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William Wallace and Scotland's fight for Independence
Sir William Wallace and his stand against the English
It is not known exactly when William Wallace was born but many believe it was in 1270. He is regarded as Scotland's national hero because of his stand against the English King Edward I, and was responsible for many uprisings and discontent with the English occupation of Scotland. So much has been said and written about William Wallace through the ages that it is sometimes difficult to know what actually happened and exactly when certain events took place. Very little is known about William Wallace's early years but it is known that he was a knight's son and was probably born in Renfrewshire where his father had a large country estate.
William Wallace first became known to history in 1297, shortly after King Edward I of England had deposed the King of Scots, John Baliol, and stationed English troops in Scotland. This triggered off Wallace's first act against the English. With a few loyal Scots he attacked Lanark and managed to kill the English sheriff. After this, he was able to gather more troops and marched to Scone in Perthshire. By this time, other risings were breaking out in other parts of Scotland so King Edward sent the Earl of Surrey with an army to put them down. Surrey managed to force a Scottish army at Irvine to give up but Wallace and his men did not yield. They continued the uprising and laid siege to the castle of Dundee. William Wallace then joined his forces with Andrew de Moray and his men to meet the English near Stirling.
On 11 September 1297, having waited until half the advancing English army had crossed a narrow bridge over the River Forth, the combined Scottish force attacked and destroyed it. The Earl of Surrey and his troops then fled and the English garrisons were driven out. This action became known as the Battle of Stirling Bridge and led to the recovery of Scotland for a short time. Wallace and his army then crossed the border into England, besieged Carlisle and laid waste the country as far as Newcastle. When Wallace returned to Scotland he was knighted and became known as the Guardian of the Kingdom. He was tasked with restoring order and reviving trade but this proved difficult as many Scottish nobles were quickly becoming jealous of him and his popularity. When in the Summer of 1298 the English King Edward marched north with a large army to reconquer Scotland, Wallace was given little support and had to retreat past Edinburgh. Eventually, the Scots were completely defeated on a moor south of Falkirk. William Wallace managed to escape but he no longer had the same influence in Scotland. However, the resistance he had inspired continued. On 5 August 1305 Wallace was captured by the English at Glasgow and was taken to London's Westminster Hall where he was condemned to death having been declared a traitor.
The memory of Wallace's deeds became an inspiration for the Scots and even Robert Bruce, who became king just seven months after Wallace's death, was not considered a greater hero. Many legends and stories grew up about William Wallace and they were gathered into a book called The Life and Acts of Sir William Wallace more than 150 years after his death.