Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

A History of the County of Renfrew from the Earliest Times
Chapter VI.—Sir William Wallace

Sir William Wallace was born in the barony of Renfrew, at Elderslie, about two miles to the west of Paisley, where some remains of the Wallaces’ house, it is said, still exist. He was descended from Richard Wallace, who built Riccarton, near Kilmarnock, upon land probably given to him by the first Steward, and appears as one of the witnesses to the charter by which Walter conveyed to the Abbey of Paisley its first endowments. Adam, his grandson, had two sons, Adam and Malcolm. The elder succeeded to the lands of Riccarton, while the younger obtained the lands of Elderslie in the barony of Renfrew. Malcolm married Margaret, daughter of Sir Reginald Craufurd, sheriff of Ayr, by whom he had three sons, Andrew, William, and John. The second was the Patriot.

The date of his birth is uncertain ; but may probably be set down at about the year 1270. He is said to have been educated by his uncle, who was priest of Dunipace, and afterwards at Dundee, but it is quite as likely that he attended the neighbouring monastery of Paisley, and received his education there. The whole of his early years, however, are involved in obscurity, and the accounts given by Fordun and the Minstrel are not always to be trusted. Both of them wrote considerably later, and often mistake legends for facts. The chronology of the latter is in several important particulars obviously wrong.

The first historical fact we have in connection with Wallace is the riot at Lanark, in May, 1297. Wallace had then arrived at man’s estate. According to one account, he had been married a year. His wife, it is said, was Marion, daughter of Hugh Bradfute of Lammington, an orphan. Though urged by Hazelrigg, the sheriff of the county, to marry his son, she had preferred Wallace, and had been united to him privately. On account of this, Hazelrigg and Sir Robert Thorn, an English knight, it is said, observing him leave the church one Sunday morning, insulted him ; whereupon a riot broke out, and Hazelrigg was slain. That is the Minstrel’s account. Wyntoun says nothing about Wallace’s wife, and gives an entirely different account of the affair.

According to him, a quarrel arose in the streets of Lanark between Wallace and an English soldier, who found fault with him for being clad in green and carrying a huge sword. The soldier belonged to a party of English troops who were gathered together in the market-place, whom, after collecting his followers. Wallace attacked. Overpowered by numbers, Wallace withdrew and found refuge in the house of “ hys lemman,” who helped him to escape. While the scuffle was going on, the English sheriff was absent, but on learning what had happened, he brutally put the “ lemman ” to death. Wallace, on hearing what the sheriff had done, returned with thirty men or more, and breaking into the place where Hazelrigg slept, slew him.

The story of the marriage is regarded by many as fiction, though by some it is accepted as true. The sole witness for it is the Minstrel, who in all probability invented it for the purposes of his story. It is not unlikely that the details given by Wyntoun are quite as unreliable.

As to the slaughter of the sheriff of Lanarkshire at this time in Lanark there is undeniable evidence. It is referred to in an inquiry made in 1304 respecting certain moneys in the official custody of the late Hugh de Cressingham which had gone amissing after his death at Stirling, and had been placed, it was stated, in Warkworth Castle in August before his death for fear of the Scots, “ who had begun to rise against the King [of England] and had killed the sheriff of Lanark.” In the Scalacronica, Sir Thomas de Gray, who wrote some sixty years after the event, states that in May, 1297, when his father was in garrison at Lanark, Wallace fell at night upon the English quarters, slew the sheriff, and set the place on fire. He adds that in the conflict his father was wounded and left on the street for dead. According to the Chronicle of Lanercost, the affair did not rise out of a mere accidental brawl, but was deliberately planned by the Bishop of Glasgow and the Steward. The only difficulty of any importance about the matter is in respect to the sheriff’s name. At the time, Andrew de Livingstone is named as the sheriff of Lanark. The same Andrew appears on the Ragman Roll as a Lanarkshire freeholder, and in May, 1297, he was one of the barons south of the Forth to whom Edward sent a verbal message. After this date his name does not occur, and it is quite possible that he met with his death in attempting to put down the riot. It is quite possible, too, that “ Heselrigg,” as Mr. Burnett suggests, was his territorial designation. No such name, however, occurs in the English records. The nearest approach to it is in the papers printed by Dr. Stevenson, where the sheriff is called “ William de Heselregg,” a not unlikely mistake by a copyist not conversant with Scottish names.

From Lanark Wallace is said to have gone to Biggar, twelve miles distant, and to have there received reinforcements under Sir John de Graham, son of the baron of Dundaff, in the district of Lennox. At Biggar the Minstrel makes Wallace fight a great battle, in which, with a force of 7,000 men, he wins a great victory over 60,000 Englishmen, commanded by the King in person, killing Edward’s two uncles, his second son, his brother Hugh, and the Earl of Kent; but as this battle is mentioned by no other writer, and for other reasons, one may safely say it was never fought. Harry’s story is probably a mangled account of the battle of Roslin, fought in February, 1303, nearly six years later.

On July 23, 1297, Sir Hugh de Cressingham reported to Edward that Wallace was still holding out in Selkirk Forest, a term used to designate a great part of the centre of Scotland south of the Forth. Before this, however, Wallace had been joined by Sir William Douglas, had driven Ormesby, Edward’s Justiciary, out of Scone, and captured Perth. His example had become infectious. The rising began to spread. Many of the highest personages in the kingdom joined him and his band, and the English government was practically upset. When the news reached London, Edward refused to believe it, and sent Antony Bek, Bishop of Durham, post haste “ with orders to find out the truth.” Bek went back as hurriedly as he came. Edward, however, before there was time for any news to reach him from Bek, had received other information, and had determined to take strong measures at once.

On June 4, he commissioned, with extraordinary and extensive powers, Henry Percy and Robert Clifford to lead an army into Scotland. Ten days later he sent Warenne, Earl of Surrey, after them with powers to act as guardian of the kingdom. Surrey loitered on the way and did not reach Berwick till July 27. Percy and Clifford, however, reached Carlisle on June 24, and moved forward immediately- Their route was by Lochmaben, Sanquhar and New Cumnock. They were at Ayr by July 2 or 3. Here, it is said, they expected to “ receive the men of Galloway to the King’s peace.”  “ But no one came to them,” says Hemingburgh, “ except a few horsemen, and after the space of three days it was told them that the army of the Scots was not more than four leagues away from them.” According to Rishanger, the Scots army was under the leadership of the Bishop of Glasgow, Andrew de Moray, the Steward, and William Wallace. Hemingburgh says that Douglas also was present.

Percy and Clifford expected a battle to ensue ; but the Scots drew off to Irvine Moor, followed by the English. Instead of a battle, there took place what is known as the Capitulation of Irvine. Hemingburgh represents the two armies as facing each other across a small lake, and says :—“ When the great men of the Scots who were there—that is to say, the Bishop of Glasgow, the Steward of Scotland, and William Douglas—saw that their cavalry was altogether unequal to ours, although as regarded infantry they were two to one, they took fright, and sent messengers over to our people, asking if there was any one present, on the part of the King of England, who was empowered to receive them to his peace. As soon as it was answered that it was so, that stout knight, Richard Lundy, who had never before taken fealty to our King, came over with his men, and submitted himself to the will of our King, saying he would fight no more along with people who were always quarrelling and changing their minds. When the other great men above-named saw this, they were consternated, and forthwith gave themselves up to the above-named Lord Henry Percy. Subject to the King’s approval, they were promised by a formal treaty that, on giving hostages, they should be safe in life and limb, lands and chattels, and receive full pardon for whatsoever they had done up to that day.” The treaty is dated July 7, 1297. Two days later, Robert de Brus Earl of Carrick, James the Steward of Scotland, Alexander de Lindseye, John, the brother of the Steward, who was killed the following year at Falkirk, and William de Douglas, confessed their rebellion against the King of England and placed themselves in his will.

Executed on the same day is another document by which the Bishop of Glasgow, the Steward, and Alexander de Lindseye became guarantees for the loyalty of the Earl of Carrick until he gave up his daughter Marjorie as a hostage. There is nothing to show that either Marjorie or any other of the hostages was delivered. The Scots nobles began to think of their country. They deferred sending the hostages in and demanded the restoration of their laws and old customs. Percy and Clifford do not seem to have pressed for the hostages. They appear to have been content with having dispersed the Scots forces. As late as August 1, Surrey is expecting the Bishop of Glasgow with the Steward and the Earl of Carrick at Berwick, on the Thursday before the day of St. Lawrence (August 10), to perform their covenants with Percy;1 but there is nothing to show that they fulfilled his expectation.

In the Capitulation of Irvine Wallace had no hand. His presence in the Scots army may account for the quarrelling to which Sir Richard Lundy referred. Instead of signing the treaty, he withdrew to the Forest of Selkirk, probably smiting on his way the palace of the Bishop of Glasgow as a rough protest against the Bishop and his friends. On July 23 it was reported to Edward that on the tenth of the month Wallace was lying in the forest with a large company, and that he was still there when the letter was written. After this his movements are for some time not clear. His friend Andrew de Moray was away in the far north raising the country and giving Edward’s lieutenants a considerable amount of trouble. Harry the Minstrel sends Wallace north to meet and assist him, and then brings him back to Dundee, where, while engaged in storming the castle, he hears that Surrey is advancing upon Stirling. Buchanan, following Hector Boece, on the other hand, says that Wallace was besieging the castle of Cupar when this intelligence reached him. The Minstrel may have confused the doings of Moray with those of Wallace, and Buchanan’s statement may be entirely wrong. But what is certain is that Moray and Wallace united their forces before the castle of Stirling, and that the following of both had by this time been very considerably reinforced. Speaking of Wallace, Knighton, the English chronicler, says, “ that the whole of the followers of the nobility had attached themselves to him ; and that although the persons of their lords were with the King of England, their heart was with Wallace, who found his army reinforced by so immense a multitude of the Scots that the community of the land obeyed him as their leader and their prince.”

Edward was in Flanders, but was keeping a sharp eye on affairs in Scotland. About the end of July he proposed to appoint Brian fitz Alan to the guardianship of Scotland, who, after some demur, accepted the appointment. Surrey and Cressingham, however, still continued at the head of the English forces, and towards the end of the month, Surrey, having apparently lost patience, set out on his march from Berwick to Stirling. As soon as the news of this reached Wallace, whether at Dundee or at Cupar, he hastened by forced marches to contest the passage of the Forth. When he arrived at the northern bank of the river, he found that Surrey was already in the town of Stirling and that his forces were drawn up on the opposite side of the Forth in the neighbourhood of Kildean, apparently for the protection of the ford— which is said to have at one time existed there, though there is none now— and in readiness to cross. Wallace at once took possession of the Abbey Craig, a rugged eminence on the north side of the Forth, about three hundred feet high, and posted his men, unobserved by Surrey’s army, on its northeastern slopes. The place was well chosen. It is within one of the loops of the Forth which sweeps almost all round it in a circle. Wallace is said to have had under him forty thousand footmen and one hundred and eighty men on horseback. On the English side were fifty thousand foot soldiers, and a thousand mounted men. The English were impatient to be led on; but the Steward and the Earl of Lennox intervened and desired that the battle might be postponed until they had reasoned with the Scottish commander. Their efforts, however, were unavailing. On September 10, the Steward informed Surrey that they had been unable to persuade their countrymen to yield, and that he and his friends would join him on the following day with sixty armed horsemen. In the evening the Earl of Lennox wounded an English forager, and a cry arose in the English camp that they were betrayed ; but the rest of the night passed quietly.

Next morning by sunrise five thousand English and Welsh footmen had crossed the bridge of Stirling, but finding that they were not followed by the rest of the army, they returned. The reason was that Surrey, an old man, was still asleep. Again the infantry crossed, but as the Steward and Lennox were seen approaching, they were recalled, and again they returned. The Steward and Lennox were almost unaccompanied. Their men, they said, would not follow them. Two friars were then sent to propose terms to Wallace. “ Go back,” he said, “ and tell yom’ masters, that we came here not to ask for peace, but to fight for our freedom. Let them come and attack us and they shall find us ready to beard them.” Incensed by this cool defiance, the English clamoured to be led across the bridge ; but Sir Richard de Lundy, who had deserted at Irvine, and was now in the English camp, pointed out that over the bridge two horsemen could scarcely ride abreast1 and that Wallace would take them in flank. He offered to show Surrey a ford where sixty might pass at a time, and undertook with fifty horse to come round upon the rear of the enemy while Surrey was crossing the bridge.

Cressingham refused to listen to this sound advice, and Surrey weakly yielded to him. The order was given, and the army began to defile across the bridge, Sir Marmaduke Twenge and Cressingham leading the van. No disposition was made to guard the foot of the bridge. Slowly the troops of the English crossed and marched out into the plain towards the hill. When nearly one half of the army had crossed, Sir Marmaduke gave orders for a charge, and made his heavy-armed cavalry spur their horses up the hill. Meantime Wallace had sent a part of his army round by the English right to seize the foot of the bridge, and the moment he saw the communication between the van and the rear of the English army cut off and retreat impossible, he hurled his force down from the heights upon Twenge and Cressingham before they had time to form. In a moment all was disorder and confusion. The English were seized with panic. Many of them were slain, multitudes of their horsemen threw themselves into the river and were drowned, vainly trying to rejoin Surrey, who stood upon the opposite bank, a helpless spectator of the ruin of the flower of his army. While this was going on, the English troops were still pouring on across the bridge, but only to be cut to pieces. The rout was complete. Cressingham was slain. Twenge saved himself by an act which has covered him with fame. A comrade bade him swim the river as a last hope, for Scots and English were mixed and crowded in an inextricable mellay. “ What,” he exclaimed, “ drown myself, when I can cut my way to the bridge! Never let such foul slander fall upon us.” So saying, he clave his way through the spears, crossed the bridge, and rejoined his friends with his nephew and standard-bearer. The Steward and Lennox, who had held aloof, now let loose their men against the fugitive English, and the slaughter was immense. Surrey left Twenge to protect the town and castle of Stirling, promising to relieve him in ten days, and then turning his back upon the disgraceful field, never drew rein till he was safe in Berwick. He then proceeded to join the Prince of Wales in the south, and left the country which had been entrusted to him, exposed to ravage and destruction. According to the story, the Scots flayed the body of the detested Cressingham and divided morsels of his skin among them as relics. Sir Marmaduke Twenge, in obedience to Surrey’s orders, threw himself with a number of knights into Stirling castle, the governor and a great part of the garrison of which had been slain at the bridge, and for a time endeavoured to hold it for Edward, but was at last compelled to surrender from want of food.

The victory was complete, and its effects were soon apparent. Knighton writes :—“ This awful beginning of hostilities roused the spirit of Scotland, and sunk the hearts of the English.” Dundee immediately surrendered to Wallace and rewarded his army with rich booty in arms and money. The castles of Edinburgh and Roxburgh were dismantled ; Berwick was evacuated on his approach, and Henry de Haliburton was sent to occupy and hold it. Soon not a single fortress or castle in the country remained in the hands of Edward ; and thus chiefly by the efforts of one man, and that man the Knight of Elderslie, though often thwarted and opposed by the nobility, the power of Edward in Scotland was broken and the people set free. Nor was that all. The victory at Stirling became a source of strength and inspiration in days to come. It hardened the courage of commons and nobles alike, and reminded them that the enemy who had been beaten there, might be beaten again.

Unfortunately, famine soon followed in the wake of the battle and the shouts of victory were hushed by the cries of those who were perishing from want. Much booty had been left by the English, but it was a poor substitute for the food they had helped to consume and destroy.

At this juncture Wallace took two steps, one of which may be regarded as a sign of his ability as a statesman. On October 11, 1297, a letter was sent to the towns of Lubeck and Hamburg, in the joint names of Andrew de Moray and William Wallace, “generals of the army of the kingdom and community of Scotland,” in which, after thanking the worthy friends of their country in these towns for services and attentions which the unfortunate condition of their country had prevented its people from duly acknowledging, they assure their distant trading friends that commerce with the ports of Scotland will now be restored, since by “ the blessing of God the country has now been recovered by war out of the power of the English.” The trade between these towns and Scotland was of ancient date, and with the country suffering from famine it was desirable that the trade with the Continent should be resumed as early as possible.

The other step taken by Wallace was probably dictated partly by the desire on the part of the people for revenge, and partly by the necessity he was under of gathering supplies for his troops. Anyhow, assembling his forces on Roslin Muir, he crossed the border, and according to Hemingburgh, was in Northumberland on October 18. Fixing his headquarters in the forest of Rothbury, he ravaged the whole of the fertile country round about and despatched the booty he gathered at convenient intervals to Scotland.

From the forest of Rothbury he moved to Durham, and was at Hexham on the 7th of November. The priory there had already been wasted, and when Wallace arrived at it, only three monks were found, who were cowering in a little oratory they had made for themselves in the ruins. Asked where their treasure was, they answered that the Scots had carried it off and that they who had taken it would know where to find it. Wallace, it is said, asked one of the monks to say mass and gave reverent attention to it. But when his back was turned, his rough followers plundered the altar of what sacred symbols were left.

Two writs of safe conduct—one to the prior and convent generally and the other to one of the monks—which he granted on this occasion, are preserved by Hemingburgh.3 The preamble in the one runs :—“ Andrew de Moray and William Wallace, generals of the army of the King of Scotland, in the name of the illustrious Prince, the Lord John, by the grace of God, King of Scotland, with the consent of the commons of the realm ”—and differs, as will be observed, from that of the letter to the towns of Lubeck and Hamburg, in which the Lord John, King of Scotland, is not mentioned.

Four days after his visit to Hexham, Wallace was at Carlisle, but against the stone walls by which it was surrounded his light-armed troops were of no use. We next hear of him at the Forest Kirk, which has been identified with the parish church of Carluke, where, according to Fordun, he was attended by Lennox, William Douglas, and others of the principal nobility, and elected Governor of Scotland, in name of King John, and with the consent of the community of Scotland. He then proceeded to reward his friends and fellow-soldiers. At Torphichen, on March 29, 1298, he conferred the Constableship of the Castle of Dundee upon Alexander Scrimischur or Scrymegeour, and invested him with certain lands on the hill behind the town in reward for his fidelity in bearing the royal banner of Scotland. The writ is still in existence, and is one of those “ luckily preserved morsels of real evidence which, in the minds of some, save the career of Wallace from being treated as that of a mythical person.”

In the meantime the English Government had taken steps to put down the “ rebellion.” But in order to follow the chain of events, it is requisite to go back to the day following that on which the battle of Stirling occurred. On that day, September 12, 1297, before he could have heard of his own supercession by Brian fitz Alan, and before the news of his defeat had time to reach London, a writ was issued in the name of the English King by the Prince of Wales directing the Earl of Surrey to remain in Scotland till the country was settled. Twelve days later (September 24) another was issued repeating the command, and ordering the sheriff of York and thirteen northern barons to join him with their forces. On the same day Robert de Clifford and Brian fitz Alan, “on account of some rumours which have reached our ears,” were commanded to join Surrey in Scotland and act in conjunction with him; but three days later Surrey was in York writing to the Chancellor of England about the garrison of Stirling Castle. The day before this (September 26) a letter was addressed to the principal Scottish nobles, in which the English Government praised their fidelity to the King, informed them that they were aware that Surrey was on his way to England, and directed them to join Brian fitz Alan with all their forces, horse and foot, in order to put down the rebellion of the Scots. The nobles addressed were John Comyn of Badenoch, Patrick Earl of Dunbar, Umfraville Earl of Angus, Alexander Earl of Menteith, Malise Earl of Strathearn, James the Steward of Scotland, John Comyn Earl of Buchan, Malcolm Earl of Lennox and William Earl of Sutherland ; Nicholas de la Haye, Ingelram de Umfraville, Richard Fraser, and Alexander de Lindeseye. The only nobles not addressed were the Earls of Caithness, Ross, Mar, Athole, Fife, and Carrick.

The despatch of this letter was politic. It praises a fidelity which probably did not exist, and passes over in silence the assistance which the Steward and Lennox had given to Surrey, when “ on his way to England,” as his flight from Stirling Bridge is euphemistically described. The nobles addressed were apparently practising a waiting policy. Their absence from the field at Stirling shows that, with perhaps two exceptions, they were either not prepared to cast in their lot with Edward, or were unable to brook the ascendancy which Wallace had won for himself among the people.

When the news of the disaster in Scotland reached England the alarm of the Government deepened. Parliament was summoned, and met in London on October 10. But the Assemby, led by the Marshal and Constable, refused to listen to the proposals of the Regency until the Great Charter and the Charter of the Forests with an additional clause had been ratified. Edward was then in Flanders. The demand of the nobles alarmed him. He took three days to consider it, and seeing no alternative yielded. The ratification is dated at Ghent, November 5, 1297.

On October 12, two days after the meeting of Parliament, Douglas, who had been cast into prison, probably by Cressingham, in the month of July, was placed in the Tower of London for his better security. Eight days later, Sir John de Fortone was released from Berwick, and on the following day, October 21, arrangements began to be made for a fresh invasion of the country. Surrey, notwithstanding his defeat at Stirling, was placed in command. The earls and barons of England were directed, as they valued their King’s honour, to meet at York in January, and thence proceed to the invasion of Scotland. At the same time Edward sent letters to the magnates of Scotland to attend the muster at York.

At the appointed time the English barons assembled in great force at York and waited for some days for the coming of the nobles of Scotland, but in vain. A general muster was then ordered to be made at Newcastle-upon-Tyne eight days later. There they accordingly met. Both in numbers and in equipment the array was formidable. There were two thousand heavy cavalry, both men and horses armed at all points, two thousand light horse, and a hundred thousand infantry. With these Surrey crossed the border and made his way towards Roxburgh, which was then invested by Wallace. On the approach of Surrey, Wallace retired, and the famishing garrison was relieved. Surrey, after skirmishing towards Kelso, returned to occupy Berwick, which had been in the hands of the Scots since the battle of Stirling. He found the Scots gone and the town in the hands of the garrison, which had stoutly held out against them.

Meantime, Edward, after hastily patching up his quarrel with the King of France, had landed at Sandwich on March 14. Three days later he wrote from Canterbury thanking his forces in Scotland for their good services against the Scots whilst he was beyond the seas, and begging them to continue their endeavours, as he was hastening to join them. He lost no time in making his preparations. No fewer than a hundred and fifty-four writs were issued by which he commanded the whole military power of England to meet him at York, on the Feast of Pentecost, in readiness to march against the Scots. The nobility of Scotland were also summoned to meet him at the same place and on the same day, unless they desired to be treated as vassals who had renounced their allegiance. To this summons there was no response. Those of the Scottish nobility who were with Edward in Flanders, as soou as they saw him embarked for England, had gone over to the French King. The others were probably deterred from obeying the summmons through fear of Wallace and the vengeance he might inflict upon them as the Governor of the country.

On arriving at Roxburgh on July 3, Edward found himself at the head of an army consisting of seven thousand horse and eighty thousand infantry. Vast as this army was, he was soon after reinforced by five hundred splendidly appointed horsemen from Gascony. But when he proposed to advance, the Marshal and other of the great nobles refused to move a step until he had confirmed20 in person the Great Charter and the Forest Charters. Edward had no choice and, dissembling his anger, got the Bishop of Durham and others to swear solemnly on the soul of their lord the King that on his return, if victorious, he would accede to the request. With this the nobles were obliged to be satisfied, and on Monday, July 7, the army moved to Redpath, and then by Lauder and Dalhousie to Braid and Kirkliston,2 always looking for the enemy, but nowhere finding anything but a waste and desolated country, swept clean of every ounce of food.

At Kirkliston, Edward’s army was in such straits for provisions that he was on the point of giving the order to fall back upon Edinburgh, hoping to meet the fleet which he had sent round from Berwick with provisions, at Leith.21 But at daybreak on Monday, July 21, two Scottish lords, Patrick Earl of Dunbar and the Earl of Angus,22 caused the intelligence to be communicated to him that the Scots army lay encamped not far off in the forest of Falkirk, and that, having heard of his projected retreat, Wallace intended to surprise him by a night attack and to hang upon and harass his rear.

Edward was overjoyed by the news, and without a moment’s hesitation, issued orders for his troops to arm and advance. By night they reached a heath near Linlithgow, where, to use the words of Hemingburgh, “ each soldier slept on the ground, using his shield for his pillow; each horseman had his horse beside him, and the horses themselves tasted nothing but cold iron, champing their bridles.” During the night the King, who shared the heath with his soldiers, had two of his ribs broken by a kick from his horse, which a page was holding near him. As the night was now far advanced, Edward, in spite of his broken ribs, mounted his horse, and before the sun had risen he and his army had passed through Linlithgow. On ascending a hill on the other side of the town, they saw the Scots in the distance arranging their lines and preparing for battle.

Wallace’s plan ought to have been to continue to retreat, wasting the country behind him, but for some reason, just when there was every chance of success, he did not. That there were dissensions in his camp seems evident. The nobles were jealous of his ascendancy and afraid of his vengeance. Most of them, too, had estates in England and did not wish to lose them.

All told, Wallace’s army did not amount to one-third of the English army. In cavalry, then the principal arm, he was poor. Dividing his infantry into four divisions composed of spearmen, he arranged them in four schiltrons, the eqivalent of our modern formation of squares, to receive cavalry. The front rank knelt and every spear was pointed outward, so that all round the schiltrons presented a serried front, which it was well nigh impossible for the horsemen to break through. Between the schiltrons were placed the archers, and in the rear was drawn up the cavalrj^ consisting of about a thousand heavy-armed horse.

On learning the dispositions of the Scottish army, Edward hesitated to give the order to advance, and proposed to allow his men and horses time for refreshment, but he was overborne by his officers. The Marshal and the Earls of Hereford and Lincoln led the first division in a direct line to the attack, but finding the Scottish front protected by an extensive moss, they made a circuit by the west. The second division was under the command of the Bishop of Durham, who inclined to the east in order to avoid the moss. Having cleared it, he fell upon the first column of the Scots, while the first division, having got round on the west, threw itself upon the other flank. Now was the moment for the Scots cavalry to act, but either from treachery or from cowardice, instead of attacking the English horse while engaged with the Scots archers and infantry, they shamelessly fled from the field without striking a blow.

Unable to penetrate the schiltrons with his horsemen, Edward called up his archers and slingers. These showered their stones and arrows upon the Scots with such effect, that their ranks were soon thinned and broken, when the English horsemen, seizing the opportunity, penetrated the schiltrons, threw all into confusion, and an indiscriminate slaughter ensued.

Sir John Stewart of Bonkill was slain early in the battle while marshalling the archers from the forest of Selkirk ; Sir John Graham, whom Wallace was wont to call his “ Right Hand,” was killed; and one of the Macduffs, with many of his vassals, from Fife. Wallace and the remnant of his army escaped into the Torwood, and burnt Stirling, town and castle, and Perth as they passed. On the English side only two men of note were killed, Sir Bryan le Jay, Master of the English and Scottish Templars, and Sir Alexander de Welles, Prior of Torphichen, the Chief Preceptory in Scotland of the Hospitallers. Bruce fought on the side of the English, but for the last time. While the remnant of the Scots army was crossing the Carron, Wallace, it is said, held an altercation with him across the river.

Soon after the battle, Wallace voluntarily resigned the Guardianship of the Kingdom, in the hope, probably, of putting an end to the dissensions which were practically bringing about the ruin of the country. Henceforward his movements are from time to time somewhat obscure.

From Falkirk, Edward marched to Stirling, where he remained laid up in the convent of the Black Friars, on account of his broken ribs, from July 26 to August 9. During the interval, detachments were sent out to lay waste the kingdom of Fife and to seize Perth. On August 9, Edward was at Torphichen, but returned the following day to Stirling. The next day he was at Abercorn. On the 19th he was at Braid. From thence he moved to Glencorse, and on Thursday the 26th he was at Ayr.

During the same month great difficulty was experienced in getting the provisions, which had been sent round from Berwick, up to Edinburgh Castle from Leith, because of the Scots. They are reported also as being in considerable numbers in the forest of Selkirk, and Richard de Bremesgrave was enjoined by Edward to make frequent expeditions against them. On the 9th of the month, John de Kingston, Constable of Edinburgh Castle, informed the Lord Treasurer of England that “ the Earl of Buchan, the Bishop of St. Andrews, and other earls and great lords who were on the other side of the Scottish sea [the Forth], had come to this side and were at Glasgow,” about the 6th or 7th of the month. When Edward arrived at Ayr on the 26th, he found the town in flames, and was obliged to shorten his stay on account of the want of provisions. All this looks as if Wallace and those with him had doubled back on Edward,5 and knowing the way he was to travel, had got before him, and laid waste the country as they went. Edward intended to overrun Galloway, but for lack of supplies left Ayr, and returned through Annandale, to Carlisle, taking Bruce’s castle at Lochmaben on his way. Before leaving Ayr, Edward granted a castle belonging to “ James late Steward of Scotland ” to Alexander de Lindeseye, and while at Carlisle he entertained himself with distributing among his followers the lands of the rest of the Scottish nobles who had not gone over to him.

For a year nothing is heard of Wallace. But on August 20, 1299, through the medium of a spy, he is heard of at Peebles. According to the spy’s account, the Bishop of St. Andrews, the Earls of Carrick, Buchan . . ., and Menteith, Sir John Comyn le fitz and the Steward of Scotland, had met in Selkirk forest with the intention of attacking Roxburgh, when dissensions broke out among them. Sir David de Graham, it appears, demanded the lands and goods of Sir William Wallace, because he was going abroad without leave. Sir Malcolm Wallace, Sir William’s brother, objected, and he and Graham gave each other the lie. Dirks were drawn. Sir John Comyn seized the Earl of Carrick by the throat, and the Earl of Buchan laid hands on the Bishop. Fortunately no blood was drawn. An agreement was arranged, by which the Bishop, the Earl of Carrick and Sir John Comyn were to be Guardians of the realm, the first having the custody of the castles. They left Peebles together; the Earl of Carrick and Sir David Brechin going to Annan-dale and Galloway, the Earl of Buchan and Comyn to the north of the Forth, the Steward and the Earl of Menteith to Clydesdale,1 and the Bishop to Stobo. Wallace probably accompanied the Earl of Buchan and Comyn. On August 24 he cut off a convoy of provisions when on its way to Stirling Castle, and thus compelled the garrison to surrender.

We next hear of him in France. A letter found upon his person when he was betrayed and taken, and dated the day after All Saints’ Day, shows that the French King had commended him to Pope Boniface VIII., who, five months before (June, 1299), had intervened and commanded Edward to desist from his attempts to conquer Scotland, which he claimed to belong to the Holy See. At the same time he had demanded the release of the Bishops of Glasgow and Sodor, and of other churchmen. The fact that this letter was found upon Wallace shows that it was never delivered, and that his supposed journey to Italy never took place.

Whether he was back and present at the battle of Roslin, said, though on somewhat doubtful authority, to have been fought February 24, 1303, is uncertain. The older historians affirm that he was, and led, but their evidence is unsupported. Edward, after making vast preparations, reached Roxburgh on May 16, and spent the rest of the year in over-running the country. He wintered at Dunfermline, where he was chiefly employed in receiving to his peace the Scottish barons aud others of the great men who had not submitted to him during his progress through the kingdom.

The castle of Stirling still held out. Comyn marched to its relief, but was defeated on the very ground where Wallace had gained his victory over Cressingham and Surrey. This was Comyn’s last effort as a Guardian of the realm. On February 9 he met the Earls of Pembroke and Ulster, with Sir Henry Percy, at Strathorde, in Fife, when a treaty was arranged by which, on condition that they retained their lives, liberties, and lands uninjured, he and his adherents should deliver themselves up and submit to the infliction of any pecuniary fine the conqueror might think fit to impose. From the operation of this treaty, the Steward, Wishart Bishop of Glasgow, David de Graham, Alexander de Lindesey, and Simon Fraser were exempted, being reserved for more signal punishment.

Wallace also was excluded from the operation of the treaty. He was known to be lurking in the woods between Stirling and Dunfermline. Sir Simon Fraser appears to have joined him, and spies were set to discover their whereabouts. Later on, they appear to have been in the upper parts of Strathearn or Menteith. On March 3 Edward wrote to Sir Alexander de Abernethy, who was watching the fords of the Forth in the hope of intercepting the patriot, telling him that he was on no account to desert his post or to receive “ William le Waleys ” and his men to his peace, unless they surrendered unconditionally. Sir Alexander’s efforts were futile. A few days later, Wallace and Sir Simon Fraser were in Tweeddale, and being attacked by Sir William Latimer at Hopprewe, were defeated. Next, a Scotsman, John Musselburgh by name, was employed by Sir John Segrave and Sir Robert Clifford to lead them to the place where the two fugitives were lurking in Lothian. After this Sir Simon Fraser, despairing apparently of effecting anything for the relief of the country, appears to have submitted to Edward.

Wallace was now alone, and every effort was made to take him. Made furious by Wallace’s success in eluding his pursuers, and ready to stoop to anything in order to effect his capture, Edward, with a sort of brutal indifference towards the character of others, decreed that—“Messire Jehan Comyn, Messire Alexander de Lyndeseye, Messire David de Graham, and Messire Simon Fraser, who are to go into banishment, and all other folk of Scotland in the King’s peace, shall bestow their toil between now and the twentieth day after Christmas, to take Messire Williame le Waleys, and give him up to our King, that the King may see how each man will bear himself herein, and may show better favour to the man who takes him, in the matter of shortening his exile, or lowering his ransom.” A more discreditable proposal could scarcely have been made. Ralph de Haliburton, a prisoner in London, was temporarily set free and brought down to Scotland to join in the chase.

Haliburton had been one of the defenders of Stirling Castle and appears to have been willing to blacken his character in order to regain his freedom. Sir John de Mowbray gave himself as security for his safe return to prison. At last Wallace was taken near Glasgow. The Lanercost chronicler, who is contemporary, says, “ Wallace was taken by a Scot, Sir John Menteith.” Other documents confirm the chronicler. Langtoft adds some particulars as to the way in which the capture was made. A kind of feud is said to have existed between Menteith and Wallace, but the only excuse that can be made for the deed is that Menteith was in Edward’s service and was in duty bound to effect the capture if he could.

Wallace was taken to London, and there after a trial, if trial it can be called, was condemned for rebellion against a King whom, as he said, he had never acknowledged. He was beheaded and dismembered. His head was set on London Bridge ; his limbs were exposed at Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling, and Perth.

The execution of Wallace fixed an indelible stain upon the character of Edward, and was the beginning of better things for Scotland. The edifice which the great Plantagenet believed he had securely cemented together with the blood of the national hero, soon crumbled beneath his hands. Wallace was beheaded on October 15, 1305, and within six months, on . March 27, 1306, Bruce was crowned at Scone, and though often hard pressed, at length succeeded in clearing his country of its enemies, and reigned in peace.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus