William Wallace - The Man & The Myth - A Summary

William Wallace"This is the story of a landless second son of an obscure Scottish knight who, when barely out of his teens and living as an outlaw, raised an army of common people and drove the occupying English army out of Scotland"

Quote from the Pitkin guide on William Wallace

In feudal times there was a strict order of allegiance. At the top was the King and below him came the barons (feudal lords) and then their knights. At the bottom were the commoners. National identities were just beginning to develop in the 13th century. The Western Isles of Scotland had just been taken from the Norwegians who had held them from Viking times.

A charismatic and successful Scottish King, Alexander III had brought over 20 years of peace and prosperity to Scotland. He had married the sister of the powerful English King, Edward I and relations with the English were good. However, fate contrived for his immediate heirs to die before him and when he was thrown from his horse on a windswept night in 1286 the last of the true Gaelic Kings died. Desperate to appoint an heir and continue the blood line the Scots looked to his grand daughter, Margaret. She was just a child but with so much at stake deals were made and she was pledged to the son of the English King. However she failed to survive the long sea crossing from Norway and died, aged 7 years, in the autumn of 1290. With her went any hope of lasting peace and prosperity in Scotland.


To try and restablish the Royal blood line, the Scottish nobles went back to descendents of David, Alexander's brother, who had died in 1219. There were two main contenders, John Balliol and Robert Bruce (grandfather of the future king). To try and resolve the disputed claims the Scots asked Edward I to arbitrate. He then invited the barons to Berwick where they are pressured to surrender Scottish independence in 1291.

Timeline of Notable Events During The Life Of William Wallace

1272 - Birth of William Wallace

1292 - Edward I appoints John Balliol as King. A year later, in 1293, this is rescinded and the jurisdiction of Scotland is forfeited to the English.

1296 - Both countries are ready for battle and Edward sacks Berwick and then defeats Balliol at the Battle of Dunbar. John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey is appointed Guardian of Scotland. Around this time William Wallace avenges the death of his father at Loudon Hill, near Lanark, and is declared an outlaw.

1297 - Wallace kills Hazlerig, the Sheriff of Lanark, raises an army and defeats the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Subsequently he invades and lays waste to Northern Northumberland.

1298 - Wallace is appointed Guardian of Scotland but is then defeated by Edward I at the Battle of Falkirk.

1300-1304 - Wallace visits Paris and Rome acting as a representative of the Scots. Towards the end of these years he returns to Scotland where he tries to re-ignite the fire of independence.

1305 - Death of William Wallace (execution following betrayal)


Part 2: William Wallace - The Man