Sir William Wallace
1270 – Aug. 23, 1305
by Brother Gerald del Campo
Born in 1270 to Sir Malcolm Wallace, a small property owner in Renfrew, his contribution to Scotland’s liberation from England is unparalleled. The same could be said about the ferocity with which he fought those who sought to oppress his people, and the bravery with which he died.
After dethroning and incarcerating John de Balliol, King Edward I of England declared himself ruler of Scotland in 1296. It would not take long for Wallace to retaliate. In 1297, he and a militia of 30 or so commoners set fire to Lanark and killed its English sheriff.
Wallace then recruited a small army of landowners and struck the English garrisons flanked by the Rivers Forth and Tay. He was met head-on at the Forth by an English regiment which greatly outnumbered his modest army. But the English had to traverse a tight bridge over the river to reach Wallace. The English were slaughtered as they crossed the river before they could reach the other side. He later entered Northern England by force and devastated Northumberland and Cumberland. On December 1297, Wallace was knighted and declared guardian of the kingdom.
In July 3 1298, Edward I invaded Scotland, and this time Wallace was defeated by the English archers. This destroyed Wallace’s martial reputation. In December he resigned his guardianship. Robert de Bruce replaced him. By 1304, almost all Scottish nobles submitted to Edward, but the English unceasingly continued to pursue Wallace until he was arrested on August 5, 1305.
He was taken to London where he was found guilty of treason against a king he would never swear allegiance to. On August 23, 1305 he was hanged, disemboweled, beheaded and quartered. The following year, Bruce raised the revolt that ultimately secured Scotland’s independence. An enormous memorial to Wallace stands on the rock of Abbey Craig near Stirling. His military exploits and great bravery have been mythologized in literature, Wallace continues to be an focal point of Scottish pride.