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Sir William Wallace

Wallace, Sir William, 1272?–1305, Scottish soldier and national hero. The first historical record of Wallace's activities concerns the burning of Lanark by Wallace and 30 men in May, 1297, and the slaying of the English sheriff, one of those whom Edward I of England had installed in his attempt to make good his claim to overlordship of Scotland. After the burning of Lanark many joined Wallace's forces, and under his leadership a disciplined army was evolved. Wallace marched on Scone and met an English force of more than 50,000 before Stirling Castle in Sept., 1297. The English, trying to cross a narrow bridge over the Forth River, were killed as they crossed, and their army was routed. Wallace crossed the border and laid waste several counties in the North of England. In December he returned to Scotland and for a short time acted as guardian of the realm for the imprisoned king, John de Baliol. In July, 1298, Edward defeated Wallace and his army at Falkirk, and forced him to retreat northward. His prestige lost, Wallace went to France in 1299 to seek the aid of King Philip IV, and he possibly went on to Rome. He is heard of again fighting in Scotland in 1304, but there was a price on his head, and in 1305 he was captured by Sir John de Menteith. He was taken to London in Aug., 1305, declared guilty of treason, and executed. The best-known source for the life of Wallace is a long romantic poem attributed to Blind Harry, written in the 15th cent.

See biography by J. Fergusson (1938, rev. ed. 1948).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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See more Encyclopedia articles on: British and Irish History: Biographies


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