William Wallace (biography)
From Ex illis wiki
(Born in 1272, 37 years old in 1309)
Riaghladair Alba (1298-)
William Wallace is a Scottish hero who was willing to give his life for his country’s freedom and independence. Son of a gentleman, he climbs the ladder to finally become Riaghladair Alba (Guardian of Scotland), thanks to his people’s respect and admiration. Unlike the great and the good of this world, he is driven by the obsessive quest of an absolute ideal rather than by ambition. Sometimes however, his quest makes him lose contact with reality.
William Wallace’s height exceeds by far that of the average men of his era. He is about six feet five inches tall, his arms and legs are muscular and, according to John Blair, a clerk with whom he makes friends: “he is certainly more a bear than a man, but his suppleness is matched only by that of felines”.
Despite his imposing stature, he is a cheerful man and rather good-looking. In fact, young women easily swoon over him and many of them, hopeful, offer him their virginity. However, this Scottish hero does not easily fall in love and deceives more than one. He is a warm person and likes to chat with people around him. Nevertheless, a fierce gleam constantly sparkles in his eyes and everyone knows they must avoid awaking the beast that sleeps within him because once it awakes, nothing can stop it.
William Wallace is the son of Margaret Crawford and Sir Malcolm Wallace. His father is a Scottish gentleman who owns a few properties in Ayrshire. Wallace also has two brothers: Malcolm and John.
The young William lives a quiet childhood. Scotland in a peaceful and prosperous period under Alexander III’s reign. At the age of eight, Wallace is sent to live with his uncle, a rich and literate clergyman. There, he develops his religious knowledge and also learns Latin and French. He quickly devours ancient literature classics and becomes saturated with authors such as Virgil, Ovid and Horace. Thus, he appropriates the latter’s Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (It is sweet and glorious to die for one's country) and develops a strong taste for ancient heroes at an early age. Besides, he likes impersonating them when he plays with other young boys his age, pretending to be Aeneas. And his uncle does not attempt to damp his patriotic ardour. On the contrary, he jumps at the opportunity to praise a country’s sovereignty.
It is therefore in this state of mind that William finds himself when King Alexander suddenly dies in 1286, leaving the kingdom to his only heir, who follows him to the grave three years later. A quarrel then arises between the different candidates to the throne who finally call to Edward I, king of England, to arbitrate the conflict. However, the English monarch does not content himself with a supporting role and, instead, invades Scotland with an imposing army and forces everyone to swear him allegiance. To protect their interests, the country’s most powerful nobles bend to his will. Still, Edward elects a king, John Balliol, who agrees to be his vassal and obeys to all of his orders. As for the gentry, it refuses to come under Edward’s yoke. Thus, Malcolm Wallace, William’s father, rejects the English king’s demand and must leave his lands to avoid being punished. He joins a group of rebels and finally dies in a skirmish against the Englishmen.
William, then aged seventeen, flees with his mother and his younger brother to Dundee’s cathedral where they are welcomed by a relative. Wallace enrols in the city’s seminary to complete his studies. He meets several students his age, among them John Blair and Neil Campbell with whom he forms a group of young rebels disabused by the English regime, filled with hatred and rancour towards the enemy who has taken many family members away from some of them.
For a year, Wallace and his companions are involved in small skirmishes against English garrisons in Dundee, none of them having serious consequences. At the end of the fight, all belligerents return their way to heal their wounds and drink a few beers to let the not so pleasant memories vanish. However, Selby, the new governor’s son, particularly exasperates William. He often mocks the Scottish students enrolled at the seminary and denigrates the clothes they wear while strutting about on his beautiful stallion in his sumptuous clothes.
On a particularly cold afternoon in April 1290, Selby meets Wallace and his companions outside the city walls. He attacks William slandering, once again, his outfit. John Blair writes: “His glance falling on Wallace’s dagger, he gave out a whistling sound and stared at it for a while. He did try to lay a finger on it, to see it closely, but Wallace was not prepared to let this happen”. He grabs a hold of his dagger before Selby can touch it and sticks it in his heart. A brawl starts between both groups. John Blair writes on: “To escape the gallows, Wallace killed four Englishmen: five Englishmen less in exchange for a stay in the forest”. The young William manages to run away and to take refuge in the forest where Edward’s soldiers could not find him despite searching the woods to try and pick up his trace. An arrest warrant is issued against him, but it does not prompt much effect on the Scottish people, who support his rebellion.
Wallace lives as a wanderer, hiding in the forests of Scotland, hunting or pillaging to eat. He quickly joins a group of outlaws who occasionally attacks English contingents. In fact, during a skirmish in which the Englishmen outnumber the outlaws, Wallace shines by killing six men by himself. Then, at night, his legs seem to gain suppleness and strength while his sword becomes lighter and lighter, easier to wield. William falls asleep, quite puzzled.
During the following attacks, his movements are more precise and the number of opponents he manages to bring down increases. Thus, a few months later, while he went hunting on his own, he falls in a trap laid by a small group of soldiers. He defends himself as best he can and kills eight of his opponents while the others finally run away, scared by the arrival of a Seelie fairy. A leg wounded, Wallace stays on the ground, unable to stand up. For a month, the beautiful creature called Nimeala takes care of him. Slowly, she falls in love with the outlaw and remains by his side longer than she should. They share their nights until a day when Wallace tells her he must go back to his group and start attacking, once again, the Englishmen, who still rule over the kingdom. He tells her of the texts he read, of the admiration he has for his heroes. He describes the importance of defending one’s homeland, even at the cost of one’s own life. She assures him that she understands and lets him accomplish his destiny. However, sometimes, at night, she bends over his face and misses the protection of his powerful arms.
The soldiers who witnessed his feat a few months before spread the news in the region’s towns and villages. William thus achieves renown. Many young men venture into the forest to join his group so they too, can hunt Englishmen. By the end of the winter of 1295, William Wallace commands enough men to get out of the woods and attack Edward’s armies head-on.
Wallace first challenges towns in the South of Scotland. He organises raids on castles conquered by Edward I several years before. This way, he takes back Dundee in September 1295. Meanwhile, in the North, Highlanders gather to repel the Englishmen who have, for the first time, reached Moireibh. Many nobles follow the rebellion and lead their army against English garrisons.
However, Edward is not too far. A few months later, he marches over Berwick and massacres its entire population, i.e. 7 500 people. He wins a decisive victory in Dunbar, a battle in which Wallace was not fighting which softened the Scots’ ardours. Once more, the powerful nobles kneel before Edward and swear him allegiance.
Instead of weakening Wallace, the last events give him renewed energy in his quest for Scotland’s sovereignty. He attacks the South of the country and, this time, he frees the towns of Parsley and Ayr. Strong, sturdy and precise, the English soldiers quickly learn to dread him. In fact, during the taking of Craigie castle, he kills sixteen enemy warriors by himself. That night, he tells his friend John Blair that he feels like his hands got bigger. Blair takes a look at them and assures him that he is wrong, that they are still the same size they were in the morning. The next day, however, Wallace feels an unusual strength while training, increasing his vigour in combat. While feeling a certain clumsiness, he manages to deal nearly impossible blows and he reacts much faster against attacks from his opponents. For a few days, he feels like he is in someone else’s body but this feeling slowly fades away.
A few months after taking Craigie, Wallace becomes allied to William Douglas the Bold and seizes Aiberdeen, Peairt (Perth) and Glaschu (Glasgow). In April 1297, both men trap English soldiers in Ardrossan castle. The Scots commit a few minor offences in the town in order to attract the castle occupiers’ attention. Hidden in alleyways, behind cottages walls, they kill Englishmen one after the other. Then, they take the castle at the top of which they hoist the Scottish flag. John Blair writes: “The corpse of these vile Englishmen, we abandoned in a deep tunnel. The Scottish souls celebrating, we were quite happy”. Once more, William Wallace’s feats are noticed by his compatriots.
In the summer of 1297, William Wallace joins Andrew Moray, a lord from the North who has been leading an active rebellion for a few months now close to Sruighlea (Stirling) where both men settled their respective armies.
While waiting for the English army, William Wallace and Andrew Moray get to know and appreciate each other. They frequently meet to develop a strategy and make the most of the territorial advantage. They also spend a lot of time training their troops in order for their soldiers to measure up to the enemy who is very likely to be superior in number. Then, in the evenings, they eat their meal in company with important knights and converse about the beauty of sovereignty and freedom.
In September 1297, the enemy army finally looms on the horizon. Before the battle, the commander of the English troops, John de Warenne, sends a message to Wallace and enjoins him to surrender. However, William Wallace answers: “Go back and tell your men that we have not come for the benefit of peace, but to do battle, to defend ourselves and liberate our kingdom. Let your soldiers come to us and we will prove this in their very beard”. He then turns around and rejoins his ranks.
Wallace and Moray’s battle plan rests on two facts: the Englishmen must cross on the north side of the Uisge For (Forth River) to attack the Scots and, until now, they have been complacent with the Scottish armies, mainly made up of peasants. Wallace and Moray therefore entice the English troops on the bridge separating the Uisge For and hold their men back. Then, when a good number of enemies reach the other side of the river, the Scottish army leaps to the attack and slaughter them all. The troops on the bridge lose their head and many attempt to turn back while those who are still on the south bank run away from the battlefield. The Scottish victory is decisive and complete. During the battle, Wallace kills thirty-two enemies. The more minutes go by, the more he feels his suppleness and his reflexes increase. For a few moments, he visualises his enemy’s every gesture, every move, which allows him to react promptly. In fact, he manages to capture Edward’s treasurer, well-known for having skinned many Scots. He is executed the same way and, as a souvenir of his first crushing victory against the Englishmen, Wallace hangs his skin to his belt.
This battle allows Wallace to earn the respect of some knights and gentlemen who do not hesitate to side with him anymore. However, in London, Edward I swears he will take his revenge on this man who subjected him to one of the worst humiliations of his reign: the powerful English army defeated by Scottish peasants who know nothing of the art of war.
The guardianAndrew Moray’s stubbornness, he is dubbed by Robert Bruce a few months after the Battle of Sruighlea. Then, during King John Balliol’s absence, exiled in France by Edward I, the Scots must find a regent. By acclamation, Wallace is appointed Riaghladair Alba (Guardian of Scotland). At first, he shares this duty with Andrew Moray, who dies a few months later from serious wounds which have been with him since Sruighlea. This death is particularly hard on Wallace who loses a dear friend and a strong ally.
He goes and meditates a few weeks in the woods where he sees Nimeala again, who had disappeared from his life for a few years now. They share many happy moments and, for a second, the sweet fairy deludes herself in thinking Wallace will stay with her. Unfortunately, his guardian functions soon take him back to Dùn Èideann (Edinburgh). This time, Nimeala tries to convince him to stay with her and to let go of Scotland, now that he managed to set it free. However, Wallace, who sees himself as an antiquity hero, prefers to follow the example of Aeneas who left Dido to take care of his people. He therefore abandons Nimeala who is left on her own, devastated and furious.
In 1299, Wallace gives the bishopric of St. Andrews to one of his friends, William Lamberton, at the expense of John Comyn’s brother, mormaer of Bùchan. The latter, unhappy with the situation, says out loud what many lords quietly criticise Wallace for doing and this, for a few years already. Indeed, for the Scottish aristocracy, Wallace is far from being a national hero who saved his homeland. He is rather an upstart who stole the functions and titles which should have fallen to men who were of higher birth than him. Thus, to counter Wallace’s claims, the Scottish lords, led by Bùchan, decide to appoint John Red Comyn, cousin of the latter and mormaer of Bàideanach, Riaghladair Alba together with Wallace. In fact, if King John Balliol does not come back from exile, the former is one of the favourite candidates to the Crown of Scotland. However, this nomination hardly satisfies Robert Bruce’s supporters who have been hating the Comyn for numerous years now. Thus, a few months later, Robert Bruce is also appointed Riaghladair Alba.
During the different meetings between the three Riaghladair Alba, the discussions are quite spirited and they rarely reach consensus. But Wallace manages as best he can to maintain a relative peace inside the country, a peace that is sometimes threatened by short-lived skirmishes.
Then, in 1306, John Balliol announces that he will not come back to Scotland and that he thus renounce to his crown, reopening the race to the throne. Thanks to his numerous ties to royalty, John Red Comyn turns out to be the candidate in the best position, but Bruce vehemently opposes his nomination.
A few weeks later, Bruce invites Red Comyn to Dùn Phris (Dumfries), to a small church in order to discuss the possibility of a truce. However, the invitation is a trap as Bruce hardly plans on respecting the inviolability of the holy grounds. He hides about sixty soldiers around the buildings. When he arrives, Red Comyn is attacked from all sides. Nevertheless, a surprise awaits Bruce since Wallace, who heard about the meeting, joined Red Comyn. A sudden strength overcomes him and he kills almost all attackers and manages to escape in the company of the mormaer of Bàideanach. Bruce is wounded in the confrontation, but survives.
During the next few days, Wallace feels a new energy circulating in his body. Every morning, he wakes up with the impression that he is more powerful than ever. His whole being seems to claim that he reached the height of his strength and is now almost invincible.
In agreement with Bàideanach, Wallace declares Bruce an outlaw. He sends a few troops after him, but none of them manage to capture him. He hides in the South of the country, accompanied by a group of faithful who serve him with their whole body and soul. The more months pass by, the more he rallies people to his cause. Meanwhile, the late Andrew Moray's widow announces that she withdraws herself to her inherited lands in the Moireibh and that she refuses to participate to the conflicts troubling the kingdom. She takes with her numerous Highlanders troops. A few rumours have it that an charming Unseelie (or Seelie in some stories) fairy would have bewitched her and would have ordered her to let go of Wallace. This gesture deeply hurts Wallace who particularly trusted his good old friend’s wife, acting as the regent of the mormaerdom until her son grows old enough to take the rule. He wanders in the woods a short while, but this time, Nimeala does not meet him. John Blair writes: “when he came back, his voice had changed. He often refused to eat and barely slept. However, he never thought of leaving his homeland to meet her”.
Wallace and Red Comyn become closer and closer. Soon, they are inseparable, which frustrates John Comyn of Bùchan who then refuses to join them when both men start raising an army to put down the rebellion brewing south. He tells his cousin that he does not trust Wallace and accuses him of still wanting to usurp the power. Before long, a violent fight divides both men. John of Bùchan withdraws to his lands and ignores his cousin’s calls, and thus becomes a rebel.
In the autumn of 1308, Bruce assembles an army with the forces in the south. Raids are led on both sides of the border dividing the south and the north. Then, in February 1309, Bruce orders his whole army to make headway towards the north. Wallace must prepare to relive another decisive war, but this time, the enemy is Scottish.