William Wallace

 
Born about 1270
Elderslie, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Died 23 August 1305 (aged 31–33)
Smithfield, London, England
Cause of death Decapitation
Occupation Commander in the Scottish Wars of Independence
Children None recorded
Parents Allan Wallace (father), Margaret Crauford (mother)

Sir William Wallace (Medieval Gaelic: Uilliam Uallas; modern Scottish Gaelic: Uilleam Uallas; 1272 or 1273 – 23 August 1305) was a Scottish knight and landowner who became one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence.[1]

Along with Andrew Moray, Wallace defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, and was dubbed the Guardian of Scotland, serving until his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk. In 1305, Wallace was captured in Robroyston near Glasgow and handed over to King Edward I of England, who had him hanged, drawn, and quartered for high treason.

Since his death, Wallace has obtained an iconic status far beyond his homeland. He is the protagonist of the 15th century epic poem The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace, Knight of Elderslie, by Blind Harry. The poem is near entirely fictional, describing him adopting the disguises of a monk, an old woman, and a potter while a fugitive; and travelling to France to enlist support for the Scottish cause, there defeating two French champions as well as a lion.

Wallace is also the subject of literary works by Sir Walter Scott and Jane Porter. The best known depiction of Wallace is in the Academy Award winning epic film Braveheart, which was directed by Mel Gibson and based upon a screenplay by Randall Wallace. Randall Wallace has acknowledged Blind Harry’s poem as a major source of inspiration for the film.

Contents

 

Background

Although he was a minor member of the Scottish nobility, little is known for certain of William Wallace’s family history. The early members of the family are recorded as holding estates at Riccarton, Tarbolton, and Auchincruive in Kyle, and Stenton in Haddingtonshire.[2] They were vassals of James Stewart, 5th High Steward of Scotland as their lands fell within his territory.

The seal attached to a letter sent to the Hanse city of Lübeck in 1297[3] appears to give his father’s name as Alan.[4][5] His brothers Malcolm and John are known from other sources.[6] An Alan Wallace appears in the Ragman Rolls as a crown tenant in Ayrshire, but there is no additional confirmation.[7] The traditional view is that Wallace’s birthplace was Elderslie in Renfrewshire, but it has been recently claimed to be Ellerslie in Ayrshire. There is no contemporary evidence linking him with either location, although both areas were linked to the wider Wallace family.[8]

Around the time of Wallace’s birth, King Alexander III[9] ruled Scotland. His reign had seen a period of peace and economic stability. Alexander had maintained a positive relationship with the kings of England, while successfully fending off continuing English claims to sovereignty over Scotland. In 1286, however, Alexander died after falling from his horse, and none of his children survived him.

The Scottish lords declared Alexander’s four-year-old granddaughter, Margaret, Maid of Norway, as Queen. As she was still a child, the Scottish lords set up an interim government to administer Scotland until Margaret came of age. King Edward I of England took advantage of the instability by negotiating the Treaty of Birgham and betrothed Margaret to his son, Edward, Prince of Wales. The treaty stipulated, however, that Scotland would preserve its status as a separate kingdom. In 1290, however, Margaret fell ill and died at only seven years of age on her way from her native Norway to Scotland. Infighting over the Scottish throne began almost immediately.

With Scotland threatening to descend into civil war, King Edward was invited to arbitrate by the Scottish nobility. Before the process could begin, he insisted, despite his previous promise to the contrary, that all of the contenders recognise him as Lord Paramount of Scotland. After some initial resistance, all, including John Balliol and Robert de Brus, 5th Lord of Annandale accepted this precondition. Finally, in early November 1292, at a great feudal court held in the castle at Berwick-upon-Tweed, judgement was given in favour of John Balliol having the strongest claim in law. Formal announcement of the judgement was given by King Edward on 17 November.

Edward proceeded to reverse the rulings of the Scottish Lords and even summoned King John Balliol to stand before the English court as a common felon[citation needed]. John was a weak king and not the strong leader Scotland needed in these troubled times. Thus he came to be known as “Toom Tabard”, or “Empty Coat”. Balliol supporters including Fraser, Bishop of St. Andrews and John Comyn, Earl of Buchan appealed to King Edward to keep the promise he had made in the Treaty of Birgham and elsewhere to respect the customs and laws of Scotland. Edward repudiated the treaty, saying he was no longer bound by it.[10] John renounced his homage in March 1296 and by the end of the month Edward stormed Berwick-upon-Tweed, sacking the then-Scottish border town. He slaughtered almost all of his opponents who resided there, even if they fled to their homes. In April, the Scots were defeated at the Battle of Dunbar in East Lothian and by July Edward had forced John to abdicate at Stracathro near Montrose. Edward then instructed his officers to receive formal homage from some 1,800 Scottish nobles (many of the rest being prisoners of war at that time). King Edward had previously removed the Scottish coronation stone, from Scone Palace, and taken it to Westminster Abbey.

Military career

Early exploits

Blind Harry alleges that Wallace’s father was killed along with his brother John in a skirmish at Loudoun Hill in 1291 by the notorious Lambies, who came from the Clan Lamont.

According to Ayrshire legend, however, two English soldiers challenged Wallace in the Lanark marketplace regarding his poaching of fish. According to John Strawhorn, author of The History of Irvine, the legend has Wallace fishing on the River Irvine. He had been staying with his uncle in Riccarton. A group of English soldiers approached, whereupon the leader of the band came forward and demanded the entire catch as the price of not arresting him. Even after Wallace offered half of his fish, the English refused such a meager bribe and threatened to kill Wallace if he refused. Wallace allegedly floored the approaching soldier with his fishing rod and took up the assailant’s sword. The argument had escalated into a brawl and two English soldiers were killed. Blind Harry places this incident along the River Irvine with five soldiers being killed.[11] The authorities issued a warrant for his arrest shortly thereafter. According to a plaque outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in Dundee, however, William Wallace began his war for independence by killing the son of the English governor of Dundee, who had made a habit of bullying Wallace and his family. This story perhaps has more weight because it is speculated that Wallace may have attended what is now the High School of Dundee, and spent some of his time growing up in the nearby village of Kilspindie. In 1291, or 1292, William Wallace killed the son of an English noble, named Selby, with a dirk. No actual evidence exists for any of this however.

Wallace first enters history when he assassinated William de Heselrig, the English High Sheriff of Lanark, in May 1297. According to later legend this was to avenge the Sheriff’s murder of Marion Braidfute of Lamington — the young heiress Wallace had recently married. Soon, he achieved victory in skirmishes at Loudoun Hill (near Darvel, Ayrshire) and Ayr; he also fought alongside Sir William Douglas the Hardy at Scone, routing the English justiciar, William Ormesby from cities such as Perth, Glasgow, Scone and Dundee.[citation needed]

Supporters of the uprising suffered a major blow when Scottish nobles agreed to personal terms with the English at Irvine in July. In August, Wallace left Selkirk Forest with his followers to join Andrew Moray, who had begun another uprising, at Stirling, where they prepared to meet the English in battle.

As Wallace’s ranks swelled, information obtained by John de Graham prompted Wallace to move his force from Selkirk Forest to the Highlands;[citation needed] there is no historical evidence to suggest that Wallace ever left the Lowlands area of Scotland other than his visit to France and his trip to the scaffold in London.

Battle of Stirling Bridge

On September 11, 1297, Wallace’s forces won the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Although vastly outnumbered, the Scottish forces led by Wallace and Andrew Moray routed the English army. John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey‘s professional army of 3,000 cavalry and 8,000 to 10,000 infantry met disaster as they crossed over to the north side of the river. The narrowness of the bridge prevented many soldiers from crossing together (possibly as few as three men abreast), so while the English soldiers crossed, the Scots held back until half of them had passed and then killed the English as quickly as they could cross. The infantry were sent on first, followed by heavy cavalry. But the Scots’ sheltron formations forced the infantry back into the advancing cavalry. A pivotal charge, led by one of Wallace’s captains, caused some of the English soldiers to retreat as others pushed forward, and under the overwhelming weight, the bridge collapsed and many English soldiers drowned. Some[12] claim that the bridge was rigged to collapse by the action of a man hidden beneath the bridge. The Scots won a significant victory which boosted the confidence of their army. Hugh Cressingham, Edward’s treasurer in Scotland, died in the fighting and it is reputed that his body was subsequently flayed and the skin cut into small pieces as tokens of the victory. The Lanercost Chronicle records that Wallace had “a broad strip [of Cressingham’s skin] … taken from the head to the heel, to make therewith a baldrick for his sword”.[13] William Crawford led 400 Scottish heavy cavalry to complete the action by running the English out of Scotland. It is widely believed that Moray died of wounds suffered on the battlefield sometime in the winter of 1297, but an inquisition into the affairs of his uncle, Sir William Moray of Bothwell, held at Berwick in late November 1300, records he was “slain at Stirling against the king.”

Upon his return from the battle, Wallace was knighted[14] along with his second-in-command John de Graham,[citation needed] possibly by Robert the Bruce,[15] and Wallace was named “Guardian of Scotland and Leader of its armies”.

The type of engagement used by Wallace was contrary to the contemporary views on chivalric warfare whereby strength of arms and knightly combat was espoused in the stead of tactical engagements and strategic use of terrain. The battle thus embittered relations between the two antagonistic nations, whilst also perhaps providing a new departure in the type of warfare with which England had hitherto engaged. The numerical and material inferiority of the Scottish forces would be mirrored by the English in the Hundred Years’ War, who, in turn, abandoned chivalric warfare to achieve decisive victory in similar engagements such as Crécy and Poitiers.

In the six months following Stirling Bridge, Wallace led a raid into northern England. His intent was to take the battle to English soil to demonstrate to Edward that Scotland also had the power to inflict the same sort of damage south of the border.

Battle of Falkirk

Main article: Battle of Falkirk (1298)

A year later, Wallace lost the Battle of Falkirk. On 1 April 1298, the English invaded Scotland at Roxburgh. They plundered Lothian and regained some castles, but had failed to bring Wallace to combat. The Scots adopted a scorched earth policy in their own country, and English quartermasters’ failure to prepare for the expedition left morale and food low, but Edward’s search for Wallace would not end at Falkirk.

Wallace arranged his spearmen in four “schiltrons” — circular, hedgehog formations surrounded by a defensive wall of wooden stakes. The English however employed Welsh longbowmen which swung strategic superiority in their favour. The English proceeded to attack with cavalry, and breaking up the Scottish archers. Under the command of the Scottish nobles, the Scottish knights withdrew, and Edward’s men began to attack the schiltrons. It remains unclear whether the infantry shooting bolts, arrows and stones at the spearmen proved the deciding factor, although it is very likely that it was the arrows of Edward’s bowmen. Gaps in the schiltrons soon appeared, and the English exploited these to crush the remaining resistance. The Scots lost many men, including John de Graham. Wallace escaped, though his military reputation suffered badly.

By September 1298, Wallace had decided to resign as Guardian of Scotland in favour of Robert the Bruce, Earl of Carrick and future king, and John Comyn of Badenoch, King John Balliol’s brother-in-law. Bruce became reconciled with King Edward in 1302, while Wallace spurned such moves towards peace.

According to Harry, Wallace left with William Crawford in late 1298 on a mission to the court of King Philip IV of France to plead the case for assistance in the Scottish struggle for independence. Backing this claim is a surviving letter from the French king dated 7 November 1300 to his envoys in Rome demanding that they should help Sir William.[16]

In 1303, Squire Guthrie was sent to France to ask Wallace and his men to return to Scotland, which they did that same year. They slipped in under the cover of darkness to recover on the farm of William Crawford, near Elcho Wood. Having heard rumours of Wallace’s appearance in the area, the English moved in on the farm. A chase ensued and the band of men slipped away after being surrounded in Elcho Wood. Here, Wallace took the life of one of his men that he suspected of disloyalty, in order to divert the English from the trail.[citation needed]

In 1304 he was involved in skirmishes at Happrew and Earnside.

Plaque marking the place of Wallace’s trial in Westminster Hall

Capture and execution

Wallace evaded capture by the English until 5 August 1305 when John de Menteith, a Scottish knight loyal to Edward, turned Wallace over to English soldiers at Robroyston near Glasgow. Wallace was transported to London and taken to Westminster Hall, where he was tried for treason and was crowned with a garland of oak to suggest he was the king of outlaws. He responded to the treason charge, “I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject.” With this, Wallace asserted that the absent John Balliol was officially his king.

Following the trial, on 23 August 1305, Wallace was taken from the hall, stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to the Elms at Smithfield. He was hanged, drawn and quartered — strangled by hanging but released while he was still alive, eviscerated and his bowels burnt before him, beheaded, castrated, then cut into four parts. His preserved head (dipped in tar) was placed on a pike atop London Bridge.[17] It was later joined by the heads of the brothers, John and Simon Fraser. His limbs were displayed, separately, in Newcastle upon Tyne, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Stirling, and Aberdeen.

A plaque stands in a wall of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital near the site of Wallace’s execution at Smithfield. The Wallace Sword, which supposedly belonged to Wallace, although some parts are at least 160 years later in origin, was held for many years in Loudoun Castle and is now in the Wallace Monument near Stirling.

In 2005, David R. Ross undertook a 450-mile walk in commemoration of the septicentennial of Wallace’s execution, followed by a memorial service in the Anglican church of St Bartholomew-the-Great as Wallace, having been found guilty of high treason, never had a requiem mass.[18]

Portrayal in fiction

The Wallace Monument, near Stirling Castle, commemorates the actions of William Wallace during the Wars of Independence

Comprehensive and historically accurate information was written about Wallace, but many stories are based on the 15th century minstrel Blind Harry’s epic poem, The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace, Knight of Elderslie, written around 1470. Historians either reject almost all of the parts of Blind Harry’s tale, or dismiss the entire composition. Although Blind Harry wrote from oral tradition describing events 170 years earlier, giving rise to alterations of fact, Harry’s is not in any sense an authoritative description of Wallace’s exploits. Indeed, hardly any of Harry’s work is supported by contemporary evidence including names from land charters, the Ragman Roll, and religious and public office holders and their archives. The poem, for example, describes a mythical incident, the “Barns of Ayr”, when 360 Scottish nobles, led by Wallace’s uncle, Ronald Crawford, were summoned by the English to a conference in Spring of 1297. As each passed through a narrow entry, a rope was dropped around his neck and he was hanged. The incident appears in the 1995 film Braveheart with even less accuracy, placing the event in Wallace’s childhood and ignoring the murder of his uncle Crawford.

In the early 19th century, Walter Scott wrote of Wallace in Exploits and Death of William Wallace, the “Hero of Scotland”, and Jane Porter penned a romantic version of the Wallace legend in The Scottish Chiefs in 1810. G. A. Henty wrote a novel in 1885 about this time period titled In Freedom’s Cause. Henty, a producer of Boys Own fiction who wrote for that magazine, portrays the life of William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, The Black Douglas, and others, while dovetailing the novel with historical fiction. Nigel Tranter wrote a historical novel titled The Wallace, published in 1975, which is said by academics to be more accurate than its literary predecessors.

A well-known account is presented in the film Braveheart, directed by and starring Mel Gibson, written by Randall Wallace, and filmed in both Scotland and Ireland. The film was a commercial and critical success, winning five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Braveheart

 

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mel Gibson
Produced by Mel Gibson
Alan Ladd, Jr.
Bruce Davey
Stephen McEveety
Written by Randall Wallace
Narrated by Angus Macfadyen
Starring Mel Gibson
Patrick McGoohan
Angus Macfadyen
Brendan Gleeson
Sophie Marceau
Ian Bannen
James Cosmo
Catherine McCormack
David O’Hara
Brian Cox
Gerard Kelly
Music by James Horner
Cinematography John Toll
Editing by Steven Rosenblum
Studio Icon Productions
The Ladd Company
Distributed by United States:
Paramount Pictures
International:
20th Century Fox
Release date(s) May 24, 1995 (1995-05-24)
Running time 177 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $53,000,000
Gross revenue $210,409,945

Braveheart is a 1995 epic historical drama film directed by and starring Mel Gibson. The film was written for the screen and then novelized by Randall Wallace. Gibson portrays Sir William Wallace, a 13th century Scottish knight who gained recognition when he came to the forefront of the First War of Scottish Independence by opposing King Edward I of England, also known as “Longshanks” (Patrick McGoohan).

The film won five Academy Awards at the 68th Academy Awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director, and was nominated for an additional five.

Contents

Plot

In 1280 A.D., after the King of Scotland dies without an heir, King Edward “Longshanks” (Patrick McGoohan) of England, occupies much of southern Scotland, declaring himself King of Scotland. His oppressive rule leads to the deaths of William Wallace‘s father and brother. Years later, after Wallace has been raised abroad by his uncle Argyle (Brian Cox), he returns to the highlands, intent on living as a farmer and avoiding trouble. Later, (Believed to be in the Scottish town of Lanark,) Wallace seeks out and courts Murron, whom he knew as a child in the village, and the two marry in secret to avoid the custom of primae noctis. After an English soldier attempts to rape Murron, Wallace rescues her, fighting off other soldiers while she escapes. However, while he manages to get away, Murron is captured and executed by the local magistrate. Wallace gets his retribution on the magistrate by killing him; his actions inspire the local villagers to rebel against the English and capture the town.

Wallace then leads an ever-growing army of rebels to successive victories, eventually annihilating the English Northern Army and capturing the town of York. Wallace is knighted “Lord Protector of Scotland” by Scottish nobles, who quarrel amongst themselves for his loyalty. He also wins the respect of young Robert the Bruce (Angus Macfadyen), the chief contender for the Scottish crown. Robert is dominated by his scheming father, who wishes to secure the throne of Scotland to his son by bowing down to the English, despite his son’s growing admiration for Wallace and his cause.

Longshanks sends Princess Isabelle of France (Sophie Marceau) with peace overtures to Wallace and the Scots while at the same time secretly planning a full-scale invasion of Scotland. Wallace flatly refuses the offer and Isabella, sympathetic to his cause, reveals that a large English army has already marched northward into Scotland. Eventually, she and Wallace begin a love affair, after which she becomes pregnant. Two Scottish nobles, Lochlan and Mornay, planning to submit to Longshanks, betray Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk the following year as a new English army invades Scotland. The Scots lose the battle and Wallace discovers that Robert the Bruce has aided the English, at the bidding of his father. However, tormented by his betrayal of Wallace, Robert helps him flee the English when they attempt to capture him on the battlefield.

For the next seven years, Wallace goes into hiding, fighting a guerrilla war against English forces with his remaining band of Scotsmen. In order to repay Mornay and Lochlan for their betrayals, Wallace brutally murders both. Unable to gain total victory by himself, Wallace eventually agrees to meet with Robert the Bruce in Edinburgh in an attempt to unite the clans behind him once again. However, Wallace is caught in a trap set by Robert’s father and the other nobles. Learning of his father’s treachery, the Bruce finally disowns him.

In London, Wallace is brought before the English magistrates and tried for high treason. The court sentences him to be “purified by pain.” Isabella begs a now infirm and dying King Edward to release Wallace, which he refuses. During his torture, a defiant Wallace refuses to cry out in pain, using the last strength in his body to shout, “Freedom!” Wallace is beheaded, his body is quartered, his arms and legs are sent to the four corners of Britain as a warning against rebellion, and his head is set on London Bridge.

In 1314, nine years after Wallace’s death, Robert the Bruce, now a king but still guilt-ridden over his betrayal of Wallace, leads a strong Scottish army and faces a ceremonial line of English troops at the fields of Bannockburn where the English are to accept him as the rightful ruler of Scotland. Just as he is about to ride to accept the English endorsement, the Bruce turns back to his troops. Invoking Wallace’s memory, he urges his charges to fight with him as they did with Wallace. Robert’s army then charges the English, who were not expecting a struggle. The film ends with Mel Gibson’s voice intoning that the Scottish won their freedom in this battle.

Cast

  • Mel Gibson as William Wallace, the film’s tragic hero. When his father and brother are killed fighting English soldiers, he leaves Scotland and travels abroad with his uncle. Upon returning, he marries his childhood friend Murron. After Murron is summarily executed by an English magistrate, Wallace leads an uprising demanding justice that leads to the Wars of Scottish Independence.
  • Patrick McGoohan as King Edward I of England, the primary antagonist. Nicknamed “Longshanks” for his height over 6 feet, the King is depicted as a tyrannical psychopath. He is also shown to be emotionally and physically abusive to his son. Determined to ruthlessly put down the Scottish uprising, he intends to ensure his rule over all of the Britain. Despite serving as the film’s villain, he and Wallace do not share a single scene throughout.
  • Angus Macfadyen as Robert, 17th Earl of Bruce, son of the elder Bruce and claimant to the throne of Scotland, he is inspired by Wallace’s dedication and bravery.
  • Brendan Gleeson as Hamish Campbell. Wallace’s childhood friend and captain in Wallace’s army, he is often short-sighted and thinks with his fists.
  • Sophie Marceau as Princess Isabelle of France, who sympathizes with the Scottish and admires Wallace.
  • Peter Hanly as Prince Edward, Prince of Wales. The son of King Edward and husband of Princess Isabelle through an arranged marriage. A homosexual, he suffers from emotional and physical abuse at the hands of his father. The Prince’s male lover Phillip is killed by King Edward by being thrown out of a castle window.
  • Ian Bannen as the elder Robert the Bruce. Unable to seek the throne personally due to his disfiguring leprosy, he sociopathically plots to make his son the next King of Scotland despite the claims of the Balliol clan to the throne.
  • James Cosmo as Campbell the Elder. The father of Hamish Campbell and captain in Wallace’s army.
  • Catherine McCormack as Murron MacClannough, the murdered wife of Wallace. Her name was changed from Blind Harry‘s Marion Braidfute in the script so as to not be confused with the Maid Marian of Robin Hood legend.
  • David O’Hara as Stephen. An Irish recruit to the Scottish army, he endears himself to Wallace with his humor, which may or may not be insanity, and his knowledge of guerrilla warfare. He professes to be the most wanted man on “my island,” and claims to speak to God personally. He becomes one of Wallace’s captains and quasi-bodyguard, saving his life several times.
  • Brian Cox as Argyle Wallace. A Roman Catholic priest and uncle to William. After the death of Wallace’s father and brother, Argyle takes Wallace as a child into his care. Promising to teach the boy how to use a sword after he learns to use his head, he teaches Wallace to speak and read fluent French and Latin. He is also described as having taken his nephew on pilgrimage to Holy See.
  • James Robinson as young William Wallace. The 10-year old actor reportedly spent weeks trying to copy Gibson’s mannerisms for the film.

Conception

The script for Braveheart was based mainly on Blind Harry‘s 15th century epic poem, The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace. In defending his script against criticism, Randall Wallace has said, “Is Blind Harry true? I don’t know. I know that it spoke to my heart and that’s what matters to me, that it spoke to my heart.”[1]

Production

Gibson’s company Icon Productions had difficulty raising enough money even if he were to star in the film. Warner Bros. was willing to fund the project on the condition that Gibson sign for another Lethal Weapon sequel, which he refused. Paramount Pictures only agreed to American and Canadian distribution of Braveheart after 20th Century Fox partnered for international rights.[2]

While the crew spent six weeks shooting on location in Scotland, the major battle scenes were shot in Ireland using members of the Irish Army Reserve as extras. To lower costs, Gibson had the same extras portray both armies. The opposing armies are made up of reservists, up to 1,600 in some scenes, who had been given permission to grow beards and swapped their drab uniforms for medieval garb.[3]

According to Gibson, he was inspired by the big screen epics he had loved as a child, such as Stanley Kubrick‘s Spartacus and William Wyler‘s The Big Country.

The film was shot in the anamorphic format with Panavision C- and E-Series lenses.[4]

Gibson toned down the film’s battle scenes to avoid an NC-17 rating from the MPAA.[5] The film was Rated R for “brutal medieval warfare.”

In addition to English being the film’s primary language, French, Latin, and Scottish Gaelic are also spoken.

Release and reception

Box office

On its opening weekend, grossed US$9,938,276 in the United States and $75.6 million in its box office run in the United States and Canada.[6] Worldwide, the movie grossed $210,409,945 and was the 18th highest grossing film of 1995.[6]

Reviews

Braveheart met with generally positive reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 77% with an average score of 7/10. The film’s depiction of the Battle of Stirling Bridge is often considered one of the best movie battles in cinema history.[7][8]

Around the world

The film generated huge interest in Scotland and in Scottish history, not only around the world, but also in Scotland itself. Fans come from all over the world to see the places in Scotland where William Wallace fought for Scottish freedom, and also to the places in Scotland and Ireland to see the locations used in the film. At a Braveheart Convention in 1997, held in Stirling the day after the Scottish Devolution vote and attended by 200 delegates from around the world, Braveheart author Randall Wallace, Seoras Wallace of the Wallace Clan, Scottish historian David Ross and Bláithín FitzGerald from Ireland gave lectures on various aspects of the film. Several of the actors also attended including James Robinson (Young William), Andrew Weir (Young Hamish), Julie Austin (the young bride) and Mhairi Calvey (Young Murron).

Academy Awards

The movie was nominated for 10 Oscars and won 5.

Award Person
Best Picture Mel Gibson
Alan Ladd, Jr.
Bruce Davey
Stephen McEveety
Best Director Mel Gibson
Best Cinematography John Toll
Best Sound Editing Lon Bender
Per Hallberg
Best Makeup Peter Frampton
Paul Pattison
Lois Burwell
Nominated:
Best Original Screenplay Randall Wallace
Best Original Score James Horner
Best Sound Andy Nelson
Scot Millan
Anna Behlmer
Brian Simmons
Best Film Editing Steven Rosenblum
Best Costume Design Charles Knode

Cultural effects

The film is credited by Lin Anderson, author of Braveheart: From Hollywood To Holyrood as having played a significant role in affecting the Scottish political landscape in the mid to late 1990s.[9]

Wallace Monument

Tom Church’s ‘Freedom’ statue.

In 1997, a 12-ton sandstone statue depicting Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart was placed in the car park of the Wallace Monument near Stirling, Scotland. The statue, which was the work of Tom Church, a monumental mason from Brechin,[10] included the word “Braveheart” on Wallace’s shield. The installation became the cause of much controversy, one local resident stated that it was wrong to “desecrate the main memorial to Wallace with a lump of crap.”[11] In 1998 the face on the statue was vandalised by someone wielding a hammer. After repairs were made, the statue was encased in a cage every night to prevent further vandalism. This only incited more calls for the statue to be removed as it then appeared that the Gibson/Wallace figure was imprisoned. The statue was described as “among the most loathed pieces of public art in Scotland.”[12] In 2008, the statue was returned to its sculptor to make room for a new visitor centre being built at the foot of the Wallace Monument.[13]

Historical accuracy

Randall Wallace, the writer of the novel, has acknowledged Blind Harry‘s 15th century epic poem The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace, Knight of Elderslie as a major source of inspiration for the film[14]. The poem however is near entirely fictional, and also includes Wallace adopting the disguises of a monk, an old woman, and a potter while a fugitive; then having him travel to France to enlist support for the Scottish cause, there defeating two French champions as well as a lion.

Historian Elizabeth Ewan describes Braveheart as a film which “almost totally sacrifices historical accuracy for epic adventure”.[15] The title of the film is also historically inaccurate as the “brave heart” refers in Scottish history to that of Robert the Bruce, and an attribution by William Edmondstoune Aytoun, in his poem Heart of Bruce, to Sir James the Good: “Pass thee first, thou dauntless heart, As thou wert wont of yore!”, prior to Douglas’s demise at the Battle of Teba in Andalusia.[16]

Historian Alex von Tunzelmann writing in The Guardian noted several historical inaccuracies: William Wallace never met Princess Isabella, as she married King Edward II three years after Wallace’s death (and was no older than ten when Wallace died), thus she never slept with him. Also, as her marriage to Edward took place after he had ascended the throne, she never held the title Princess of Wales. The infamous primae noctis decree, seen in action early in the film, was never used by King Edward.[17]

Historian Sharon Krossa notes that the film contains numerous historical errors, beginning with the wearing of belted plaid by Wallace and his men. She points out that in the period in question, “… no Scots … wore belted plaids (let alone kilts of any kind).”[18] Moreover, when Highlanders finally did begin wearing the belted plaid, it was not “in the rather bizarre style depicted in the film.”[18] She compares the inaccuracy to “… a film about Colonial America showing the colonial men wearing 20th century business suits, but with the jackets worn back-to-front instead of the right way around.”[18] She remarks “The events aren’t accurate, the dates aren’t accurate, the characters aren’t accurate, the names aren’t accurate, the clothes aren’t accurate—in short, just about nothing is accurate.”[19]

In 2009, the film was second on a list of “most historically inaccurate movies” in The Times.[20] The final scenes of the film also suggest that William Wallace and Edward I of England died at exactly the same moment, which is false. Wallace was executed in 1305 and Edward I died in 1307.

Portrayal of Robert the Bruce

Mel Gibson as William Wallace anachronistically wearing woad.

The portrayal of Robert I of Scotland (Robert the Bruce) in the film is considered by historians to be wildly inaccurate. In particular his taking the field on the English side in the battle of Falkirk is completely fictitious; Bruce was not present at Falkirk. Although he repeatedly changed alliances between the rebels and the English, mostly for political reasons, Bruce never betrayed Wallace directly, and Wallace was not known to have been a staunch supporter of Bruce. The film’s depiction of the Battle of Stirling Bridge shows the Scots facing off the English on a flat plain on equal terms, when in reality, it took place at a bridge where the outnumbered Scots were able to concentrate their forces on the overextended English who were in the process of crossing the bridge.

The film also has the Bruce starting the Battle of Bannockburn immediately after hearing of Wallace’s death. While news did travel more slowly in those days, it is doubtful that piece of news took nearly nine years to reach Scotland.

In the 2007 humorous non-fictional historiography An Utterly Impartial History of Britain, author John O’Farrell notes that Braveheart could not have been more historically inaccurate, even if a “Plasticine dog” had been inserted in the film and the title changed to William Wallace and Gromit.

Screenwriter Randall Wallace is very vocal about defending his script from historians who have dismissed the film as a Hollywood perversion of actual events.[citation needed] In the DVD audio commentary of Braveheart, director Mel Gibson acknowledges many of the historical inaccuracies but defends his choices as director, noting that the way events were portrayed in the film were much more “cinematically compelling” than the historical fact or conventional mythos. In truth the film is remarkably loyal to Randall Wallace’s book and much of the criticism aimed at the filmmakers could be more appropriately aimed at the author’s work, who opens his novel by claiming to be related to William Wallace in some way and yet displays little loyalty to the history or even the folklore of the time.

Portrayal of Prince Edward

The depiction of Prince Edward as an effeminate homosexual in the film drew accusations of homophobia against Gibson, particularly since the real Edward II fathered five children by two different women (although is strongly implied to have been at least bisexual due to his relationships with Piers Gaveston, apparently favouring Gaveston over even his wife in several regards, and later Hugh Despenser). Gibson replied that “The fact that King Edward throws this character out a window has nothing to do with him being gay. … He’s terrible to his son, to everybody.”[21] Gibson defended his depiction of Prince Edward as weak and ineffectual, saying,

I’m just trying to respond to history. You can cite other examples – Alexander the Great, for example, who conquered the entire world, was also a homosexual. But this story isn’t about Alexander the Great. It’s about Edward II.[22]

Gibson asserted that the reason that Longshanks kills his son’s lover is because the king is a “psychopath,”[23] and he expressed bewilderment that some filmgoers would laugh at this murder:

We cut a scene out, unfortunately . . . where you really got to know that character (Edward II) and to understand his plight and his pain. . . . But it just stopped the film in the first act so much that you thought, ‘When’s this story going to start?’[24]

Anglophobia

Braveheart has been accused of Anglophobia. The film was referred to in The Economist as “xenophobic”[25] and John Sutherland writing in the Guardian stated that, “Braveheart gave full rein to a toxic Anglophobia”.[26] Colin MacArthur, author of Brigadoon, Braveheart and the Scots: Distortions of Scotland in Hollywood Cinema calls it “a fuckin’ atrocious film”[27] and writes that a worrying aspect of the film is its appeal to “(neo-)fascist groups and the attendant psyche.”[28] According to The Times, MacArthur said “the political effects are truly pernicious. It’s a xenophobic film.”[27] The Independent has noted, “The Braveheart phenomenon, a Hollywood-inspired rise in Scottish nationalism, has been linked to a rise in anti-English prejudice”.[29]

 Soundtrack

The soundtrack for Braveheart was composed and conducted by James Horner, and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The soundtrack, comprising 77 minutes of background music taken from significant scenes in the film, was noticeably successful, and album co-producer Simon Rhodes produced a follow-up soundtrack in 1997 titled More Music from Braveheart. International and French versions of the soundtrack have also been released.[citation needed]

Braveheart (1995)

  1. Main Title (2:51)
  2. A Gift of a Thistle (1:37)
  3. Wallace Courts Murron (4:25)
  4. The Secret Wedding (6:33)
  5. Attack on Murron (3:00)
  6. Revenge (6:23)
  7. Murron’s Burial (2:13)
  8. Making Plans/ Gathering the Clans (1:52)
  9. “Sons of Scotland” (6:19)
  10. The Battle of Stirling (5:57)
  11. For the Love of a Princess (4:07)
  12. Falkirk (4:04)
  13. Betrayal & Desolation (7:48)
  14. Mornay’s Dream (1:15)
  15. The Legend Spreads (1:09)
  16. The Princess Pleads for Wallace’s Life (3:38)
  17. “Freedom”/The Execution/ Bannockburn (7:24)
  18. End Credits (7:16)

 See also

References

  1. ^ Anderson, Lin. “Braveheart: From Hollywood to Holyrood.” Luath Press Ltd. (2005): 27.
  2. ^ Michael Fleming (2005-07-25). “Mel tongue-ties studios”. Daily Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117926430.html
  3. ^ Braveheart 10th Chance To Boost Tourism In Trim, Meath Chronicle, August 28, 2003 . Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  4. ^ Chris Probst (1996-06-01). “Cinematic Transcendence”. American Cinematographer (Los Angeles, California, United States: American Society of Cinematographers) 77 (6): 76. ISSN 0002-7928
  5. ^ “Mel talks to Seoras Wallace”. Magic Dragon Multimedia. http://www.magicdragon.com/Wallace/Brave5.html. Retrieved 2010-06-19. 
  6. ^ a b “Braveheart (1995)”. Boxofficemojo.com. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=braveheart.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-27. 
  7. ^ “The best — and worst — movie battle scenes”. CNN. 2007-03-30. http://www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/Movies/03/29/movie.battles/index.html. Retrieved 2007-04-01. 
  8. ^ Noah Sanders (2007-03-28). “Great Modern Battle Scenes – Updated!”. Double Viking. http://www.doubleviking.com/great-modern-battle-scenes-4361-p.html. Retrieved 2007-04-02. 
  9. ^ Boztas, Senay (2005-07-31). “Wallace movie ‘helped Scots get devolution’ – [Sunday Herald]”. Braveheart.info. http://www.braveheart.info/news/2005/sunday_herald/2007-07-31/51063.html. Retrieved 2009-02-27. 
  10. ^ “Wallace statue back at home of sculptor”. The Courier. 16 October 2009. http://www.thecourier.co.uk/output/2009/10/16/newsstory13954661t0.asp. Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  11. ^ By Hal G.P. Colebatch on 8.8.06 @ 12:07AM. “The American Spectator”. Spectator.org. http://www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=10191. Retrieved 2009-02-27. 
  12. ^ Kevin Hurley (19 September 2004). “They may take our lives but they won’t take Freedom”. Scotland on Sunday. http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/williamwallace/They-may-take-our-lives.2565370.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2009. 
  13. ^ “Wallace statue back with sculptor”. BBC News. 16 October 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/tayside_and_central/8310614.stm. Retrieved 16 October 2009. 
  14. ^ Anderson, Lin. Braveheart: From Hollywood to Holyrood. Luath Press Ltd. (2005), p. 27.
  15. ^ Ewan, Elizabeth. “Braveheart.” American Historical Review 100, no. 4 (October 1995): 1219–21.
  16. ^ Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers and Other Poems / Aytoun, W. E. (William Edmondstoune), 1813-1865
  17. ^ von Tunzelmann, Alex (2008-07-30). “Braveheart: dancing peasants, gleaming teeth and a cameo from Fabio”. The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2008/jul/30/3. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  18. ^ a b c Krossa, Sharon L.. “Braveheart Errors: An Illustration of Scale”. http://medievalscotland.org/scotbiblio/bravehearterrors.shtml. Retrieved 2009-06-15. 
  19. ^ Krossa, Sharon L.. “Regarding the Film Braveheart”. http://www.medievalscotland.org/scotbiblio/braveheart.shtml. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  20. ^ White, Caroline (August 4, 2009). “The 10 most historically inaccurate movies”. London: The Times. http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article6738785.ece. Retrieved 2009-08-05. 
  21. ^ “Gay Alliance has Gibson’s ‘Braveheart’ in its sights”, Daily News, May 11, 1995, http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/gossip/1995/05/11/1995-05-11_gay_alliance_has_gibson_s__b.html, retrieved February 13, 2010 
  22. ^ The San Francisco Chronicle, May 21, 1995, “Mel Gibson Dons Kilt and Directs” by Ruth Stein
  23. ^ Matt Zoller Seitz. “Mel Gibson talks about Braveheart, movie stardom, and media treachery”. Dallas Observer. http://www.dallasobserver.com/Issues/1995-05-25/film/film_3.html. Retrieved 2008-01-27. 
  24. ^ USA Today, May 24, 1995, “Gibson has faith in family and freedom” by Marco R. della Cava
  25. ^ “Economist.com”. Economist.com. 2006-05-18. http://www.economist.com/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=6941798. Retrieved 2009-02-27. 
  26. ^ “John Sutherland”. The Guardian (London). 2003-08-11. http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2003/aug/11/religion.world. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  27. ^ a b “Braveheart battle cry is now but a whisper”. London: Times Online. 2005-07-24. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article546776.ece. Retrieved 2009-02-27. 
  28. ^ Colin, McArthur (2003). Brigadoon, Braveheart and the Scots: Distortions of Scotland in Hollywood Cinema. I.B.Tauris. p. 5. ISBN 1860649270. http://books.google.com/books?id=XMOUo5VUkoQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Brigadoon,+Braveheart+And+The+Scots&ei=mYF6SYvYMaKIyASPsaG2Bg#PPA5,M1
  29. ^ Burrell, Ian (1999-02-08). “Most race attack victims `are white’: The English Exiles – News”. London: The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/most-race-attack-victims-are-white-the-english-exiles-1069506.html. Retrieved 2009-02-27. 

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