle capitulated, apparently they had no faith in John de Warenne's promise of returning. Among those captured and later incarcerated in Dumbarton Castle were Sir William Fitz-Warine and his lieutenant, Sir Marmaduke de Thweng. But their releases were eventually secured after negotiations in 7 April 1299 culminated in the exchange for some Scottish prisoners.
William Wallace now concentrated on clearing out the remaining pockets of English resistance, he remained in Stirling long enough to reorganise his rebel forces before returning to the siege of Dundee . But with the news of John de Warenne's defeat filtering through and of William Wallace's return, the English garrison at Dundee gradually lost their will to fight and surrendered, yielding a vast armoury of weapons and booty.
About this time those members of Scottish nobility who supported William Wallace and elected him and Andrew de Moray the Guardians of Scotland in the name of King John Balliol held a council meeting at Perth . But by the 7 November 1297 Andrew de Moray's name disappeared from all official documents relating from that period, due to his untimely death from the injuries he sustained at the battle of Stirling Bridge .
Continuing with his mopping up operation William Wallace attacked and captured Cupar Castle , killing its entire garrison of two hundred men in the process. By now the English were hastily abandoning their positions and retreating south, except for the garrisons of Edinburgh, Dunbar, Roxburgh and Berwick who were determined to stand firm. But by the third week of October 1297 not a single English soldier remained on Scottish soil.
As the English retreated they employed a scorched earth policy, farms were burned, crops destroyed, and livestock slaughtered. Combined with a poor harvest many Scots by now were at a point of starvation, and with onset of winter a decision had to be made.
18 October 1297, to alleviate the mounting food crisis William Wallace made the decision to invade England, for its northern counties had abundant supplies of food and livestock, and to demonstrate that Scotland was a force to be reckon with. He assembled the Scottish army on Roslin Moor and then marched south, crossing the river Tweed into Northumberland…
About Christmas 1297, William Wallace recrossed the river Tweed , after he had meticulously ravaged the northern counties of County Durham , Cumbria and Northumbria as he pleased, and everything of value was removed and carted across the border.
It was about this time that William Wallace was knighted, possibly by the 2 nd Earl of Carrick, Robert Bruce (the future King of Scotland)
Edward I returned from France after hearing the news of Wallace and his raids on to English soil. He mustered a formidable army of 100,000-foot soldiers and 8000 horse and prepared his vengeance on the Scots. Retreating in the face of the superior English force, Wallace adopted what is now known as a scorched earth policy and took all cattle and crops as he withdrew. The English were weakened by these tactics and were in ready to retire when two Scottish nobles, Patrick, Earl of Dunbar and Umfraville, Earl of Angus, betrayed the plans of Wallace. The traitors conveyed to the Bishop of Durham that Wallace intended to surprise the English with a night attack. On hearing this Edward immediately ordered his army to advance coming across the Scottish army, less than a third of the size of the English army, at Falkirk . The Scots were heavily outnumbered and taken by surprise. The final nail in the coffin came when Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, leader of a large part of the Scots army, turned his banners and marched off the field with his men. The defeat was complete for the Scots and among their dead was Macduff and Sir John the Graham. Wallace was able to retreat and keep out of the hands of the English . By laying waste to the land in and around Stirling , Wallace forced the English host to retreat due to lack of provisions.
Finding that the nobles were combined against him and realizing the folly of his position in the light of the power of the English, Wallace resigned the Regency. It is believed he left for France to obtain assistance from Philip, the French King. Although popular with the French Court due to his personal prowess by his successes against the pirates who then infested the European seas, he was unable to gain any support from them and returned to Scotland in 1303. He returned to harassing the English with the help of a few of his faithful friends and veteran soldiers.
For the complete subjugation of the country, Edward had led five successive armies across the borders, and after several memorable defeats sustained by the English, he at last succeeded in subduing for the time the spirit of the Scottish people. Most of the Scottish nobles now submitted to him, some gaining more favour than others depending on trouble they had caused and dissention they had put up against Edward in the previous years. No such terms were offered to Wallace who was still unconquered and a heroic figure to the Scots. A ransom of 300 Merks was offered for the capture of Wallace, and Edward's captains and governors were issued with strict orders to use every endeavour to capture him and send him in chains to London . By the treachery of one of his servants named Jack Short, Wallace was betrayed, according to legend, into the hands of a Scottish Baron, John Monteith. His apprehension took place in the house of Ralph Rae near Glasgow , for which Monteith received a grant of land with the annual value of ú100. Wallace was first taken to Dumbarton Castle , and then to London under a heavy guard. On reaching London he was conveyed to Westminster Hall on August 23, 1305 , and formally accused of treason. A crown of laurel was placed on his head in mockery as, it was alleged, he had aspired to the Scottish crown. The King's justice, Sir Peter Mallorie, then impeached him as a traitor to Edward, to which Wallace answered,
"I can not be a traitor, for I owe him no allegiance. He is not my Sovereign; he never received my homage; and whilst life is in this persecuted body, he never shall receive it. To the other points whereof I am accused, I freely confess them all. As Governor of my country I have been an enemy to its enemies; I have slain the English; I have mortally opposed the English King; I have stormed and taken the towns and castles that he unjustly claimed as his own. If I or my soldiers have plundered or done injury to the houses or ministers of religion, I repent me of my sin; but it is not of Edward of England I shall ask pardon."
In accordance with the predetermined result of the case, Wallace was found guilty and condemned to death with the sentence being carried out on the same day in the most inhumane way possible. He was dragged through the streets of London to a gallows erected in Elms in Smithfield . Where after being hanged for a short time he was taken down still breathing and his bowels torn out and burned. His head was then struck off, and his body divided into quarters, the punishment known as 'hanged, drawn and quartered'. His head was placed on a pole on London Bridge , his right arm above the bridge in Newcastle , his left arm was sent to Berwick, his right foot and limb to Perth and his left quarter to Aberdeen where it was buried in what is now the wall at St. Machars Cathedral. He bore his fate with a magnanimity that secured the admiration even of his enemies, and the truehearted friends of freedom will hold his name in everlasting honour in every age and country.
The huge Wallace statue outside the theatre in Aberdeen stands as a constant reminder of the independent nature of the Scots. Erected in 1888, it bears the inscription, allegedly told to Wallace by his uncle and guardian . . . 'I tell you a truth, liberty is the best of all things, my son, never live under any slavish bond'. It stands as a constant reminder to the individuality of the Scots and their turbulent link with their English neighbours. Since further integration with the rest of Europe may be the future for Scotland , the importance of maintaining that identity is as important today as at the time of 'The Wallace'.
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