Braveheart: The Real William Wallace

Braveheart is the tale of a Scottish hero, William Wallace, who stood up to the injustices that were being done to his people by the English monarch in the war for land ownership. Most people know that it is based on a true story, but the hollywood blockbuster does not always stay true to the facts (call it creative license which is sometimes necessary to drive the story home). It is understandable that the writers of biopics take liberties with the storyline and facts for the desired impact of their movies, however it is important that people know the facts of the struggle that William Wallace navigated with the help of his people to secure Scottish freedom. Here are a few historical inaccuracies from the blockbuster movie;

 

Braveheart was not William Wallace’s nickname, it was the nickname given to Robert The Bruce (King of the Scots).

Robert THe Bruce was King of Scotland. His reign was from 1306-1329

Robert The Bruce was King of Scotland from 1306-1329

Angus Macfayden played Robert The Bruce in Braveheart

Angus Macfayden played Robert The Bruce in Braveheart

 

The clothing worn by both the Scottish and English were innacurate. The quilts worn by the scottish were only introduced in the 17th century, the English uniform was introduced in the 16th century. Both sides would have would have worn whatever they could find as they were predominantly made up of peasants. (This inacuracy is completely justified due to the fact that if both the Scottish and Engish were wearing rags, it would be impossible to tell one side form the other).

Clothes worn by the Scottish in battle

Clothes worn by the Scottish in battle for the film

The Uniform worn by the English in the Braveheart film

The Uniform worn by the English in the  film

 

Pricess Isabella (William Wallace’s love interest) most likely never met William Wallace. Wallace died in 1305 at the age of 27, Pricess Isabella was born in 1295, which means she was 10 when he died. Isabella only made her way to England in 1308, Wallace had been dead for 3 years.

Sophie Marceau plays the role of Princess Isabella of France

Sophie Marceau plays the role of Princess Isabella of France

 

Prince Edward II was not quite as pathetic as the film implies. According to historians, prince Edward was a physically and mentally strong King, however he had no interest in expanding his kingdom, which was his father’s main interest. In fact, his second declaration as king was to abandon the war against the Scottish.

Peter Hanley plays the role of Prince Edward II in Braveheart

Peter Hanley plays the role of Prince Edward II in Braveheart

Although, yes, there is historical record that he did engage in homosexual relationships,  King Edward II fathered 3 children with his queen in order to fulfil his kingly duty of providing England with an heir to the throne. It is widely accepted that King Edward II was in fact the father of King Edward III as opposed to the film’s script which claimed that Wallace was the father.

 

Longshanks (King Edward I) did not actually approve of the marriage between Isabella and Edward, they had to wait until after his death to marry in 1308 as opposed to the forced marriage as depicted in the film. Longshanks believed that the English Royal bloodline should stay pure.

The forced wedding of Prince Edward II and Princess Isabella

The forced wedding of Prince Edward II and Princess Isabella

 

The battle of Sterling was actually fought on a bridge, Wallace developed a strategy that allowed his army to plough through the English defences. Whereas in the movie, there was no bridge, however the strategy developed by Wallas was the main contributing factor in their victory against the English, not necessarily the location of the battle.

Illustrated map of the real Battle of Sterling Bridge

Illustrated map of the real Battle of Sterling Bridge

The Battle of Stirling Bridge from the film Braveheart

The Battle of Stirling Bridge from the film Braveheart

 

Many historians have emphasised the fact that William may not have grown up as impoverished as illustrated. They believe that he may have been born into Scottish nobility (his father was in fact a patriot) although the details of his early years were not well documented so it is possible that the facts as portrayed in Braveheart are accurate.

Young William Wallace played by James Robinson

Young William Wallace played by James Robinson

 

 

The truth is that many of the facts of William Wallace’s life are unaccounted for and screen writers had to fill in the blanks, especially in his early years. Most of the historical evidence is recalled from King Edward’s perspective (the royals were recorded extensively) which would cause a problem for a biopic centred around his opposition. Yes, there are clear violations of historical fact, but it made for a great movie which is, after all, the film industry’s main objective and as viewers, we enjoy the dramatic, awe inspiring stories complete with family drama and romantic conquests so I believe that the artistic license is justified.

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