William Wallace

William Wallace

William Wallace

William Wallace

Synopsis

William Wallace has always been one of the legendary figures of Scottish history. Wallace was by no means prepared by birth, education or training for the seminal role he was to play in Scottish history, but when the ambition and ruthlessness of Edward I combined with the weakness of John Balliol to provoke the Wars of Independence, it was Wallace who rose to the challenge and broke the sequence of English victories, re-energising and inspiring his countrymen in the process. While others, ostensibly his betters, yielded and collaborated, Wallace set an example of constancy and perseverance and became Guardian of Scotland. Even his terrible death can be seen as a victory as it provided an inspiration for the continuance of the struggle. Previous biographies have tended to present Wallace as a one-dimensional figure, ignoring his flaws. In an age of brutality, however, Wallace too was brutal. He repaid the sack of Berwick with the harrying of Northumberland and the crimes with which he was charged in 1305 were by no means wholly fabricated. By investigating all aspects of Wallace's life and character, and treating him as a man of his time, Fisher provides a more authentic picture of the greatest of Scotland's heroes than has been previously available. This is a new and substantially expanded edition, featuring new sections on the Wallace of literature and present-day perceptions of Wallace, placing the crude distortions and inaccuracies of Braveheart in their proper context.

Excerpt

In 1986 I wrote that William Wallace was 'at best a shadowy figure and likely to remain so'. The intervening years have not caused me radically to depart from that opinion. Valuable, and impressive, work on Wallace has, of course, been done in that period and I am happy to acknowledge my debt to it in the text. There has also been Braveheart. In essence Blind Harry writ large for the screen, the film was hugely popular. It undoubtedly made the name of Wallace more widely known than ever before. That, for many, was justification enough. But the Wallace it portrayed had neither depth nor character; he was, as in 'Harry', a one-man fighting machine, an automaton, programmed to kill on mention of the word 'English'. Nevertheless, Braveheart cannot be ignored; it has its place in the conclusion to this new edition. We do now have one significant piece of information on Wallace; his father was not Malcolm, but Alan, as we shall see. But even that change brings with it a question; was the family of the great Scottish hero quite the homogeneous unit devoted to the defeat . . .

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