A Plaque marks spot where Wallace was arrested. The Society of
William Wallace have unveiled a plaque to commemorate the
betrayal of one of Scotland's greatest heroes, William Wallace.
The plaque is to be found on the Celtic cross in Robroyston, the
cross was erected in 1900 by the Scottish Patriotic Society in
memory of Wallace's betrayal by Sir John Stewart 5 August at
Menteith on 1305. After his arrest Wallace was taken in chains
through several English cities before being hanged, drawn and
quartered in London on 23 August 1305.
In 1304, a new Scottish King had been appointed with the with
somewhat blessings Edward Longshanks, King of England.
Clemency was soon being granted to many of the Scottish nobles
who had supported Wallace's uprising. But not to Wallace.
Edward Plantagenet saw in William Wallace much more than a
man who had lead a rebellion. Yes, Wallace was much more
dangerous a threat to the throne of England. Wallace was a
commoner. And for a underling to raise hand to the master, that
could not be borne. Edward, a bitter man, a shadow of the once
great warrior king, saw in Wallace something he could permit to
continue, the thought a common man had rights to life, liberty
and a choice in those that rule them. Edward would forgive all
the nobles that stood against him, but the same offer of a hand
of peace would not be extended to the common man who dared
the audacity to believe in a free Scotland.
So a bounty was placed on his head. For many years people turned
their backs, hid Wallace and protected him and his followers.
Through betrayal, he was finally captured in Glasgow on 3August, 1305.
A fellow Scotsman, Ralph Rae, a prisoner-of-war that the English, had
been set free on condition that he lead them to Wallace
Edward Longshanks, possessed of a sound legal mind, instituted many
legal reforms in England, some of which still stand today. During his
period the professions of "barrister" and "solicitor" were formed and
defined. As well, he supervised development of civil procedures and
extensive laws on property. Nevertheless, the law counted little when
it came to the Sir William Wallace. One medieval historian's account
shows the contempt for which not only Edward I, but also the English
people held the Scottish patriot:
"William Wallace, a runaway from righteousness, a robber,
a committer of sacrilege, an arsonist and a murderer, more
cruel than Herod and more debauched in hisinsanity than Nero."
Ignoring his commitment to the law, Edward saw that Wallace was
received no legal rights or privileges. The trial and his barbaric
punishment - a punishment Edward first devised for the Last Prince
of Wales - were typical of law and order in the medieval ages. The
cruel manner of execution stands as an prime example of
government-approved sadism which would horrify the people of today.
Edward Plantagenet demanded Wallace's fate serve as a example to
any remaining Scottish insurgents. Bound like an animal, Wallace
was marched through Scotland and England in the middle of hot
summer reaching London on August 22, where he was ceremoniously
paraded to the heart of the city, as if he were a sort of military trophy.
While the Scots held Wallace as a patriot, a hero, the English opinion
of him was as a man capable of great cruelty - most of which were
not true - so the treatment of the locals probably amounted to the
march being a gauntlet.
On August 23rd, he was dragged in front a bench of noblemen in
Westminster Hall, and there, in a long indictment was read aloud
the details of the English's claims against him. It truth, the actual
trail mattered little to the outcome of the verdict, since they were
acting on direct orders from Edward. Wallace was not allowed to
speak, if he was even able to after the harsh treatment he received
on the forced march. There was no defence. At one point, Wallace
did try to speak out, since records show that he admitted all the
charges against him - except treason How could he be guilty of
high treason if he had never sworn allegiance to the King of England?
Which was truth.
William Wallace never once accepted Edward Peace and swore
fealty and homage to the English King. The point was valid, but
carried no weight. Revenge mattered more than justice. Edward
had to make an example of what happened to a common man that
dared defy his superiors.
Sentence of death was read and Wallace was quickly dragged
outside and tied to a team of horses, where he was pulled to a field
outside of the city walls, jeered along the way, onto the grounds of
the St. Bartholomew Hospital. The massive crowd cheered as the
executioners first hanged him until he was semi-conscious. He
was then tied down and, while still alive and conscious, his genitals
were cut off and his stomach opened, his intestines pulled out and
burned, all while he still breathing. Finally and mercifully, he
This was hanging, drawn and quartered, English justice at its
most sickeningly barbaric.
Even still, Edward Longshanks was not done with William Wallace.
As a deterrent to the Scots, his command was that Wallace's body
cut in four and the pieces brought to cities at the four corners of
England, where they were displayed. Wallace's head was finally
impaled on the spikes at London Bridge.
Barbaric, medieval justice would continue to prevail in England,
with the most despicable sentences reserved for those, such as
Wallace, and Sir Simon Fraser, as well as the brothers of Robert
the Bruce convicted of acts which threatened the King's authority.
Within a few centuries, England would desist from cruel and
unusual punishment setting a standard to which all modern
nations now abide.
On this day, we must remember William Wallace and the price
he paid to see Scotland was a free Scotland.
© DeborahAnne MacGillivray, 2000