Wallace, William (1272?-1305) (DNB00)
WALLACE, Sir WILLIAM (1272?–1305), Scottish general and patriot, came of a family which had in the twelfth century become landowners in Scotland. The name Walays or Wallensis which Wallace himself used, and various other forms, of which le Waleis or Waleys are the commonest in both English and Scottish records of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, meant originally a Welshman in the language of their English-speaking neighbours both in England and Scotland. It was a surname of families of Cymric blood living on or near the borders of Wales and the south-western districts of Scotland, originally inhabited by the Cymric race of Celts, like the surnames of Inglis and Scot in the English and Scottish debatable and border land. The family from which William Wallace sprang probably came with the FitzAlans, the ancestors of the Stewarts, from Shropshire. To this connection Blind Harry refers in the somewhat obscure lines as to Malcolm, the father of William Wallace:
The secund O [i.e. grandson] he was of great Wallace,
The which Wallas full worthily that wrought
When Walter hyr of Waillis from Warrayn socht.
(O or Oye means grandson, but whether ‘the second O’ can mean descendant in the fourth degree is not certain.) The mother of Walter, the first Stewart, was a Warenne of Shropshire, and he may have wooed, as has been conjectured, a Welsh cousin with the aid of Richard Wallace, the great-great-grandfather of Malcolm Wallace. Ricardus Wallensis held lands in Kyle in Ayrshire under Walter, the first Steward, to whose charter in favour of the abbey of Paisley he was a witness in 1174. The lands still bear the name of Riccarton (Richard's town). A younger son of Richard held lands in Renfrewshire and Ayr under a second Walter the Steward early in the thirteenth century. He was succeeded by his son Adam, the father of Malcolm, the father of William Wallace. William Wallace's mother was Jean Crawford, daughter of Sir Reginald or Rainald Crawford of Corsbie, sheriff of Ayr. Malcolm Wallace towards the end of the thirteenth century held the five-pound land of Elderslie in the parish of Abbey in Renfrewshire under the family of Riccarton, as well as the lands of Auchenbothie in Ayrshire. Elderslie is about three miles from Paisley, and continued in the Wallace family down to 1789, though it reverted to the Riccarton branch owing to the failure of direct descendants of Malcolm Wallace.
Probably at Elderslie William Wallace was born; but there is little likelihood that an old yew in the garden, or the venerable oak which perished in the storm of February 1856, or even the small castellated house now demolished, to all of which his name was attached by tradition, existed in his lifetime. His father is said to have been knighted. Whether this is true or not, the family belonged to the class of small landed gentry which it is an exaggeration to call either of noble or of mean descent. William was the second son. His elder brother is called by Fordun Sir Andrew, but by others, including Blind Harry, Malcolm. Fordun says he was killed by fraud of the English. There is evidence that he was alive in 1299, so that his death cannot have been the cause, as has been suggested, of the rising of Wallace. Still it is evident that his family, as well as himself, were enemies of England. His younger brother John was executed in London in 1307, two years after Wallace met the same fate. Both William and a brother named Malcolm are described as knights in a letter of 1299 by Robert Hastings, sheriff of Roxburgh, to Edward I (Nat. MSS. of Scotland, ii. No. 8), which turns the balance in favour of Malcolm, and not Andrew, having been the name of the eldest brother.
The date of the birth of Wallace is unknown. His biographer, Blind Harry, who collected, nearly two centuries after, the traditions of Scotland, but who had access to books now lost, unfortunately makes statements as to the age of Wallace which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the first book of his poem on Wallace Blind Harry represents him as a child when Scotland was lost in 1290, when Edward I took possession of it as arbiter of the disputed succession (i. line 145), and as eighteen years old at the date of his first alleged adventure when he slew the son of Selby, constable of Dundee, about 1291. So the former statement would place his birth about 1278, unless ‘child’ means, as it sometimes did, a youth. The latter would carry the birth of Wallace to 1272. But in the eleventh book Harry makes Wallace forty-five when he was sold to the English in 1305; his birth is thus thrown back to 1260. Nothing certain can be affirmed except that he was still young in 1297 when he first took arms against the English, and began in the neighbourhood of Dundee and Lanark his career as the deadliest foe of Edward I. He was educated first with an uncle Wallace, a priest at Dunnipace in Stirlingshire, from whom he learnt the Latin distich:
Dico tibi verum, libertas optima rerum;
Nunquam servili sub nexu vivito, fili.
and afterwards, when he took refuge with his mother at Kilspindie in the Carse of Gowrie, with another uncle, probably her brother, at the monastic school of Dundee. It was at this school he met John Blair, who became his chaplain, and ‘compiled in Dyte the Latin book of Wallace Life,’ according to Blind Harry, who frequently refers to Blair as his authority. Education with such masters and companions must have included Latin, and we need not be surprised that the few documents preserved which were issued in his name are in that language.
Apart from the copious narrative by Blind Harry of early adventures, consisting chiefly of the slaughter of Englishmen in single combat or against tremendous odds, by the almost superhuman strength with which Wallace is credited, his life can be traced only from 1297 to 1305. It was in the summer of the former year that Wallace first appeared on the historic scene. It was an opportune moment for a Scottish rising. Edward I had taken advantage of the dispute as to the succession to the Scottish throne to possess himself of the country. In 1296 he ravaged the country and made prisoner John de Baliol, at the time the occupant of the Scottish throne. John de Warenne (1231?–1304) [q. v.] was appointed guardian or ruler of Scotland as representative of the English king, with Hugh Cressingham [q. v.] as treasurer, and English sheriffs were set up in the southern shires and in Ayr and Lanark. Next year the English barons and clergy were in open or veiled revolt against Edward I while the English king was absorbed in preparations for the French war, to which he went in the end of August. The Scottish nobles were divided among themselves by jealousies and were restrained from declaring against the English rule by fear of the forfeiture of their English fiefs. In May 1297 Wallace, at the head of a small band of thirty men, burnt Lanark and slew Hezelrig the sheriff. Scottish tradition affirmed the daring deed was in retaliation for the execution by the sheriff of Marion Bradfute, heiress of Lamington, whom Wallace loved, upon a charge of concealing her lover, for whom she had refused the hand of the sheriff's son. This seems more like a dramatic than an historical plot. The oppressions and exactions of an officer who deemed Scotland a conquered country appear sufficient cause for Hezelrig's death. Whatever may have been the proximate cause, the boldness of its execution made Wallace's reputation. He is from this time a public robber and murderer in the eyes of the English king and English chroniclers, and a heaven-born leader in those of the Scottish people and their historians. The killing of Hezelrig was the only specific charge in his indictment at Westminster. Its date is made by Fordun the commencement of Wallace's military career. It is possible that the death of Hezelrig was not Wallace's first exploit, and that he had already engaged in a guerilla warfare against the English officers whom Edward I had intruded into the kingdom. The commons of Scotland, who only waited for a signal and a leader, now flocked to his standard. The conversion of an undisciplined multitude into a regular army, as described by Fordun, bears witness at once to the small beginnings and the military talent of Wallace. He took four men as a unit and appointed the fifth their officer; the tenth man was officer to every nine, the twentieth to every nineteen, and so on to every thousand, and he enforced absolute obedience to those officers by the penalty of death. He was chosen by acclamation commander of the whole forces, and claimed to act in behalf of his king, John de Baliol, Edward I's prisoner. But he showed wisdom by associating with himself, whenever possible, representatives of those barons who, encouraged by his success, supported him at least for a time. His first associate was William de Douglas ‘the Hardy’ [q. v.], who joined him in a rapid march on Scone, where the court of William de Ormesby [q. v.], the justiciar, was dispersed, much booty taken, and the justiciar saved his life only by flight. They then separated. Douglas recovered the strongholds of his native Annandale, where he took the castles of Sanquhar and Durisdeer, while Wallace overran the Lennox. It may have been at this time he expelled Antony Bek [q. v.], the warlike bishop of Durham, from the house of Wishart, the bishop of Glasgow, of which Bek had taken possession. Wallace put in force with all the stringency in his power the ordinance of the Scottish parliament of 1296, by which English clerks were banished from Scottish benefices—a necessary measure if Scotland was to be delivered from the English domination, for English priests and friars minor took an active part as envoys and spies throughout the war. In July 1297 the troops of Wallace and Douglas were reunited in Ayrshire. This was not a moment too soon, for Edward I's governor, Warenne, had sent his nephew Sir Henry Percy and Sir Henry Clifford, with the levy of the northern shires, to repress the Scottish rising. Collecting their forces in Cumberland in June, they had invaded Annandale, and, burning Lochmaben to save themselves from a night attack, advanced by Ayr to Irvine, where the Scots force was prepared to engage them. At Irvine Bruce, who had suddenly transferred his arms to the side of the Scottish patriots, again changed sides, and on 9 July, by a deed still extant (Calendar, No. 909), placed himself at the will of Edward. It is uncertain whether Wallace was present at Irvine; a fortnight later he had retired ‘with a great company’ into the forest of Selkirk, ‘like one who holds himself against your peace,’ writes Cressingham to Edward on 23 July (ib.), and neither Cressingham nor Percy dared follow him into the forest, whose natives were good archers and strenuous supporters of the Scottish cause. The absence of Warenne was made an excuse for the delay, which enabled Wallace to organise and increase his forces. Neither Warenne nor his deputies were capable generals, and they allowed Wallace to lay siege to Dundee, and to occupy a strong position on the north side of the Forth, near Cambuskenneth Abbey, in the beginning of September, threatening Stirling Castle, the key of the Highlands, before they advanced to meet him with fifty thousand foot and a thousand horse.
Wallace took up his position at the base of the Abbey Craig, the bold rock where his monument now stands, which faces Stirling. It commands a retreat to the Ochils inaccessible to cavalry, easily defensible by agile mountaineers against heavy-armed troops. On the plain below there is on the north side one of the many loops of the Forth as it winds through the carse land called the Links. The English lay between the river and the castle of Stirling. Attempts at mediation were made twice by the Steward and the Earl of Lennox, a third time by two friars minor. ‘Carry back this answer,’ said Wallace, according to Hemingburgh, who has left so clear an account of that memorable day: ‘we have not come for peace, but ready to fight to liberate our kingdom. Let them come on when they wish, and they will find us ready to fight them to their beards.’ He adds, ‘Wallace's force was only forty thousand foot and 180 horse.’ When this answer was reported, the opinions of the English leaders were divided. The wooden bridge over the Forth—probably not far from the present stone one—was so narrow that some who were there reported that if they had begun to cross at dawn and continued till noon, the greater part of the army would still remain behind. But, provoked by Wallace's challenge, the English leaders mounted the bridge. Marmaduke de Thweng [see under Thweng, Robert de] and the bearers of the standards crossed first. Thweng, by a brilliant dash, cut through the Scots force, attempting the manœuvre which, if Lundy's advice to cross by a neighbouring ford and take the Scots in the rear had been taken, might have succeeded. Thweng failed through want of support, and recrossed the bridge with his nephew. Few others had such good fortune. As they defiled two abreast over the bridge they were caught as in a net. Wallace's troops had descended from the Abbey Craig when he saw as many English as they could overcome had crossed. The defeat was signal and soon became general. No reinforcements could be sent over the bridge, now choked with the dead and wounded. The story that Wallace had, by loosening the wooden bolts which held one of its piers, broken it down, appears less likely, though there is evidence in the English accounts that the bridge had, soon after the battle, to be repaired. Some tried to swim the river and were drowned. A few Welsh foot escaped by swimming, but only a single knight. Five thousand foot and a hundred knights were slain. Among these was Cressingham the treasurer, whose skin was cut in strips, which the Scots divided as trophies. Wallace, says the ‘Chronicle of Lanercost,’ made a sword-belt out of one of the strips. English writers attribute the defeat to Cressingham's penuriousness as treasurer and folly as a general. Warenne was at least equally to blame. Nor is it fair to try to lessen the merit of Wallace. Where others had faltered or gone over to the enemy, he had almost alone kept alive the spirit of his countrymen. He selected the field of battle at the place and moment when a smaller force could engage a larger with best hopes of success, and had been in the thick of the fight. His colleague in the command was Andrew Moray, son of Sir Andrew Moray, then prisoner in the Tower [see under Murray or Moray, Sir Andrew, d. 1338].
Nothing succeeds like success. The Steward and Lennox aided Wallace in the pursuit of Warenne, but Wallace himself was now sole leader. His army grew by volunteers, but also by forced levies of all able-bodied men between sixteen and sixty. Bower, Fordun's continuator, probably a chaplain of Aberdeen, relates that the burgesses of that town having refused to obey Wallace, he marched north and hanged some of them as an example; and there is other evidence of his forcible methods, as in the petition for reparation to Edward of Michael de Miggel, who was twice captured and forced to join the troops of Wallace (Calendar, ii. 456). The castle of Dundee, probably by the aid of Scrymgeour, who was soon after made its constable, at once surrendered. Edinburgh and Roxburgh were taken. Henry de Haliburton recovered Berwick, but the castles of these towns were still held by English captains (Chronicle of Lanercost, p. 190). There is no specific mention of the fall of Stirling, which Warenne before his flight had committed to the custody of Marmaduke de Thweng, but we know that it passed into the hands of the Scots. Roxburgh and Haddington, and nearly all the great towns on the English side of the Forth, were burned (ib. p. 191). Scotland was free, and Wallace, still acting in the name of John de Baliol, crossed the border, and before 18 Oct. harried Northumberland, and afterwards marched through Westmoreland and Cumberland, wasting the country, but without taking any stronghold. At Hexham some Scottish lancers threatened to kill the few canons left in the convent unless they gave up their treasures. Wallace interposed, and asked one of them to celebrate mass. Before the host was elevated, he left the church to take off his armour, as was the pious custom, but some Scots lancers carried off the holy vessels while the priest was washing his hands in the vestry, so that the service could not be completed. Wallace ordered the sacrilegious soldiers to be sought for, but they were not to be found. He took the canons under his own special care, and on 7 Nov. issued letters of protection in his own name and that of Andrew Moray, as leaders of the army of Scotland in the name of Baliol. Their terms refute the calumny so often repeated, that Wallace was an indiscriminate persecutor of the clergy. Against English clerks who accepted Scottish benefices he was beyond doubt severe, nor could he always restrain his followers. But the man who had a chaplain as one of his friends, and was countenanced by the chief bishops of Scotland, Robert Wishart [q. v.] and William de Lamberton [q. v.], was not an enemy of the church of Rome or of Scotland, but of the churchmen of England and of Edward. On St. Martin's day, 11 Nov., he appeared before Carlisle, which was summoned to surrender in the name of William the Conqueror. The burghers prepared to defend it, and Wallace, declining a siege, wasted the forest of Inglewood, Cumberland, and ‘Allerdale,’ as far as Cockermouth. A snowstorm prevented him from ravaging the bishopric of Durham, whose deliverance was attributed to the protection of its patron, St. Cuthbert.
Wallace returned to Scotland about Christmas 1297, and, apart from a casual though possibly true reference to his being again in the forest of Selkirk, the next certain fact in his life is that he was at Torphichen in West Lothian on 29 March 1298. A grant of that date by Wallace has been preserved. He styles himself ‘Wilelmus Walays miles, Custos regni Scotiæ et ductor exercituum ejusdem nomine principis domini Johannis Dei gratia regis Scotiæ illustris de consensu communitatis ejusdem. … per consensum et assensum magnatum dicti regni,’ and confers on Alexander Skirmisher (Scrymgeour) six marks value of land in the territory of Dundee and the office of constable of that town in return for his homage to Baliol and faithful service in the army of Scotland as bearer of the king's standard. This document refutes the assertion made at the trial of Wallace that he had claimed the kingdom for himself. It also proves that after the death of Moray he acted as sole guardian, and probably also that some of the nobles were still on his side, and that he had been elected guardian, though the remark of Lord Hailes appears just that how he obtained the office will for ever remain problematical. John Major, who thinks he assumed it, states that there were families in his own time who held their lands by charters of Wallace, which indicates that his authority was recognised both then and afterwards as conferring a legal title. It was about this time, according to one of the 'Political Songs,' which describe so vividly the English popular view, that Wallace was knighted:
De prædone fit eques ut de corvo cignus;
Accipit indignus sedem cum non prope dignus
(Political Songs, p. 174).
Meanwhile Edward I, released from the war with France by a truce, returned to England on 11 March and pushed on the preparation for the renewal of war with Scotland which his son Prince Edward had already begun. Writs were issued for men and supplies, and a parliament was summoned to meet at York on 25 May. It sat till the 30th, but the Scots barons declined to attend, and the English estates, led by Bigod, demanded a confirmation of the charters. Edward promised to confirm them if he returned victorious from Scotland. It was about this time, according to some Scottish authorities, that Wallace next appeared in the forest of Black Irnside (the forest of the Alders), near Newburgh, on the shore of the Firth of Tay, and defeated Sir Aymer de Valence [see Aymer] on 12 June. English writers ignore this, and it may have taken place during his later guerilla war after his return from France. It would be, as Hailes observes, quite consistent with probability. It was a constant practice for the English in wars with Scotland to send ships with men and provisions to support their land forces, and Valence may have attempted a descent on Fife. Early in July Edward crossed the eastern Scottish border, and was at Roxburgh from 3 to 6 July, where he made a muster of his troops. They numbered three thousand armed horsemen, four thousand whose horses were not armed, and eighty thousand foot, almost all, says Hemingburgh, Irish and Welsh. A contingent from Gascony was sent to guard Berwick. Before the 21st he had reached Temple Liston, near Linlithgow. The king's forces were in want of supplies, and his Welsh troops mutinied. It was said they were likely to join the Scots if they saw it was the winning side. At this crisis a spy, sent by the Earl of March, announced that the Scots were in the forest of Falkirk, only six leagues off, and threatened a night attack. To put spirit into his men, Edward at once boldly declared that he would not wait for an attack. Undiscouraged by his horse accidentally breaking two of his ribs, he rode through Linlithgow at break of day. As the sun rose the English saw Scots lancers on the brow of a small hill near Falkirk prepared to fight. The foot were drawn up in four circles, called in Scots 'schiltrons' (an Anglo-Saxon term for shieldbands), which answered to the squares of later warfare, the lancers sitting or kneeling, with lances held obliquely, facing outwards. Between the schiltrons stood the archers, and behind them the horsemen. It was the natural formation to receive cavalry, the arm in which the Scots were weakest and the English strongest, for most of the Scottish barons had stayed away, and those present were not to be counted on. Jealousy against Wallace, always latent, broke out at this critical moment among his superiors in rank. According to the Scottish traditions and the chronicle of Fordun, Sir John Comyn the younger, Sir John Stewart, and Wallace disputed on the field who was to hold the supreme command. After mass Edward proposed that while the tents were being fixed the men and horses should be fed, for they had tasted nothing since three o'clock of the previous afternoon. But on some of his captains representing that this was not safe, as there was only a small stream between them and the Scots, he ordered an immediate charge in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The leaders of the first line, Bigod, Bohun, and the Earl of Lincoln, went straight at the enemy, but were obliged to turn to the west, as the ground was marshy. The second line, in which Robert Bruce is said to have fought, with the bishop of Durham at its head, avoided the marsh by going round to the east. The bishop, after the first blows, called a halt till the third line, commanded by the king, should come up, but was told by his impetuous followers that a mass and not a battle was a priest's business. They attacked at once the Scottish schiltrons, and the earls with the first line soon came to their aid. Edward's own line also advanced. There was a stout resistance by the Scottish lancers, but a flight of arrows and of stones, of which there were many on the hillside, broke the schiltrons, and the English cavalry, piercing the circles, made the victory complete. Sir John Stewart, who led the archers from Selkirk Forest, fell by accident from his horse, and was killed along with most of the archers. Although it has been denied that there was dissension on the Scottish side, there is sufficient evidence that Comyn would not fight. It is not quite so certain that Bruce fought for the English. The alleged conference across a stream between him and Wallace after the battle, related by Blind Harry, is very doubtful. There is clear proof, however, that Bruce at this point really sided with Edward. Hemingburgh's statement is that ‘the Scottish knights (equestres), when the English came up, fled without a blow, except a few who remained to draw up the schiltrons.’ Among these was Wallace, the real prompter and commander of the battle. His historic speech, ‘I haf brocht you to the ring, hop if you can,’ referring to a well-known dance (Matt. West. p. 451; Hailes, p. 259 n.), was probably meant to glance at the desertion of the knights, and to appeal to the infantry to fight though the knights had fled. The formation of foot soldiers in circles, with lances facing outwards round the whole circumference, though known before, had never been so complete in a Scottish army, and Bruce, if he fought that day with the English, learnt from Wallace a lesson he applied with better success at Bannockburn. The Scots were largely outnumbered. According to the most trustworthy accounts, they were only one-third of the English. But they had the advantage of the ground, and Edward had his own difficulties, if it be true, as stated by Robert de Brunne, that his Welsh troops declined to fight. His brilliant leadership and superior force in cavalry and archers won the day. The loss of upwards of a hundred horses shows that the victory was not bloodless, but only one knight of importance (homo valoris), Sir Brian de Jay, master of the Temple, lost his life. The slaughter of the Scots was by the lowest estimate ten thousand men, and of the leaders there fell Sir John Stewart, Sir John Graham of Dundaff, the fidus Achates of Wallace, and Macduff, the young earl of Fife, whose followers, like the men of Bute, the retainers of Stewart, perished to a man. Wallace retreated with the remnant of the army to Stirling, where he burnt both the town and the castle; but Edward followed on his steps and restored the castle.
From this date authentic evidence as to the life of Wallace, never so full as we could wish, becomes slender, and it is difficult to pick up the threads. After Edward quitted the field of Falkirk, Wallace is said to have returned to bury Graham in Falkirk churchyard. It is disputed whether he was present at the burning of the barns of Ayr, and indeed whether the burning took place after the battle of Falkirk; but this is a point chiefly of local interest. Shortly after Falkirk he gave up the office of guardian ‘at the water of Forth,’ possibly Stirling, and Comyn succeeded to that office. The statement of Blind Harry, which had been doubted, that he went to France to the court of Philip le Bel, probably in the following year, 1299, has been confirmed by documentary evidence; but the minstrel has himself to blame for the doubt by duplicating it, and making the first visit prior to the battle of Falkirk, and apparently after that of Stirling, a point in Wallace's life when there was neither time nor occasion for such a visit.
An important letter by Robert Hastings to Edward, dated 20 Aug. 1299, gives as of recent occurrence a spy's account of a dispute between the leading Scottish nobles in Selkirk Forest, caused by Sir David Graham's demand for Sir William Wallace's lands and goods, as he was going abroad without leave of the guardians. His brother, Sir Malcolm, interposed, and said ‘his brother's lands and goods could not be forfeited till it was found by a jury whether he went out of the kingdom for or against its profit.’ Sir Malcolm and Graham gave each other the lie, and both drew knives. A compromise was made by which Comyn, Bruce, and Lamberton, the bishop of St. Andrews, were to be joint guardians of the realm, while the bishop, as principal, was to have custody of the castles. It is plain the contest lay between the party of Comyn and the party of Bruce, and it deserves notice that Malcolm Wallace sided with the latter and with the bishop, who probably had already entered into a secret league with Bruce. What was decided as to Wallace's lands is not mentioned. On 24 Aug., St. Bartholomew's day, 1299, there is a casual notice that Wallace cut off the supplies from Stirling, then in the hands of an English garrison (Calendar, ii. No. 1949), but which surrendered in December to Sir John de Soulis [q. v.]
The anonymous author of the Cotton manuscript (Claudius D. vi. Brit. Mus.), who, though prejudiced against Wallace, appears to have had special sources of information, mentions in the same year (1299) that Wallace, with five soldiers, went to France to implore the aid of Philip le Bel against Edward, who had been released from his French difficulties by the treaty of Montreuil, and by his marriage, 10 Sept. 1299, to Philip's sister, and was now preparing to renew the war on Scotland. The temporary friendship between England and France led Philip to imprison Wallace when he came to Amiens, and to write to Edward that he would send Wallace to him. Edward answered with thanks, and the request that he would keep Wallace in custody. But Philip changed his mind, and on Monday after All Saints, 1 Nov. 1299 or 1300, probably the latter, there is a letter of introduction by him ‘to his lieges destined for the Roman court’ requesting them to get ‘the pope's favour for his beloved William Wallace, knight, in the matter which he wishes to forward with his holiness’ (National MSS. Scotland, i. No. lxxv.). Whether Wallace went to Rome in the year of the jubilee we do not know, but the internecine conflict between Edward and Wallace has left its reflection in the lines of Dante:
… the pride that thirsts for gain,
Which drives the Scot and Englishman so hard
That neither can within his land remain
(Paradiso, xix. 121).
Meantime the Scots had sent an embassy to Rome to combat the claim of Edward to the supremacy of Scotland. A long memorial entitled ‘Processus Baldredi Bisset, contra figmenta Regis Angliæ,’ has been preserved in Bower's continuation of Fordun. It can scarcely be doubted that the object of Wallace in wishing to visit Rome was to support this memorial. He received also letters of safe conduct from Haco, king of Norway, and from Baliol. These were once in a hanaper in the English exchequer, but now unfortunately lost; the description of them in the ‘Ancient Kalendar’ of Bishop Stapylton in 1323 is important, and has not been sufficiently noted (Palgrave, Kalendars, i. 134). Besides showing the support Wallace received, not only from Philip of France, but from the king of Norway, it appears from this brief entry that there had been both ordinances by and treaties between Wallace and certain of the Scottish nobles, now lost. Probably he never presented the letter at Rome, and deemed his presence in Scotland more important; nor is there any trace of his going to Norway. The next record of his name is a grant to his ‘chère valet,’ Edward de Keth, by Edward I, ‘of all goods he may gain from Monsieur Guillaume de Waleys, the king's enemy,’ by undated letters patent issued in or prior to 1303. It is remarkable that we have no certain evidence of his having been in Scotland between 1299 and 1303, so that it remains possible he may have gone to Rome or elsewhere.
Meanwhile Boniface had claimed the dominion of Scotland by a bull dated Anagni, 27 June 1300, to which the English barons replied in their famous letter of 1301 repudiating all interference by the pope in the temporal affairs of England. Boniface thereupon abandoned Scotland and the Scots, and on 13 Aug. 1302 wrote a letter to the Scottish bishops exhorting them to peace with Edward (Theiner, Nos. ccclxx. and ccclxxi.). Philip followed his example, and, securing terms for himself by the treaty of Amiens on 25 Nov. 1302, confirmed by that of Paris on 20 May 1303, made a separate and perpetual peace with England, in which Scotland was not included.
The war, however, still went on, though what part Wallace took in it is not known. There is no proof that he was at the battle of Roslin on 24 Feb. 1303, when Sir John Comyn defeated John de Segrave [q. v.], the English commander. Edward now resumed the war in person and with greater vigour. Bruce surrendered at Strathord on 9 Feb. 1304; Comyn and the principal barons submitted; and on 24 July Stirling fell. At this date at least, and probably for some time before, Wallace had been in arms, though not in command. His name occurs, with those of Sir John de Soulis, who had been assumed as an additional guardian of the kingdom—it is said at the instance of Baliol—Wishart, bishop of Glasgow and the Steward of Scotland, as specially excepted from the capitulation. ‘As for William Wallace, it is agreed,’ it ran, ‘that he shall render himself up at the will and mercy of our sovereign lord the king as it shall seem good to him’ (Ryley, Placita Parliamentaria, p. 370; Calendar, ii. Nos. 1444–5 and 1463). In a parliament of Edward at St. Andrews in the middle of Lent, Simon Fraser and William Wallace, and those who held the castle of Stirling against the king, were outlawed (Trivet, p. 378), from which it would appear that Wallace had not merely cut off supplies to Edward's troops, but taken part in the subsequent defence of Stirling.
The pursuit of Wallace proceeded with unremitting zeal, and has left many traces in the English records. A payment was made on 15 March 1303 in reimbursement of sums expended on certain Scottish lads who by order of the king had laid an ambuscade (ad insidiandum) for Wallace and Fraser, and other enemies of the king (Calendar, iv. 482). A similar payment was made on 10 Sept. 1303 for the loss of two horses in a raid against Wallace and Fraser (ib. p. 477), and for other horses lost in a foray against him near Irnside Forest (ib.) On 12 March 1304 Nicholas Oysel, the valet of the Earl of Ulster, received 40s. for bringing the news that Sir William Latimer, Sir John Segrave, and Sir Robert Clifford had discomfited Fraser and Wallace at Hopperew (ib. p. 474), and three days after 15s. was paid to John of Musselburgh for guiding Segrave and Clifford in a foray against Fraser and Wallace in Lothian (ib. p. 475). It was provided on 25 July after the capitulation of Strathord that Sir John Comyn, Alexander de Lindesay, David de Graham, and Simon Fraser were to have their sentences of exile or otherwise remitted if they took Wallace before the twentieth day after Christmas, and that the Steward, Sir John de Soulis, and Sir Ingram de Umfraville were not to have letters of safe conduct to enable them to return to the king's court till Wallace was captured (Calendar, ii. No. 1563; Palgrave, pp. cxxix, 276, 281). At last, on 28 Feb. 1305, the step seems to have been taken which led to his capture. Ralph de Haliburton, a Scottish prisoner in England, formerly a follower of Wallace, was released till three weeks after Easter day, 18 April, that he might be taken to Scotland to help the Scots employed to capture William Wallace. He had already been there on the same errand, and Mowbray, a Scottish knight, became surety for his return to London (Calendar, iv. p. 373; Ryley, Placita, p. 279). The actual captor, according to the English contemporary chroniclers Langtoft, Sir Thomas Gray in ‘Scala Chronica,’ and the ‘Chronicle of Lanercost,’ and the later but independent statements of Wyntoun and Bower, was Sir John de Menteith [q. v.] Menteith took him, says Langtoft, ‘through treason of Jack Short his man.’ Possibly Jack Short was a nickname for Ralph de Haliburton. Whether another statement, that he was surprised ‘by night his leman by,’ was scandal or fact, we have no means of knowing. Wyntoun, who wrote his ‘Chronicle’ in 1418, is apparently the first writer who states Glasgow as the place of the capture, but is supported by tradition. Hailes doubted if Menteith has been justly charged with being an accomplice in the treachery, for he was then sheriff of Dumbarton under Edward. He was at least handsomely rewarded for his share in the capture [see Mentieth, Sir John de]. The English chroniclers and records emphasise the fact that Wallace fell by the hands of his own countrymen. That some of them were always ready to thwart and even to betray him is a marked fact at various critical points of his life. He never had the willing support of the general body of the nobles. But the tempter and the paymaster was Edward, and the evidence shows the share the English king, who, like all the greatest rulers, did not overlook details, had in every measure taken to secure the person of his chief antagonist. The independence of which Wallace was the champion had come into sharp conflict with the imperialist aims of the greatest Plantagenet. The latter prevailed for the time, but the Scottish people inherited and handed down the spirit of Wallace. His example animated Bruce. His traditions grew till every part of Scotland claimed a share of them. His ‘life’ by Blind Harry became the secular bible of his countrymen, and echoes through their later history. It was one of the first books printed in Scotland, was expanded after the union in modern Scots homely couplets by Hamilton of Gilbertfield, and was concentrated in the poem of Burns, in which ‘Wallace’ is a synonym for liberty, ‘Edward’ for slavery.
Of the trial and execution of Wallace there is a contemporary account embodying the original commission for the trial and the sentence (Chronicles of Edward I and Edward II, Rolls Ser. p. 137, Stubbs's note, pp. 139–42). On 22 Aug. 1305 Wallace was brought to London, where he was met by a mob of men and women, and lodged in the houses of William de Leyre in the parish of All Saints, Fenchurch Street. Leyre was a former sheriff, and these houses were probably used as a prison. He was in custody of John de Segrave, to whom he had been delivered by Sir John Menteith. On the following day, Monday the 23rd, he was taken on horseback by Sir John and his brother, Sir Geoffrey Segrave, the mayor, Sir John Blunt, the sheriffs and aldermen, to the great hall of Westminster. He was placed on a scaffold at the south end with a laurel crown on his head, in mockery of what was said to have been his boast that he would wear a crown in that hall. Peter Malory (the justiciar of England), Segrave, Blunt (the mayor), and two others had been appointed justices for his trial. Malory, when the court met, charged Wallace with being a traitor to King Edward and with other crimes. He answered that he had never been a traitor to the king of England, which was true, for, unlike so many Scottish nobles and bishops, he had never taken any oath of allegiance, but confessed the other charges. Sentence was given on the same day by Segrave, in terms of which the substance reflects light upon his life. It ran thus: ‘William Wallace, a Scot and of Scottish descent, having been taken prisoner for sedition, homicides, depredations, fires, and felonies, and after our lord the king had conquered Scotland, forfeited Baliol, and subjugated all Scotsmen to his dominion as their king, and had received the oath of homage and fealty of prelates, earls, barons, and others, and proclaimed his peace, and appointed his officers to keep it through all Scotland. You, the said William Wallace, oblivious of your fealty and allegiance, did, (1) along with an immense number of felons, rise in arms and attack the king's officers and slay Sir William Hezelrig, sheriff of Lanark, when he was holding a court for the pleas of the king; (2) did with your armed adherents attack villages, towns, and castles, and issue brieves as if a superior through all Scotland, and hold parliaments and assemblies, and, not content with so great wickedness and sedition, did counsel all the prelates, earls, and barons of your party to submit to the dominion of the king of France, and to aid in the destruction of the realm of England; (3) did with your accomplices invade the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland, burning and killing “every one who used the English tongue,” sparing neither age nor sex, monk nor nun; and (4) when the king had invaded Scotland with his great army, restored peace, and defeated you, carrying your standard against him in mortal war, and offered you mercy if you surrendered, you did despise his offer, and were outlawed in his court as a thief and felon according to the laws of England and Scotland; and considering that it is contrary to the laws of England that any outlaw should be allowed to answer in his defence, your sentence is that for your sedition and making war against the king, you shall be carried from Westminster to the Tower, and from the Tower to Aldgate, and so through the city to the Elms at Smithfield, and for your robberies, homicides, and felonies in England and Scotland you shall be there hanged and drawn, and as an outlaw beheaded, and afterwards for your burning churches and relics your heart, liver, lungs, and entrails from which your wicked thoughts came shall be burned, and finally, because your sedition, depredations, fires, and homicides were not only against the king, but against the people of England and Scotland, your head shall be placed on London Bridge in sight both of land and water travellers, and your quarters hung on gibbets at New Castle, Berwick, Stirling, and Perth, to the terror of all who pass by.’ The ‘Chronicle of Lanercost’ varies the list by substituting Aberdeen for Stirling, but the official sentence is a preferable authority. It was the ordinary sentence for treason, and shows the character attributed to the life of Wallace as seen by Edward and his justices. Wallace was, as he said, an enemy, not a traitor. He had never taken an oath to Edward. He had never claimed royal authority for himself, but acted in the name of Baliol as his king, as was known to Segrave and the other justices by the documents taken from his person. He had never recognised Baliol's deposition by Edward. He had never asked Scotland to acknowledge the lordship of Philip, but he had asked that king to aid Scotland. He had been cruel in war, but so far as we know he had shown more reverence to the church as the church than Edward. In another respect the sentence is remarkable in relation to a disputed point in English and Scottish history, and its bearing on the position of Wallace. Edward does not claim dominion over Scotland as of ancient right, or by the submission of the Scottish competitors and estates at Norham, but in plain words as a conqueror. It followed, though this flaw in their logic escaped Malory and the justices, that Wallace was not a rebel, but one who had fought against the conqueror of his country. The law of war had not perhaps advanced far in the fourteenth century, but the difference between a rebel and an enemy was known. The trial, one of the first in the great hall of Westminster, is also proof that Wallace was treated as no ordinary enemy. In a sense, the view of Lingard, repudiated by Scottish historians, is true: the fame of Wallace has been increased by the circumstances of his trial and execution, for they wrote in indelible characters in the annals of England and its capital what might otherwise have been deemed the exaggeration of the Scottish people.
In the records of Scotland and England and the contemporary chronicles he stands out boldly as the chief champion of the Scottish nation in the struggle for independence, and the chief enemy of Edward in the premature attempt to unite Britain under one sceptre. His name has become one of the great names of history. He was a general who knew how to discipline men and to rouse their enthusiasm; a statesman, if we may trust indications few but pregnant, who, had more time been granted and better support given him by the nobles, might have restored a nation and created a state. He lost his life, as he had taken the lives of many, in the stern game of war. The natural hatred of the English people and their king was the measure of the natural affection of his own people. The latter has been lasting.
There is no authentic portrait. Blind Harry gives a description of his personal appearance, which he strangely says was sent to Scotland from France by a herald. It runs:
His lymmys gret, with stalward paiss [pace] and sound,
His braunys [muscles] hard, his armes gret and round;
His handis maid rycht lik till a pawmer [palmer],
Off manlik mak, with naless gret and cler;
Proportionyt lang and fayr was his wesage;
Rycht sad of spech, and abill in curage;
Braid breyst and heych, with sturdy crag and gret;
His lyppys round, his noys was squar and tret;
Bowand bron haryt, on browis and breis lycht;
[i.e. Wavy brown hair on brows and eyebrows light];
Cler aspre eyn, lik dyamondis brycht.
Wndyr the chyn, on the left syd was seyn,
Be hurt, a wain; his colour was sangweyn.
Woundis he had in mony diuers place,
Bot fair and weill kepyt was his face.