Sir William Wallace (1267 – 1305) led the Scots to a magnificent victory over the English army. In 1298 Scotland was invaded by a large English force led by the English King Edward I and on 22nd July of that year, Edward defeated Wallace’s army in the Battle of Falkirk.
William Wallace was born at Elderslie in January 1272. The death of his father during an English ambush in 1291heralded the beginning of a life long resentment against the English.
A man of great stature, reputedly 6 foot 7 inches tall, Wallace’s size and strength contributed to his ability as a swordsman. Publicly insulted by a constable of Dundee Castle, owned by the Englishman Brian Fitz-Alan, Wallace drew his dagger and killed him.
During his escape, William killed two more Englishmen leading him to be branded a traitor, outlawed and forced to hide in the woods and mountains. Having gathered a band of followers around him, Wallace took to attacking English convoys and foraging parties.
His exploits became legendary and following the Scottish defeat at the Battle of Dunbar in 1296, he became the focus hope for the Scots and for the cause of national liberty. Wallace remained victorious in his encounters with the English in Ayrshire, Clydesdale and Lennox.
The highlight of Wallace’s campaigns was his defeat of overwhelmingly superior English forces at the Battle of Stirling Bridge on 11th September 1297. This was followed by the surrender of Dundee Castle and the total expulsion of the English from Scotland.
With Scotland’s resources depleted, Wallace moved south in to England in search of booty. Edward I responded by raising a formidable army and marching on Scotland. A scorched earth tactic by Wallace left the English in a weakened situation, but betrayal by the Earls of Dunbar and Angus resulted in Wallace fleeing to France.
Failing to find support in France, Wallace returned to Scotland in 1303 but was betrayed by his servant in to the hands of John Menteith, a Scottish Baron and sent to Westminster. On the 23rd August 1305 Wallace was charged with treason, found guilty and hanged, drawn and quartered.