Glass Window from St. Margaret's Chapel representing Wallace standing
upto the English. |
Little is known of the early life of Wallace or the origins of his opposition
to the English occupation of Scotland. One may assume that the murder
of his father, brother and wife Marion Bradfute by English forces had
some bearing on his motives.
In May 1297, he and his followers attacked English Sheriff, William Hazelrigg
at Lanark, moving north to join forces with Sir Andrew Murray who was
coordinating a similar campaign. In September they won a great victory
at Stirling Bridge, defeating the English forces of the Earl of Surrey
and Hugh Cressingham. This was to be his finest hour, and he became Guardian
of Scotland in consequence. Although his invasion of the English North
with the recapturing of Berwick drew many to the Scottish cause, the nobles
remained ambivalent, largely on account of his social standing, and were
reluctant to fight in his name.
In 1298 Edward I came north, defeating Wallace at Falkirk. This prompted
him to resign his guardianship and travel to France in 1299, where he
would attempt to gain support from the pope and the French King.
His return in 1303 was less significant since the Scots' resistance had
collapsed and he was only able to conduct a small guerilla campaign. With
a price of his head, he was betrayed by one of his followers in 1305,
and handed over to the English authorities for trial in London.
He denied accusations of treason on the grounds that he had never acknowledged
Edward I as King, but the trial would have only one outcome. On August
23 he was dragged through the streets to Smithfield and hung before a
baying crowd. He was then cut down before dead, disembowelled and quartered;
his limbs being sent as a warning to Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling and
Wallace is celebrated as a true Scottish patriot who emerged from Scotland's
War of Independence with uncompromised principle and selfless motive.