William Wallace is captured by the English
William Wallace ’s rigid dedication to Scottish independence proved to be his downfall. Scotland were losing the war. After defeat at Falkirk in 1298 , he resigned as Guardian of Scotland, Robert Bruce and John Comyn would occupy the role. Wallace’s reputation as a military leader was damaged.
His efforts turned to the subtleties of diplomacy. Scotland badly needed international support in their conflict with England. Wallace went to Paris in the hope of renewing the alliance with King Philip VI; it was rumoured he then travelled to Rome to seek papal support for the Scottish cause.
Wallace’s life post-Falkirk is the subject of great rumour and conjecture. It seems that Wallace the man, and Wallace the myth were indistinguishable in such times of political tumult.
Amidst the upheaval, one thing was were certain: Wallace was becoming a wanted man, an outlaw, who could be killed without trial. He had made himself a sworn enemy of King Edward I . The King had the far-reaching tentacles of feudal authority wrapped around Scotland’s noblemen. Where Wallace embraced a fundamentalist sense of patriotism, his fellow countrymen favoured a measured approach, acknowledging that with such a powerful foe in Edward, compromise was necessary to save themselves, and arguably the country.
The First War of Scottish Independence fell into a familiar pattern: Edward’s authority was being emboldened by sporadic campaigning, while Scotland’s resistance lacked cohesive leadership. Comyn and Bruce, an uneasy alliance at best, would be joined by William Lamberton, Bishop of St Andrews . Despite Lamberton’s efforts to unite Comyn and Bruce it remained a schismatic relationship. Bruce would resign. In 1301, one man would assume the role: patriot John De Soulis. He was loyal to the ex-king John Balliol, but fighting for an exiled king in the vain hope that he may return was weakening resolve among the rest of Scotland’s noblemen. Wallace and his followers launched guerilla raids on English positions regardless.
The French were preparing to make their peace with England more permanent. Scotland’s sovereignty was looking increasingly fragile. De Soulis travelled to France – Comyn was Guardian of Scotland in his absence. By 1303, the English were at peace with the French. Edward was finally able to bring Scotland under his control. The following year yielded surrender from Scotland’s leaders; whatever patriotism and designs on independence they may have harboured, they were suppressed. Edward was ageing; it was better for the likes of Bruce to bide their time.
Wallace was still at large. He never surrendered – nor did De Soulis, he was still in France. Refusal to recognise Edward as king, Wallace’s stout defiance sealed his fate. Edward would make an example of him.
It is ironic that Wallace, a man whose patriotism defined him, would be captured by one of his own countrymen. But he had made himself many enemies. In some respects, he had become a problem for both the English and the Scots; the Scots were trying to negotiate clemency from Edward, feudal debts were being settled, and Wallace’s insurgency was at odds with the political climate. Sir John Monteith captured him at Robroyston in the first week of August, 1305. His resistance was over.
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