In 1290, a dynastic crisis broke out in Scotland. After the death of Queen Margaret of the Norwegian Maiden, the straight line of the ruling dynasty of MacAlpins was cut short. Candidates for the throne turned out to be more than enough, and the Scottish nobility was unable to come to a single decision. The king of England Edward I, who was the great-uncle of the deceased queen, was elected the arbitrator in the dispute. He had no special support among the Scots, therefore at first he was quite happy with the role of a wise arbiter.
Stained glass window depicting Queen Margaret of the Norwegian Virgin
In 1292, Edward I ruled in favor of John Balliol, who was crowned on November 30 under the name of John I. The choice of the English monarch was not disinterested - instead, the new king recognized England's suzerainty over Scotland.
This turn of events did not suit the Scots. Some believed that Balliol had no real rights to the throne, others could not agree with the dependence on the British. In the end, the arbitrariness of Edward I angered John himself, who refused previous promises and entered into a military alliance with the opponents of England - France and Norway.
The problem was that internal disputes in Scotland did not even consider ending, and the opponents of Balliol were not averse to using the help of the British to overthrow him.
In 1296, Edward I invaded Scotland, defeated the army of John I, capturing him. Fortitude and courage in the prison of the Tower deposed the king did not show. Acknowledging all the accusations made by the English king, Balliol abdicated the throne in exchange for saving his life and deportation to France. As a suzerain betrayed by a vassal, Edward I took everything that belonged to John, that is, the whole country.
John I Balliol. Figure 1562
Having proclaimed himself king of Scotland, the English monarch began to pursue so cruel a policy in the new domain that the people were exhausted. The English garrisons entered the Scottish cities and fortresses committed atrocities, robbed, killed, raped. Submission to the king of England was to impose English priests, sent to replace the local, Scottish.
Such a policy of Edward I caused the only possible result - as early as next, in 1297, a revolt against the British occupation broke out in several places in the country at once. In the north, he was led by Andrew de Morrey, in the west and in the center by William Wallace.
On the origin and early years of the national hero of Scotland there are several versions. At the time of the occupation of the country by the troops of Edward I Wallace, who came from a poor aristocratic family, was 26 years old. He had military experience and appropriate weapon skills. According to the legends, William was out of the law already in his youth because of the murder of an Englishman, and for some time was forced to hide. Being "on the run", he sometimes visited his family, who lived in Lanark.
William Wallace. 18th century engraving
On one of these visits, he had an armed clash with British soldiers, who, not recognizing the wanted criminal, began to mock him and his wife. Wallace managed to escape, but the sheriff of the city, William Gezlrig, in retaliation, ordered the execution of Marion Brayfyuit, William's wife. Burning thirst for vengeance Wallace in May 1297 with a group of comrades in arms attacked Lanark. During the attack, about 50 British were killed, several buildings were destroyed. The corpse of GezlrigaWilliam Wallace personally cut to pieces.
After the murder of the sheriff, Wallace moved to action against the British garrisons. His fame grew every day, and dozens of volunteers filled up the squadron daily. Other groups began to join the rebel "army" of William. The first noble noble to join Wallace was William Hardy, Lord Douglas. Together they organized a raid on Skunskoe Abbey, where they seized the English treasury, forcing the Justiciar to flee.
However, a split soon broke out in the ranks of the resistance - representatives of the Scottish nobility, who did not want to lose their estates in England or submit to the wicked Wallace, concluded a compromise agreement with Edward, refusing to fight on the terms of amnesty and guarantees a number of benefits and privileges.
Battle of Stirling Bridge. Figure XIX century
Nevertheless, Wallace, united with de Morrey, managed to liberate from the British the entire territory of Scotland, located north of the River Fort. The last British bastion on these lands remained the fortress of Dundee, besieged by the rebels. Edward I, to his great surprise, discovered that in addition to the corrupt and unscrupulous Scots there are still strong and brave, he decided to do away with Wallace. A 10-thousand army was sent to destroy it under the command of the English governor Hugh Cressingham and John de Varennes, Count of Surrey.
The inevitable meeting took place on September 11, 1297, on the Fort River, not far from Stirling Castle. The English army consisted of 9,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry men. Wallace and de Morrey had 6,000 infantry and 300 mounted warriors at their disposal. The Scots took a position on the hill opposite the narrow Stirling Bridge at the time of the crossing of the British and attacked the English avant-garde that overcame the river. The long spears of the Scottish infantry led to the destruction of most of the advanced English squad. Earl Surrey, seeing this, tried to speed up the crossing. It turned out to be a fatal mistake - the bridge collapsed, many warriors drowned, others lost their weapons. Completed the battle of the raid in the rear of the English Scottish cavalry commanded by de Morrey. The British ran, stuck in retreat in the swamp, which caused huge losses.
All in all, the British lost 6,000 men in the Battle of Stirling Bridge against 1,000 dead and wounded Scots. Among the Scottish casualties was Andrew de Morrey, who was mortally wounded in battle. The British lost killed by Hugh Cressingham. According to the legend, Wallace made a sling for his sword out of the skin that had been torn from the murdered royal governor.
The victory at Stirling Bridge de facto restored the independence of Scotland. William Wallace was elected regent of Scotland in the absence of the king. His army victorious raid passed through northern England, bringing fear to the British. But the success achieved by the new Keeper of Scotland was not final. The internal feuds of the Scottish nobility did not allow to reflect the new onslaught of British troops. William Wallace, who continued to fight, was betrayed to the British by the traitor John de Menteis and executed by hanging in London on August 23, 1305. His body was decapitated and cut into pieces, which were exhibited in the major cities of Scotland.
Wallace at trial in Westminster. Painting by Daniel McLise, 19th century
The struggle for the independence of Scotland continued with varying success until, in 1707, the Union Act finally consolidated the power of the British monarchs over the Scots.
Painting by Walter Thomas Monnington "Union of parliaments of England and Scotland in 1707"
However, the Scots themselves do not want to forget their past and their heroes. In the XXI century, supporters of the independence of Scotland remember William Wallace, not losing hope to bring his case to the end.