Sir William Wallace
The National Wallace Monument was opened in 1869 to celbrate Scotland's national hero Sir William Wallace. It was here, with Sir Andrew Moray, that he rallied his band of fighters on the 11th Septemeber 1297, and fought and defeated at the Battle of Stirling Bridge the largest and most successful army in Europe; that of King Edward the First of England.
Wallace was born in Elderslie in Renfrewshire around 1270, during the reign of Alexander III of Scotland. Wallace did not come from an aristocratic family which is significant for the man that was to become Guardian of Scotland. It may also explain why, unlike the great Scottish nobles, he did not sign the 'Ragman Roll' pledging support of Edward I following the defeat of the Scottish army at Dunbar in 1296.
In the spring of 1297, in revenge for the murder of his wife, Wallace murdered William Heselrig, Sherriff of Lanark, and was consequently declared an outlaw and hunted by the English.
Wallace's tactics were those of guerilla warfare with his force attacking in the south, while Moray harried the English in the north.
At the Battle of Stirling Bridge, Wallace took advantage of the topography of the land, defeating the superior force of the English Knights by drawing them into the quagmire of the Bridge Haugh. The arrogance of the English leadership, under Sir Hugo de Cressingham and the Earl of Surrey, and the tactical bluders made by them, gave the Scots the advantage.
Wallace's victory at Stirling Bridge was shortlived with the English soon retaliating; though he continued to be a thorn in Edward's flesh, until his capture in 1305 following betrayal by the Sheriff of Dumbarton. He died a violent death in a public execution on the 23 August 1305 in London, being hung drawn and quartered.
The Scottish struggle for independence was taken up by Robert the Bruce who was crowned King of Scots in 1306, and led the Scots to victory against Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
Wallace forged the notion of freedom and independence for all Scots, prizing that above all riches, and while we must not forget that he was a man of violence in violent times, he still deserves the rank of Scotland's National Hero.
The story of the Wars of Independence, the Battle of Stirling Bridge and Wallace are told in exciting Audio Visual presentations on the First Floor where you can also view Wallace's Battle Sword.