Your guide to the life of William Wallace

01 October 2020
The National Wallace Monument, Stirling
Sir William Wallace's role in the First War of Scottish Independence and his subsequent execution at the hands of the English king Edward I, has led him to become an icon of Scotland. Discover the real story of Wallace in our expert guide.

The Life of William Wallace

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When was Wallace born?

Comparatively little is known about Wallace's early years, but we do know that he was born around the year 1270, most probably in or near the town of Elderslie in Renfrewshire (other sources cite Ellerslie in Ayrshire). He was of noble background but apart from this, we know little else until Wallace first appears in the historical record in the year 1297, when he drove English forces out of the town of Lanark.

Wallace and the battle of Stirling Bridge

The Battle of Stirling Bridge was part of the First War of Scottish Independence (1296-1328) and took place on 11 September 1297 when Wallace and co-commander Andrew de Moray defeated English forces at a site on the River Forth near Stirling.

With an army of c.5,300 to 6,300 men, Wallace and de Moray defeated a 9,000 strong force led by English commanders the John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey and Hugh of Cressingham.

Following his victory, Wallace was appointed Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland, but sadly, De Moray had been badly injured in the battle and died shortly afterwards.

How did William Wallace die?

William Wallace was executed in Smithfield, London, on 23 August 1305, after having being captured by Scottish knight (who was loyal to England's King Edward) John de Menteith on 5 August in the wake of his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk, and subsequent resignation as Guardian of Scotland.

He was taken to London and tried for treason at Westminster Hall, whereupon he famously remarked: 'I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject.' He was hung, drawn and quartered and a plaque in his memory was erected in 1956, on a wall at St Bartholomew's Hospital, close to where he was killed.

The National Wallace Monument

Built in 1869 in Stirling, the National Wallace Monument commemorates the life of William Wallace. The 67-metre tall monument can be seen for miles around on its spectacular setting on Abbey Craig, looking over Stirling and surrounding countryside.

The monument contains three exhibition rooms and you can also climb the 267 steps to an observation floor at the top. The monument is home to a number of artefacts that are believed to have belonged to Wallace, or which have connections to his life, including the famous Wallace Sword.

The National Wallace Monument, Abbey Craig, Hillfoots Road, Causeway Head, Stirling FK9 5LF; tel: 01786 472140; website.

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