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Sir William Wallace (1270-1305)

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William Wallace (c1270-1305)

William Wallace has come to be known as one of Scotland's many heroes and the undeniable leader of the Scottish resistance forces dying for their freedom from English Rule at the end of the 13th century.

Most accounts of Wallace have been passed down through the generations by word of mouth, making Wallace somewhat of a Scottish folk hero. Most accounts are merely tentative, and in part due to his success in instilling fear into the hearts of English writers and storytellers of the time, that they demonized him, his achievements, and his motives.

Wallace was born in around 1270 and is assumed near Ellerslie(which is now Elderslie), In Ayrshire , Scottland. His father was sir Malcolm Wallace, Laird of Elderslie and Auchinbothie. His father was a somewhat insignificant, being as he was merely a small land owner and little-known Scottish knight. Wallace's mother was believed to be the daughter of the Sheriff of Ayr. Malcolm is believed to have an elder brother, also called Malcolm. William was the 2nd son and thus did not inherit his father's title or lands.

William was born during the reign of Alexander III who had already been sitting on Scotland's throne for nearly Twenty-seven years. During the reign of Alexander III there lived a period of much peace and tranquility, not to mention economic stability. Alexander III did his job and fended off continuing English claims to suzerainty. King Edward I (Also known as "Edward Long shanks" came to the throne of England in 1272, two years after Wallace was born.

There is little to no information about William Wallace's childhood years. He is believed to have spent these years with his Uncle, who was a priest, in Dunipace, near Stirling. It is assumed that William and his brother Malcolm lived a peaceful life, being as they were the sons of a nobleman. The boys were no strangers to the martial arts. The boys learned many skills of Swordsmanship and horsemanship. Contemporary chroniclers say that William was a large. Powerful man. He reportedly stood at six and a half feet tall. The average infantryman stood only inches over five feet tall.

In 1286, by the time William was about sixteen, Wallace may have been preparing to pursue a life in the church, as most boys of the time did. In that year Alexander III died after riding off a cliff during a wild storm. None of Alexander III's children survived him. After Alexander III's death, his young granddaughter Margaret. The Ð''maid of Norway' was declared queen of Scotland by the Scottish lords, but was still only a young girl of four years old and not nearly old enough or wise enough to rule a country on her own. An interim Scottish government run by guardians was set up to govern until Margaret was old enough to reign.

Margaret fell ill and died unexpectedly in 1290 at merely the age of 8 on her way from Norway to England. Thirteen claimants to the Scottish throne came forward, Most of whom were the Scottish nobility.

Scotland was Essentially occupied by the English at this time, and was beset by its own internal conflicts. The various aristocratic Scottish guards of the throne plotted against one another.

During this period of uncertainty William Wallace's father was killed in battle in 1291. It is believed that the death of William's father at the hands of English troops sparked William's desire to fight for his countries independence. Once again there is little information known about William's life at this point in time except that he lived the life on an outlaw. He often packed up and moved his residence in order to avoid the English, whom he had grown to hate. He had been known to confront them with characteristic ferocity.

Balliol took an oath of fealty, paid homage to Edward, and was accepted in Scotland however, Edward I's motives had not been to help choose a leader of Scotland who would lead the people fairly. He had chosen a leader of Scotland who he could manipulate.

Edward underestimated the Scott's drive for their own freedom. He sought to exert his own suzerainty by taking law cases on appeal from Scottish courts to his own courts in England. This turned the Scottish throne against him. In the meantime England has been at war with France. In 1295, a treaty was negotiated between Edward I and the French that provided for the marriage of john de Balliol's son Edward to the French king's niece. Edward demanded the surrender of three castled on the Scottish border and, on John's refusal, summoned him to his court. John did no obey, and war was inevitable.

Edward marched his armies onto Scotland. After a five-month struggle, he conquered Scotland in 1297. He then proceeded to place his own agents in Scotland to keep peace. He threw John de Balliol in jail and declared himself ruler of Scotland.

Outside the south-east corner of Scotland , there was much disorder, defiance of the English was increasing. Wallace was involved in a fight with a few local soldiers in the village of Ayr. Wallace killed several of them and was thrown in jail. He was left in this jail to starve to death and eventually die. He was nursed slowly back to health by sympathetic villagers and was released from prison.

Upon his release he began to gather his fellow rebels to the English thrown and led an attack on an English fort where he avenged his fathers death by killing the very knight who had killed his father.

Wallace successfully recruited a band of commoners and landowners to attack the remaining English Garrisons between the Rivers Fort and Tay. Wallace and his partner Sir Andrew de Morray, marched their forces towards Stirling Castle. The Scottish militia slaughtered more than 5000 English forces gaining Wallace an overwhelming victory.

In October of 1296, Wallace invaded northern England and ravaged the countries Northumberland and Cumberland. When he returned to Scotland early in December of 1297 he was Knighted and proclaimed guardian of the kingdom. Ruling in Balliol's name. In less than six years, he had risen from obscurity and near starvation to becoming Sir William Wallace, holder of one of the most powerful posts in the kingdom. Nevertheless, many Scottish nobles lent him only grudging support, and he had yet to meet Edward I in a head-on confrontation.

Wallace's acclaim was short-lived. Edward returned to England from campaigning in France in march 1298. On July 3rd he invaded Scotland.

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