Daily Archives: August 23, 2010

This Day in History 8/23: The Execution of William Wallace and the fight for Scottish Independence

Today, on August 23, 1305, William Wallace, leader of the fight for Scottish independence, was executed in Smithfield, England on the orders of the English king Edward I.  He became a martyr for the Scottish cause, and led to the subsequent victory of the Scots at Bannockburn in 1314 and the re-assertion of Scotland’s autonomy.

The story of Wallace has been told and retold over centuries, most famously in Mel Gibson’s epic Braveheart.  His exploits have been themselves exploited, aggrandized and mythologized to the point that it is difficult to find the real person.  Attached is Episode 2 of the BBC documentary, A History of Scotland, that gives an incredibly nuanced version of the Wallace story, as well as that of the events leading to Wallace’s rise to prominence.

In the film, the narrator correctly states that over the past 700 years, Wallace became a brand, an image for both independence and Unionist movements.  Hopefully, as we discover more, the real Wallace can finally show himself.

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