William Wallace, popularized in the 1995 movie "Braveheart", was a Scottish patriot and national hero. He was a fierce advocate for Scottish independence from the English, who had taken control shortly after the death of the 8-year old "Queen" Margaret, called the "Maid of Norway". Their rule was widely resented among the common people and, after many of the Scottish nobles defected to England, Wallace emerged as the leader of the various rebel groups trying to gain Scottish sovereignty. But how did a relatively unknown person rise to power so early in his life (Wallace was in his late teens when the English took control)? How was the son of a little-known Scottish noble able to defeat the English several times, against overwhelming odds?
Born in 1276, Wallace was the second son of Alan Wallace, crown tenant of Ayrshire. He probably had an easy childhood, as he was the son of a nobleman.
The only descriptions on his early life are in the form of Scottish myths and legends. However, the closest things to historical accounts say that he spent his childhood at Dunipace, near Sterling, and was educated by his uncle, who was a priest. He probably was trained in horsemanship and swordsmanship with his older brother Malcolm. Unfortunately, since he was not the first-born, he would not inherit his father's title or lands. At the age of sixteen it appeared that he was destined to pursue a life in the church. But then the unthinkable happened.
When Wallace was born, Alexander III had already been on the Scottish throne for almost twenty years. His reign was largely peaceful, and he easily fended off the continual attempts of the English to conquer Scotland. In 1286, when Wallace was sixteen, Alexander fell to his death when he rode off...