Little is known of Wallace, especially his early life. He was from minor nobility in Ayrshire. It is assumed he had some military training. He was married but no children are known.
A little knowledge of Scottish history is necessary. King Alexander 111 ruled Scotland. He was the brother in law of Edward 1. His reign had seen a period of peace and economic stability and he had brought the Western Isles under some sort of central control. However his wife had died and his daughter and two sons died before him. Then one night in March 1286 he set out on a wild night to return to his new Queen and got separated from his two companions. His horse missed its footing on a cliff path near Firth of Forth and then King fell on rocks below to his death. His successor was Margaret the “Maid of Norway” a 3 year old child who then died on the voyage from Norway to Scotland.
There were 13 claimants to the throne and the Scots asked King Edward 1, to adjudicate on the claims. Edward gave his judgement in favour of John Balliol who was crowned King. However Edward then pushed Baillol to revolt. He showed his overlord ship by demanding homage; summoning Balliol to do military service in France and then attend in English Courts to answer complaints by his own subjects. Balliol renounced his homage to Edward who invaded beat Balliol at Dunbar, forced him to abdicate, and brought him to the Tower. Edward prepared to administer Scotland as a province. Resistance appeared and Wallace comes to light.
The first act definitely known to have been carried out by Wallace was his assassination of the English High Sherriff of Lanark, in May 1297.(Some sources say after the Sherriff had killed his wife) He then joined with those who carried out a raid of Scone.
A small army was got together and Wallace and Andrew Moray inflicted a humiliating defeat on an over confident English army under the Earl of Surrey at Stirling Bridge on 11th September 1297. After the battle, Moray and Wallace assumed the title of Guardians of the Kingdom of Scotland on behalf of King John Balliol. However Moray died of wounds suffered on the battlefield sometime in late 1297.
Edward came up with further forces and defeated Scots under Wallace at Falkirk on 22nd July 1298. By September 1298, Wallace resigned as Guardian of Scotland in favour of Robert the Bruce, Earl of Carrick and future king, and John Comyn of Badenoch, King John Balliol’s nephew.
It is thought that Wallace went abroad to seek papal support for Scotland’s cause. Anyway by 1304 Wallace was back in Scotland, and involved in skirmishes with the English evading capture until 5 August 1305 when a Scottish knight loyal to Edward, turned Wallace over to English soldiers near Glasgow.
Wallace was transported to London and taken to Westminster Hall, where he was tried for treason and for atrocities against civilians in war. He was crowned with a garland of oak to suggest he was the king of outlaws. He responded to the treason charge, “I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject.” With this, Wallace asserted that the absent John Balliol was officially his king.
Following the trial, on 23 August 1305, Wallace was taken from the hall to the Tower of London, then stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to the Elms atSmithfield. He was hanged, drawn and quartered. His preserved head (dipped in tar) was placed on a pike atop London Bridge.(The first). His limbs were displayed, separately, in Newcastle, Berwick,Stirling and Perth. A plaque stands in a wall of near the site of Wallace’s execution.