Lanark's statue of William Wallace

Sir William Wallace
of
Ellerslie

(AD1272 - AD1305)

The Wallace coat of arms

"from Outlaw to Guardian of Scotland"


Background

William Wallace   W illiam Wallace was born on 1272 in Ellerslie, Scotland. He was the second of three sons of Sir Malcolm Wallace (a minor laird possessing little political power and nobility) and Margaret de Crauford (the daughter of Sir Reginald de Crauford, the Sheriff of Ayr).

Edward I 'Longshanks'       Edward I 'Longshanks' succeeded the English throne on 16 November 1272 at the age of thirty-five while in Palestine and crowned on 19 August 1274 at Westminster Abbey, London, England. King Edward I was later to become William Wallace's deadliest adversary.

              During this period Scotland was a peaceful and prosperous kingdom under the rule of King Alexander III.

              Initially William Wallace was educated at home by his mother, then given schooling and religious education by the monks of Paisley Abbey. Though William Wallace could read and write he was probably more interested in activities such as horsemanship, hunting and swordmanship - sparring with his elder brother Sir Malcolm Wallace Jnr. and younger brother John Wallace (later to become one of his trusted comrade-in-arms).

              On 19 March 1286, King Alexander III's death plunged Scotland into a state of turmoil. The main perpetrators were Robert Bruce 'the Competitor', 5th Lord Annandale (grandfather of the future king of Scotland - Robert Bruce) in the South and the Comyn's in the North, they were both fighting for rights to claim the Scottish Crown.

              The situation escalated when Robert Bruce 'the Competitor' was excluded from being one the Guardians of the Peace (consisting of two earls, two barons and two bishops, appointed by the government of the child monarch, Queen Margaret of Scotland 'the Maid of Norway'). Therefore Robert Bruce 'the Competitor' together with his eldest son, Robert Bruce, the 1st Earl of Carrick (father of the future King of Scotland - Robert Bruce) and co-conspirators instigated the revolt of the Turnberry Band in September 1286. The Guardians of the Peace sensed a challenge to the Scottish Crown and mobilised an army to its defence in the spring of 1287. By the time of the army of law and order were fully mobilised the revolt of the Turnberry Band had lost its momentum. Then Scotland lulled into an uneasy peace for about three years.

              When William Wallace was seventeen or eighteen years old he travelled to Dunipace to further his education and lodged with an uncle (a younger brother of his father), a cleric at the chapelry of Cambuskenneth Abbey. At this stage William Wallace demonstrated an aptitude for a career in the Church (a typical role for landless younger sons), e.g. expressing his intellect by showing his command of French, Gaelic and Latin. The credit for initiating William Wallace's passionate desire for liberty goes to his uncle-priest; this can be summed up from his favourite phrase:

Dico tibi verum, libertas optima rerum;
Nunquam servili sub nexu vivito, fili.

My son, I tell thee soothfastlie,
No gift is like to libertie;
Then never live in slaverie.

              During 1289, protracted negotiations occurred between King Edward I and King Eirik II of Norway. The negotiations were about the marriage of King Edward I's five years old son, Edward, the Prince of Wales (later to become Edward II) and the six years old Queen Margaret of Scotland, King Eirik II of Norway's daughter. These negotiations resulted in the Treaty of Birgham being ratified on 28 August 1290.

              Then Queen Margaret of Scotland travelled from Norway for her arranged marriage with Edward, the Prince of Wales. During the voyage she succumbed to an illness and on 26 September 1290 she died, shortly after landing on Orkney.

              Then the main contenders for the Scottish Crown were John Balliol and Robert Bruce 'the Competitor' (both factions were prepared to seize the Scottish Crown by force), in total there were thirteen contenders.

              Then a naïve William Fraser, Bishop of St. Andrews (one of the Guardians of the Peace) invited King Edward I to assess each contender's rights to the Scottish Crown. King Edward I agreed, but he had to be regarded as the Lord Paramount of Scotland in order to act as the adviser on the successor of the Scottish Crown. Finally all the contenders readily acknowledged King Edward I as their Lord Paramount and were willing to receive his judgement. A factor that might have influenced their decision was the fact that the majority of the contenders had substantially larger estates in England than in Scotland and therefore would have lost their English estates if they defied King Edward I.

              Then on 11 June 1291, acting as the Lord Paramount of Scotland, King Edward I ordered that on a "temporary basis" every Scottish Castle to be placed under his control and all Scottish officials to be replaced by English ones. Two days later, in Upsettlington, the Guardians of the Peace and the leading nobility of Scotland gathered to swear allegiance to King Edward I as their superior and direct lord of the kingdom of Scotland. All Scots were also required to pay homage to King Edward I as their Lord Paramount, either in person or at one of the designated centres in Ayr, Dumfries, Inverness and Perth by 27 July 1291.

              Sir Reginald de Crauford in his capacity as the Sheriff of Ayr administered the homage to be paid to Edward I and would have immediately noticed that his son-in-law's name didn't appear in the list that complied. Then Sir Malcolm Wallace and his eldest son fled north to Lennox to avoid the imposed penalties for not complying to swear to the oath. This resulted in Lady Wallace and her younger sons (William and John) having to be sheltered by her father, Sir Reginald de Crauford.

              Then Sir Reginald de Crauford sent the eighteen or nineteen years old William Wallace to Kilspindle in the Carse of Gowrie, together with his mother and younger brother to reside with an uncle of Lady Wallace. William Wallace then attended the nearby church school in Dundee, to be doctrine in the ways of the priesthood. It was at this church-school that William Wallace met John Blair, who later becomes a Benedictine monk then Wallace's future chaplain and comrade in arms.

Loudoun Hill               In the latter months of 1291, an English knight called Fenwick murdered Sir Malcolm Wallace at Loudoun Hill, because of his unwillingness to yield to King Edward I's authority.


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