Cambridge Historical Reader: Primary - Cambridge Press

Sir William Wallace, the Hero of Scottish Freedom

Nearly a hundred years after the time of Richard the Lion-Heart, there was a great king of England named Edward the First. In Westminster abbey you may see his tomb, and on it are some Latin words which mean "Edward the First, the Hammer of the Scots." This was a very good way of describing him: for a great part of his life was spent in striking many hard blows at the people of Scotland.

Edward had conquered a little country, Wales, and he thought it would be a good thing, if he could also rule over Scotland. So we find him leading a great army into that country, and very soon most of the strong castles and towns were in his hands.

It is now that we hear of the noble Sir William Wallace. Most of the great barons in Scotland had lands in England besides: so they did not care very much whether an English or a Scottish king ruled them. But Wallace was a true lover of his native land, and could not rest till it was free.

Like our own Richard the. Lion-Heart, he was very brave and strong. He soon gathered round him a little band of men, most of whom were armed only with a pike and a shield. They were, however, ready to die for their country, which made amends for their lack of armour.

Wallace and his men moved about so quickly that they took the English by surprise. As each castle or town was taken, fresh men joined him, and so, very soon, he had a fairly large army at his back.

An English army was now sent against him. Wallace was at the head of 40,000 men, and, with these, he took up a very strong position on a hill, or crag, near the old town of Stirling. A deep river, crossed by a single bridge, ran almost round the hill.

So eager were the English to get at the Scots, that they at once began to cross the narrow bridge. When about half their army was over, Wallace and his men rushed down from the hill and put the English to flight. There was a great slaughter and many fell into the river and were drowned.

The rest of the army, on the other side of the river, fled in great haste. Thus Wallace had gained a great victory, and he won back nearly all the castles and towns which the English had taken.

The bad news from Scotland soon reached the ears of king Edward, who was fighting in Flanders. He hurried home, and before long he was marching northward with a great army. Wallace did not think it wise to fight a battle, but he kept fairly close to the English, so as to give them as much trouble as he could.

Soon word came to Edward that the Scots were quite close to him, at a place called Falkirk. He at once set out for this place, and, that night, his men slept in their armour, so as to be ready in the morning for the fight. The king, like a true soldier, lay on the bare ground, with his troops.



When Wallace knew that the hour of battle was near, he drew up his men in four circles. Men armed with pikes or long spears formed the outer rings, while inside were the archers.

In this battle, the English, under their great leader. were too strong for the brave Scots. Edward's knights, clad in armour, rode fiercely at the circles; while the famous English bowmen poured showers of arrows on their poorly armed foes.

Before long, the rings of stubborn spearmen were broken, and there was nothing for them but flight. Wallace was now without an army, and for several years he was a wanderer. But he would not submit to Edward, who, in the end, offered a great reward to anyone who would give him up.

This happened at last, and the great patriot was taken to London to go through a form of trial. He was found guilty, and put to a cruel death. Edward thought, in this way, to strike terror into the hearts of the Scottish people.

Wallace Monument


In this, however, he was mistaken. The noble acts of Wallace, useless though they seemed to have been, had stirred to life another great man, the famous Robert Bruce.