William Wallace - The Height Of His Power & Subsequent Defeat

William WallaceOn his return, Wallace was made Guardian of Scotland. Although he was the de facto King of Scotland he seemed to lack personal ambition and declared that he ruled in the name of John Balliol who was in exile. Wallace then sought to dismantle the feudal structure and replace it with a true nation. Conscription was introduced but before progress could be made, the English invaded. With John de Warenne leading them, they crossed the border at Roxburgh in April 1298. Wallace resisted by implementing a scorched earth policy. However Edward I, the "Hammer of the Scots", arrived in June and pressed to bring Wallace to battle. The lack of provisions started to hinder the English and a retreat seemed likely. However, they then heard that Wallace was preparing to attack them as they retreated and was in fact just some 13 miles away in Callender Wood.


The news of Wallace's location came from the Earls of Angus and Dunbar whose betrayal of Wallace brought forward the pitched battle which became known as the Battle of Falkirk.


Wallace based his army around spearmen who were arranged into four hedgehogs or schiltrons. With their spears pointing outwards they would be a formidable defence against the English cavalry. The initial cavalry charges were deflected partly due to boggy ground in front of the Scottish defences. However, once Edward brought his Welsh long bows into action, the schiltrons had no defence against the arrows and the Scottish army broke and fled into the nearby forests.

The Aftermath of Falkirk
Wallace fled the battle and with this, his military reputation declined. He stepped down as the Guardian of Scotland and travelled to France and then Rome to try and promote the Scottish cause abroad. Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick and John Comyn (a nephew of John Balliol) were appointed joint Guardians. They then raised an army of over 8,000 men and defeated the English at Roslin near Edinburgh, It was their last success as Edward I swept north to revenge the deaths at Roslin. All the Scottish nobles had to pledge allegiance but Wallace was specifically excluded and became, one again, an outlaw.


Part 5: William Wallace - Return To Scotland & Capture