Much of William Wallace’s early life is lost in the mists of time. He was a second son, born in Elderslie, to a family that was neither poor nor vastly rich. Many of the details of his life on which history turns were recorded Blind Harry, a minstrel who recorded Wallace’s achievements centuries after his death. It is known that Wallace came from a family of minor nobility. The first event in his recorded history is the revenge killing of an English Sheriff of Lanark - William Heselrig - in 1297 in reparation for the death(s) of a member or members of his family, possibly including his wife; there remains some debate as to whether Wallace was ever married. Whilst the date of his death was known to all in Scotland and England, there is no clear record of Wallace’s birth.
Wallace’s actions in defying the English made him a minor hero, and he gained support in mounting further raids against the English who had taken residence in and ownership of Scotland. Wallace’s rebellion did not have a clear path, for several Scottish nobles gave their fealty to the English crown as he and his compatriots strove for a Scotland independent of English rule.
Wallace’s key claim to fame is the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. He and Andrew Moray commanded Scottish troops vastly outnumbered by Edward’s English army. Wallace’s steely will in battle strategy led to a victory for the Scots against a far larger army.
Following his victory at Stirling Bridge Wallace became a Guardian of Scotland, representing John Balliol. He proceeded victorious in forays to northern England, but failed to maintain the Scottish hold at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. Following Falkirk Wallace melted in to the background of Scottish nationalism; he travelled to France in support of his cause, and may possibly have gone as far as Rome.
Wallace was recorded as back in Scotland in 1304, fighting for his cause as always, the year before his brutal death. The following year betrayal led to Wallace’s capture and prosecution. Death for traitors was never easy, and Wallace was hung, drawn and quartered; his limbs were sent to different parts of the realm to help deter any who might have the temerity to believe that they could tackle the English throne and emerge victorious.
Though his appearance in the eye of history was short, William Wallace is seen as a hero of the Scottish people.