Bravehert: The truth anent William Wallace (pairt 2)
Whaur we cam fae: The Wallace, Fawkirk tae London
4. The Battle o Fawkirk
Edward Langshanks wis mairchin north, an a fecht wis inevitable. It wis ane the Scots warna likely tae win.
Wallace at this stage makkit ae decision that wad gie his force an advantage. Kennin that the giant English airmy wad hae need o great stores o supplies, he draggit them deeper intae Scotland. Mair nor thon, he pit mony ferms tae the torch. Wallace, guairdian o the Scots fowk, set the fertile ferms o the Lothians ablaze. He wantit tae stairve England’s airmy.
The ploy wisnae faur awa fae wirkin.
Edward’s airmy, ance it cam deep intae Scotland efter Wallace, wis suin famished. There simply wisnae eneuch nutrients left efter Wallace’s campaign o fire-raisin. They war near at the end o their range. They couldnae ging on tuim-wamit. Baith Welsh an Irish sodgers are recordit as deein fae hunger. The clash wis that the airmy was awa tae turn aboot an mairch sooth again, back tae supplies.
Than, whether bi accident or design, spies telt Edward that Wallace wis anely a few dizzen mile north, near Fawkirk. This gart the auld campaigner steel hissel an rediscover his smeddum.
Edward brocht his forces (mebbe sae mony as twinty thoosand sodgers) north wi aa speed. Gin Wallace haed wantit tae flee, nae dout he could’v. His airmy wis smaa-er an fester. The fact that the battle teuk place, we maun assume, wis Wallace’s decision.
Wallace haed arraingit his fowk intae fower schiltrons, muckle jaggie circles o chiels haudin up spears, wi his cavalry aff on the flank an the airchers in aboot the spaces o the schiltron. Atween them an the English wis a dubbie loch an a burn, tae slaw their inevitable cavalry chairge.
It wisnae a perfect field o battle, but certainly it wis tae the Scots advantage. The English arranged theirsels doun the slight brae, ready for the fecht.
We aa ken whit happened neist: the Scottish cavalry left the field wi’oot engagin. Naebody kens hou they did it. But it wis decisive.
Wi’oot the protection o the cavalry, the airchers haed tae lowp intae the schiltron, or flee, or dee unner the hoofs an lances o the English cavalry. This reducit the Scottish airmy doun tae static tairgets, like takkin baith airms aff a boxer juist afore a bout.
The cavalry chairged the schiltron but, miraculously, they didnae brak up the ticht-packit formations o Scots. This thrawn resistance is aye mindit in the beuks o martial history as ‘the first time that spearman didnae brak up unner the attack o knichts’. A kenspeckle achievement, testament baith tae Wallace’s strategy an trainin an tae the stout herts o the sodgers theirsels.
But than the English airchers cam in wi their pouerfu lang bows an began the slauchter. Wi nae cavalry tae defend them, the Scots war routed.
Wallace fled. Shortly efter, he resigned the guairdianship o Scotland.
5. The gloamin
This wisnae the end. Wallace kept richt on for the Scots cause. Mony popular histories wad hae it that this wis disgrace for Wallace, an he couldnae return. The BBC history even claims even nou that Wallace’s ‘reputation was destroyed, especially in the eyes of the nobility.’ The soorces dinnae match wi this.
Certainly, neither his licht nor the licht o Scottish independence wis slockit bi defeat at Fawkirk. Some historians think it could hae been Wallace wha teuk anither force o Scots sooth tae England tae again plunder them efter Fawkirk.
We ken that William, an his aulder braar Malcolm, war at a Scottish governmental gaitherin a year on fae Fawkirk, wi Wallace speirin for permission tae gang owerseas tae represent Scotland in Fraunce an Rome.
There wis some stooshie at the gaitherin, but we ken that nae lang efter this Wallace wis aff, alang wi documents o safe conduct providit bi the government. He wisnae therefore disgraced nor ootcast efter Fawkirk, though certainly he wis demotit.
6. The European stravaig, an the deith o Wallace
It is dulesome that oor knawledge o Wallace’s fower-year trip abroad should be sae drumlie. But few facts are left tae us. There’s the chance he went ower tae Bergen, afore on tae Fraunce. Here we hae a letter fae Philip IV, the King o Fraunce, demandin o his agents in Rome that they tak care o an gie bield tae William Wallace. Aroond the time o Wallace’s straivaigin o Europe on diplomatic detail, the Pope demandit the release o John Comyn, king o Scots, intae papal care. Mebbe Wallace’s diplomacy wis relatit tae thon decision. We cannae ken.
Wallace gaed hame aroond 1303, an wis neist seen fechtin alangside the Scottish nobility ance mair. He mairchit throu Galloway, wi widespreid support, an harried Caerlaverock Castle. This wis maist likely tae divert English resoorces awa fae Edward Langshanks’ drive intae Scotland’s North-East.
Scotland fell. Edward haed taen the principal touns an castles, an nane but Sir William Wallace stuid agin him. Edward forgied the majority o the Scots nobility wha’d focht agin him sae sairly aa thae years. But as negotiations o peace went on, Wallace wis dealt wi explicitly. He wadnae be shawn mercy, nor clemency, but he wad be ‘delieverit intae the King’s will an ordinance’.
The sairch for Wallace wis lang, shawin that he could yet lippen on the common fowk for bield an secrecy.
He wis claucht, finally, by Sir John Menteith o Dumbarton, an haundit ower. Fae there he wis rushit sooth wi aa haste, sae he could be pit tae deith as pairt o the St Bartholomew celebrations in London. Tens o thoosands o oot-o-touners wad be aboot, an they’d cairy the news o Wallace’s demise back wi them tae their ootlyin communities.
Wallace wis tried unner numerous coonts, the anely ane he rejectit wis that o treachery. He haed ne’er sworn fealty tae Edward, sae he couldnae be traitor tae a man wha wisnae his king.
He haed his genitals cut aff while he lived, than his guts cut oot, afore bein murdert an his corpse hung. He wis hackit intae bits an pairts o him sent tae burghs aa ower Scotland.
The neist again year, Rabbie the Bruce cairied on the fecht for Scottish independence.