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700th Anniversary of the Execution of Sir William Wallace: 1305-2005

Memorial to Sir William Wallace near the place of his execution,
23rd August 1305
 now the site of St Bartholomew's Hospital,
West Smithfield, London.

The inscription reads:
To The Immortal Memory of Sir William Wallace Scottish Patriot Born at Elderslie Renfrewshire circa 1270 A.D.
Who from the year 1296 fought dauntlessly in defence of his country's Liberty and Independence in the face of fearful odds and great hardship being eventually betrayed and captured brought to London
and put to death near this spot on the 23rd August 1305.
His example heroism and devotion inspired those who came after him to win victory from defeat
And his memory remains for all time
A Source of pride honour and inspiration to his Countrymen.

Dico tibi verum libertas optima rerum
nunquam servili sub nexu vivito fili
(I tell you the truth, son, freedom is the best condition,
never live like a slave)

Bas Agus Buaidh (Death and Victory)

Photos taken August 2005 © Iain Laird

The 23rd August 2005 marks the 700th Anniversary of the execution of the hero of the Scots Wars of Independence, Sir William Wallace, by being hanged, drawn and quartered at Smithfield, London.  The site is marked by a memorial on the wall of St Bartholomew's Hospital, West Smithfield. The Latin couplet was taught to the young Wallace by one of his uncles, the Priest of Dunipace.

A great deal of mythology attaches to Wallace, much quite recent, as a result of the film "Braveheart", starring and directed by Mel Gibson, though the film has brought much needed attention to the period and its main protagonists.  We had, for example, the Battle of Stirling Bridge without a bridge, lowland Scots in kilts, Wallace's face painted blue and white and much else. Much artistic licence was used to convey the spirit of the times.

The real Wallace was born between 1270 and 1276, originally thought to have been in Elderslie, near Paisley, in Renfrewshire, though there is a more recent view that he was born in Ayrshire. The recent discovery of his seal shows he was the younger son of Alan Wallace of Ayrshire, whose name appears on the Ragman Rolls (Waleys, Aleyn (tenant le Roi du counte de Are)). He was educated by two uncles, both priests, in Latin and French.

After carrying off the "Stone of Destiny" and the Battle of Dunbar in 1296, Edward I of England virtually controlled Scotland, and a guerrilla war was initiated by the Scots. The main leader initially was Andrew Moray.  According the the 15th Century bard "Blind Harry", Wallace first drew attention to himself for his murder of  Sir William Heselrig, the English Sheriff of Lanark, in May 1297, dismembering the corpse in supposed revenge for the death of Marion Braidfute of Lamington who he is supposed to have courted and married. (No evidence exists for this.) He defeated the English in battles at Loudoun Hill (near Darvel, Ayrshire) and Ayr; and  fought alongside Sir William Douglas at Scone, routing the English Justiciar, William de Ormesby.

The Battle of Stirling Bridge
After the Scottish Nobles deserted the cause, Wallace joined Andrew Moray and defeated the English Army at Stirling Bridge on 11th September 1297, as Moray's Captain, by drawing their cavalry across the bridge on to  boggy ground, where, immobilised and unsupported, they were annihilated, isolated by the bridge collapsing behind them.

After the victory in 1297 Wallace sent a message to the City of Lubeck encouraging its merchants to resume trade with Scotland freed from English control.

He was then knighted by Robert the Bruce, and proclaimed "Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland and Leader of its Armies", but was defeated a year later at the Battle of Falkirk.

Capture and Execution
Wallace escaped and evaded until 1305, when, on 5th August, he was betrayed by Sir David Menteith, a Scottish Knight who had remained loyal to Edward I,  near present day
Robroystoun, by Glasgow.  He was carried off to London, and tried at Westminster Hall on 23rd August 1305, and summarily found guilty of treason.  He claimed he could not be a traitor as he had never been a subject of Edward I. He taken from the Court, stripped and dragged to Smithfield where the execution took place.

Wallace is also commemorated by the Wallace Monument at Stirling, a memorial at Elderslie, near Paisley and a statue on the right of the main entrance to Edinburgh Castle, flanked by King Robert the Bruce on the left.

Walk for Wallace, 2005
On 23rd August 2005, David Ross, Convenor of the
Society of William Wallace, will complete his lone 450 mile walk from Robroyston to Smithfield, and a service will be held at The Priory Church of Saint Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield. For further details visit Walk for Wallace.

BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Service remembers William Wallace

Wallace service of commemoration - The Herald

Wallace in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sir William Wallace
in Electric Scotland