scottish history
A service from

One, Two, Three

The Highland Clearances

Scottish Origins... up to William Wallace

The Battle of Stirling Bridge

Battle of Falkirk & Execution of Wallace

History of the Kilt

Patrick Geddes

Tragedy at Glencoe


The Battle of Falkirk (1298) and the Execution of Wallace.
Chapter Three: Post Falkirk

One, Two, Three
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In the spring of 1300, two years after Edward's victory over Wallace at Falkirk, he, now 65 years old, had married a young French princess, and planned his fourth invasion of Scotland. This time, he intended to stike at the rebel centre of Galloway. Passing through Ecclefechen and Lochmander, he captured the small castle of Caerlaverlock. At Twymholm near Kirkcudbright, Red Comyn was worsted in a skirmish and the English camped around the castle of Caerlaverlock, at the mouth of the Nith, covering the gentle hills with brightly coloured tents and huts. Edward's troops captured Sir Robert Keith, the hereditary Marshall of Scotland who would, in time, take such an important role in Bannockburn. Edward drove off the Scottish army there commanded by the Earl of Buchan. Apart from these modest gains the campaign was a failure for the English, and by the end of August they were back in Carlisle.

He came again the next year (1301) with two armies, angered by a letter from Rome informing him that Scotland was a papal fief.

"By God's blood!" he swore, "I will not be at rest, but with all my strength I will defend my right."

Bruce and Wallace, from a stained glass
[Bruce and
Wallace] One army marched north from Carlisle, searched out Robert Bruce's position in the south-west, but met with little success as, once again, the Scottish army simply melted away before the larger English force. Edward himself led the other force up the Tweed valley, through the Selkirk forest, (a forest in which Wallace had been rumored to hide), to Clydesdale and then to Linlithgow.

But this campaign was no more effective and he wintered at Linlithgow with his young queen, not so much defeated by battle - as by lack of one. An English chronicler remarked, "As none of the Scots would resist, nothing glorious or even worthy of praise was achieved." Here, he set about organising the Scottish Marches on the Welsh model. Castles were constructed (which Bruce would later tear down), and garrisons were installed in the lands south of the Fourth, and sheriffs and wardens were appointed to administer the area. Now deserted by Pope Boniface and Philip of France, who seemed to find sympathy for Scotland a tedious complication of the quarrell between them, the Scots were dispirited and without direction. Clearly Wallace's influence was missed. Robert the Bruce, after some resistance, submitted and swore fealty to Edward, perhaps persuaded by his dying father, and certainly by the Guardian's continued allegiance to Toom Tabard (John Balliol). If he hoped that Edward would support the Bruce claim to the throne, as it appeared on the surface he might, and destroy both the Balliol and Comyn factions, he received no written promise of it. Edward was again forced to leave Scotland to deal with a controversy over the French church.

He was not able to return until 1303. Once again free from the convoluted intricacies and plots of church and state, he returned to Scotland when his viceroy and a body of spearmen were routed at Roslin by the Red Comyn and Simon Fraser of Tweeddale. He marched north in fury crossing the Forth river on three prefabricated floating bridges. From the captured Scottish stronghold of Stirling he marched directly north and took Perth. By September his troops were resting on the banks of the Moray Firth. He continued his advance, crushing all resistance that didn't retreat and burning barns and crops as he went. Brechin castle held out against the Royal siege engines for five weeks, but in the end this brave resistance too fell. The frightened Scottish lords now began to sue for peace, leaving Wallace to stand alone with solitary raids.

Edward's resolve was so fierce that as he approached Dumferline, the Red Comyn, Sir John de Soules, and the bishops of Glasgow and St. Andrews came before him in fear, accepting their lives and freedom in return for an oath of allegiance. Sir Simon Fraser did not appear and would later pay as Wallace did - with his life.

With Edward's clear control over all their actions, the Scots lords met in parliament at St. Andrews in March, 1304, under the direction of Edward, and until a permanent constitution could be established Robert Bruce of Carrick and Bishop Wishart were appointed dual Guardians of the Realm of Scotland, with the English baron John de Mowbray. Eighteen months later, guided by Wishart, Edward framed his 'Ordinances for the Establishment of the Land of Scotland', proposing a government of twenty Englishmen and ten elected representatives of Scottish estates. It may have been a statesmanlike plan, under swordpoint, but it was premature in its vision of a united Scottish and English government, but it was based upon the presumptious premise that Scotland was "justly" an English province, a feudal barony and not a people intent, or deserving liberty.

Wallace Returns from his Mysterious Absence

A view of Stirling Castle
[Stirling Castle] In May, 1305, Sir William Oliphant and about fifty gallant Scots valiantly held out in Stirling Castle. Edward accepted this challenge with avid delight. Great crowds of Scots and English watched the monumentous seige of Stirling castle, and in Stirling town a window had been cut into the wall of a house so that the young English Queen and her ladies could be entertained without discomfort. In August of that year, the walls at last fell to hugh seige engines known as "War-Wolf" and "All-the-World", and Oliphant and his men were led before the King to kneel in supplication, naked except for their smocks.

In that same month, Wallace returned, if indeed he ever left Scotland, though there is some evidence to support that he went to France, (some say he went also to Norway), to secure the support of Philip and the Pope. It is mystifying and strange that Wallace gathered no army in the seven years since Falkirk, and this may suggest that Falkirk had had a traumatic effect on his self confidence, as evidenced by the chroniclers remark that Wallace had "gone into a deep depression", after Falkirk and giving up the Guardianship. Some go as far as to suggest that Andrew de Moray rather than he had been the principle organiser and commander of the original resistance - or that de Moray had at the very least, been a vital and integral part of the Wallace-de Moray (Murray) leadership of Scotland. But Wallace also appears to have been jealsously thwarted by certain nobles and lords in Scotland with whom, according to documents found upon him at his capture, he was in confederation - one such man was Sir John Menteith. Whatever Wallace's true role in the first part of the Scottish resistance, he was and had remained an example to men like Oliphant and Simon Fraser, refusing the advice of those who would have him submit.

"I and my companions who are willing to cleave to me," he said, "will stand for the liberty of Scotland".

And he had yet to make his, unwilling, but greatest inspirational contribution to that cause.

Capture and Barbarous Execution

On 5 August, 1305, he was betrayed by one of his own compatriots near Glasgow, Scots knight Sir John Menteith, who was said to have turned over a bannock (a flat oat-cake) on a tavern table, a sign to the English that the brigand was among them. Wallace was taken prisoner, and then tried in a 'mock show trial' in England.

Wallace was paraded, like a circus animal, through the streets of London, behind its mayor and sheriffs, and on 23 August, 1305, he stood "trial" in Westminster Hall as a traitor, charged with breaking his oath of fealty. The fact that Wallace had never taken such an oath to Edward or the English, was of no consequence, and the charge was derisory. He was an example to be set to all of Scotland - to disobey the word of Edward, was to mean death to any Scot who dared such insolence. His crime was his challenge to Edward, the unity of the Scottish people, and the victory of Stirling Bridge. He was charged with the illegal assumption of Gaurdianship, despite his appointment and public acceptance of it, and he was charged with the murder of the Sheriff of Lanark, Hazelrig, the invasion of England, the burning of English monasteries and the bogus crime of the murder of nuns.

His death was to be an obscene spectacle and allowed him little dignity. He was dragged on a hurdle from Westminster, four miles to the Tower, and thence to a copse of elms at Smithfield. He was hanged, cut down whilst still alive, drawn - his abdomem opened by dull blades, his entrails pulled violently out and burnt before his own eyes, and cruelly emasculated before his pained and dying eyes. After all this, finally, mercifully he was beheaded. His head was impaled upon a pike and placed above the London Bridge. His remaining body was further mutilated by being quartered and was exposed by the open sewer of Newcastle, another at Berwick, a third at Perth, and the fourth quarter of Scotland's greatest patriot was put on display at Aberdeen. Justice demanded no less, said the Lanercost chronicler.

"Buthcher of thousands, threefold death be thine,
So shall the English from thee gain relief.
Scotland, be wise, and choose a nobler chief."

Seven months later, that nobler chief chose himself, in the person Robert the Bruce. Bruce would, in time, go on to fulfill Wallace's dreams of an independent Scotland; a Scottish people free of English tyranny, oppression and dominance, would be a reality - if only for a time. But it would not be an easy struggle for Robert Bruce, and his story, in this author's opinion, is as inspiring and patriotic as any Scottish figure to ever live.

Wallace's Legacy

Sir William Wallace
[Wallace] Wallace was followed by and relied upon 'the common folk' of Scotland, a fact which was both his greatest strength, and in the end his biggest weakness. Wallace had earned the respect and the love of the people of Scotland, if not their nobles. He was a patriot and a man of the people - something no Scot has since become so clearly identified with. In his fierce resistance to the all-powerful Edward I, 'Hammer of the Scots', he won the fierce malignant hate of that English king. The Scottish feudal aristocracy could not understand Wallace, and believed he could and should conciliate to Edward. Wallace represented the masses - the people and the freedom in their hearts and in their hopes, something not even the loyal and devoted Scottish nobles could understand. What they saw as politics and and negotiation, Wallace saw as their weakness - and he attacked the English with fury and with extreme prejudice - to drive them out and to win his country's freedom from their oppression and tyranny.

Hence, Edward and the English people came to regard Wallace not only as their most formidible foe, but as a serious and annoying obstacle to the establishment of English domination in Scotland. Edward's cruel and unchivalrous treatment of Wallace, his judicial murder of his most gallant enemy, made Wallace even more identifiable as the single most patriot of a free Scotland. If Edward had intended Wallace's barbarous execution as a deterrent to further Scottish resistance - his own viscious and cruel actions, both in war against the Scots, and in his treatment of Wallace, had the opposite result amongst the people of Scotland. It unified their resolve and fortified them, and under the proper leader, Robert Bruce, to fight for their independence with their very lives having seen what lay in store for them as English feudal subjects.

The Wallace Memorial
Robert the
There was a lapse of seven years from 1298 (afer Falkirk) to Wallace's capture in 1305. But even in this time, where Wallace took less of an active role in Scottish resistance, his influence was still an inspiration to the Scottish people. After Falkirk he never commanded a Scottish army in the field, but his influence was incalculable, and to him more than to any other man was due the growth of that spirit of determined hostility to English domination which became at last almost second nature to the common folk of Scotland, and which had far-reaching results in the history of the two nations. And though his name does not occur very often in the history of events in the world outside Scotland, his legend, his name and his message of freedom and resistance to a foreign oppressor has and will remain a beacon of light, in the darkness of attempted tyranny and a testament to the will of a people - the Scots - to be free at all costs.

The End.
Next in"The Bruce, Bannockburn and Beyond"

Future king, Robert Bruce I of Scotland
[Robert the
In 1306 , Robert Bruce had himself secretly crowned King of Scotland and went into hiding. In a few short years, after much trial and near failure, the Scots rose again in arms under Robert I of Scotland and the spirit and resistance to English tryanny taking deeper root. This entire history is told in a sequel to "Falkirk and Wallace's execution", in a ten chapter in-depth "mini-book" of Robert Bruce,"The Bruce, Bannockburn and Beyond" web site.

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