Today’s installment concludes William Wallace, Braveheart,
our selection from History of Scotland by Sir Walter Scott published in 1830.
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Previously in William Wallace, Braveheart.
Meantime the war languished during this strange discussion, from which the Pope was soon obliged to retreat. There was an inefficient campaign in 1299 and 1300. In 1301 there was a truce, in which Scotland as well as France was included. After the expiry of this breathing space, Edward I, in the spring of 1302, sent an army into Scotland of twenty thousand men, under Sir John Seward, a renowned general. He marched toward Edinburgh in three divisions, leaving large intervals between each.
While in this careless order, Seward’s vanguard found themselves suddenly within reach of a small but chosen body of troops, amounting to eight thousand men, commanded by Sir John Comyn, the guardian, and a gallant Scottish knight, Sir Simon Fraser. Seward was defeated, but the battle was scarce over when his second division came up. The Scots, flushed with victory, reestablished their ranks, and having cruelly put to death their prisoners, attacked and defeated the second body also. The third division came up in the same manner. Again it became necessary to kill the captives, and to prepare for a third encounter. The Scottish leaders did so without hesitation, and their followers, having thrown themselves furiously on the enemy, discomfited that division likewise, and gained — as their historians boast — three battles in one day.
But the period seemed to be approaching in which neither courage nor exertion could longer avail the unfortunate people of Scotland. A peace with France, in which Philip the Fair totally omitted all stipulations in favor of his allies, left the kingdom to its own inadequate means of resistance, while Edward directed his whole force against it. The castle of Brechin, under the gallant Sir Thomas Maule, made an obstinate resistance. He was mortally wounded and died in an exclamation of rage against the soldiers, who asked if they might not then surrender the castle. Edward wintered at Dunfermline, and began the next campaign with the siege of Stirling, the only fortress in the kingdom that still held out. But the courage of the guardians altogether gave way; they set the example of submission, and such of them as had been most obstinate in what the English King called rebellion, were punished by various degrees of fine and banishment.
With respect to Sir William Wallace, it was agreed that he might have the choice of surrendering himself unconditionally to the King’s pleasure, provided he thought proper to do so; a stipulation which, as it signified nothing in favor of the person for whom it was apparently conceived, must be imputed as a pretext on the part of the Scottish nobles to save themselves from the disgrace of having left Wallace altogether unthought of. Some attempts were made to ascertain what sort of accommodation Edward was likely to enter into with the bravest and most constant of his enemies; but the demands of Wallace were large, and the generosity of Edward very small. The English King broke off the treaty, and put a price of three hundred marks on the head of the patriot.
Meantime Stirling castle continued to be defended by a slender garrison, and, deprived of all hopes of relief, continued to make a desperate defense, under its brave governor, Sir William Olifaunt, until famine and despair compelled him to an unconditional surrender, when the King imposed the harshest terms on this handful of brave men.
But what Edward prized more than the surrender of the last fortress which resisted his arms in Scotland was the captivity of her last patriot. He had found in a Scottish nobleman, Sir John Monteith, a person willing to become his agent in searching for Wallace among the wilds where he was driven to find refuge. Wallace was finally betrayed to the English by his unworthy and apostate countryman, who obtained an opportunity of seizing him at Robroyston, near Glasgow, by the treachery of a servant.
Sir William Wallace was instantly transferred to London, where he was brought to trial in Westminster Hall, with as much apparatus of infamy as the ingenuity of his enemies could devise. He was crowned with a garland of oak, to intimate that he had been king of outlaws. The arraignment charged him with high treason, in respect that he had stormed and taken towns and castles, and shed much blood. “Traitor,” said Wallace, “was I never.” The rest of the charges he confessed and proceeded to justify them. He was condemned, and executed by decapitation, 1305. His head was placed on a pinnacle on London bridge, and his quarters were distributed over the kingdom.
Thus died this courageous patriot, leaving a remembrance which will be immortal in the hearts of his countrymen. This steady champion of independence having been removed, and a bloody example held out to all who should venture to tread in his footsteps, Edward proceeded to form a species of constitution for the country, which, at the cost of so much labor, policy, and bloodshed, he had at length, as he conceived, united forever with the English crown.
Ten commissioners chosen for Scotland and twenty for England composed a set of regulations for the administration of justice, and enactments were agreed upon by which the feudal law, which had been long introduced into Scotland, was strengthened and extended, while the remains of the ancient municipal customs of the original Celtic tribes, or the consuetudinary laws of the Scots and Bretts — the Scotto-Irish and British races — were finally abrogated. This was for the purpose of promoting a uniformity of laws through the islands. Sheriffs and other officers were appointed for the administration of justice. There were provisions also made for a general revision of the ancient laws and statutes of Scotland.
This ends our series of passages on William Wallace, Braveheart by Sir Walter Scott from his book History of Scotland published in 1830. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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