The Life and Death of Sir William Wallace

Essay by pli2003High School, 11th grade November 2004

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William Wallace the hammer of English, a true patriot, a martyr of freedom, and Scotland's greatest hero; his life and actions beset by myths and contradictions. In trying to explain the enigma that was William Wallace one must gather and collect the required information from a wide range of sources and different time periods. In my research I have gathered and sorted three kinds of sources which build up a picture of the life and death of Wallace and his legacy to Scotland's history. The first is Scottish-based the poetic chronicles by ancient Scottish sages and bards including The Original Chronicle of Scotland by Andrew of Wyntoun (c.1355-1422), The Scotichronicon by Walter Bower (c.1385-1495) and The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace by Blind Harry (?1440-c.1495) popularly known as The Wallace; they are all vehemently pro-Wallace. The second is English-based including primarily official government records and contemporary chroniclers; they are, without exception, violently anti-Wallace.

The third is folk-memory and local traditions and stories about Wallace which have survived for centuries passed down through oral traditions and still recalled in scores.

Due to the inconsistency and contradictions that are present in these sources. It is therefore critical to process and cross-examine these records and comparing them with different sources in a most sceptical manner. So that a more informed and balanced conclusion could be made. From these sources I have deducted that to his countrymen William Wallace became and has remained the undoubted, undisputed hero of the Scottish Wars of Independence; the highest ideal of Scottish patriotism has ever since been associated with his name. Many of Wallace's deeds imbue him with personal qualities belonging to the realms of romance rather than of reality. Exaggeration of his valorous deeds laid them wide open to sober criticism. His character was...