William Wallace: Hero or Villian?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
An essay I did for history about William Wallace.

Submitted: October 21, 2009

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Submitted: October 21, 2009

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William Wallace: Hero or Villain?
William Wallace: the legendary Scottish patriot who freed Scotland from their English brethren. Yet who was he? Very little is known about Wallace, save from a letter to the German trading towns of Germany, a few records and dozens of paintings. However, the paintings were often done more than a hundred years after his death. He burst into everyone's eyes as one of the few nobles whom refused to sign Edward I of England's Ragman Roll. Yet most recorded evidence of him were by English chroniclers, which was the obvious thing for them to say of him, being on the receiving end of a war that cost so many people. Yet was Wallace this villain that these chroniclers portrayed as, or the Scottish hero of legend?
William Hazelrig was a trusted English sheriff. Wallace made his first appearance after his death. Many stories lead to the idea of his wife. Apparently, Hazelrig had killed Wallace's wife, and so, in cold blood, Hazelrig fell before Wallace. This kick started the hunt for Wallace, being branded as a murderer. Yet what hero, as many Scots think of him as, would kill someone purely in a rage?
Yet Wallace still made powerful friends. Andrew Murray, another who did not sign the Ragman Roll, soon allied himself to Wallace, forming a formidable force coming from the Highlands. Sir William Douglas also saw sense in Wallace's cause, and together formed a raiding group to Scone, the Scottish inauguration site from centuries past.
The high judge placed there by Edward I, William Ormsby, fled the ancient site, which was near useless since Edward had taken the Stone of Destiny to Westminster. Yet Sir William Douglas had proven to be a brutal, heartless knight, and was never heard of after his raid to Scone.
From this event, new facts emerged. The English were scared of Wallace, and fled before him. Many peasants and nobles alike fled towards Wallace, joining his force to liberate the kingdom. He was a heroic figure in many eyes already.
After a few months, the Earl of Surrey and Hugh of Cressingham were ordered to reinforce on of the most strategic castles in Scotland, Stirling. Whilst crossing the bridge, Hugh of Cressingham was in for a massive shock. Just as they were crossing the bridge, Wallace and Murray charged down the hills in an ambush. Armed with only infantry units, they formed an unstoppable tide of spears and swords.
Many died at Stirling viciously, the total body count adding up to more than 5000 English. The Earl could merely watch as his allies were slaughtered in front of his own eyes. He fled the field. Hugh of Cressingham experienced first hand how brutal Wallace could be. The nobleman was skinned and used for weapon handles. For any who had a doubt, it was now gone. Wallace had a much darker side to him than the gleaming hero that many thought of him.
Wallace was welcomed everywhere as a hero. Although, months after the victory, Andrew Murray died. Stirling Bridge had boosted much morale, increasing his forces as yet more flocked to him like sheep. He was appointed Guardian of Scotland, as he would never accept kingship, for John Balliol, was still alive in the Tower of London where Edward I had him under lock and key. Wallace was knighted by one of the Earls of Scotland, and so he was Sir William Wallace, Guardian of Scotland.
Flushed with success, Wallace and his men didn't stop at the border. They continued south, raiding the northerly English territories. They killed monks and burnt monasteries, torched useless buildings and executed all resistance that stood in their way. He even said to a group of holy men:
Stay with me, for I cannot guarantee your safety!” The problem for Wallace was he had no treasury to control any of his men. They deserved some loot and bounty, and England was their biggest chance for plunder.
Wallace continued south throughout England, plundering, murdering and destroying all who opposed him. Yet his one downfall was the British weather. He was halted by a wild blizzard in England, and was forced to turn back to the border.
Once inside Scotland, Wallace continued to liberate English castles and gather his forces. He wrote letters to the trading states of Germany, and used peace tactics with the Roman Catholic Church to promote the campaign to free John Balliol. He paraded the Highlands and Borders, basically taunting Edward to attack. Unfortunately for Wallace, this just so happened.
Edward I had finished his current war in France, and so turned his gaze to the rebellious Scots. With his eyes set on Wallace's head, he took his army north towards the untrustworthy Scottish and had his steely gaze set on Scotland.
As Edward marched north, Wallace gathered his army at Falkirk, what would be known as his final defeat.
Wallace lured Edward towards his army mounted on a horse. Edward took the bait gladly, marching after him. Wallace's plan was to lure Edward into a trap, and then charge with his cavalry and men. This is a method considered somewhat cowardly by many, and it could have disastrous results. In Wallace's case, it did.
As Edward's forces came over the hill, Wallace's cavalry fled with tails flying high. Yet Wallace stood his ground, even though his chances of winning this battle were minimal. His men were mown down, and he fled at the very last moment before defeat.
Wallace's reputation was in utter tatters, along with his chance to push back the English rule with force, yet he still tried different approaches. After resigning from his place as guardian, and went to promote the cause of freeing John Balliol in France and the Papal States. He succeeded for the last time: the Pope demanded that John Balliol was released as Scotland belonged to the Church. Balliol was freed, and went to live in his lands in France. Patriots such as Wallace who had hoped he would come back to rule were mistaken. So many people died for nothing.
A few years later, a fellow Scotsman betrayed Wallace to the English just outside Glasgow. He was trailed in London, found guilty, and brutally hung, drawn and quartered.
To many of the English, Wallace was a terrorist. Who on Earth would kill holy men and burn their monasteries? Yet to the Scots he was a true patriot. He did not waver at the English attacks or for fear of death. For many, he was the greatest hero ever to be born. Yet for others, he was a cowardly dog who bit the hand that fed him. Either way, for ages to come and go, this debate may still be hot from the furnace.
IwanMacBride


© Copyright 2019 IwanMacBride. All rights reserved.

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