Scottish Historical Figure. Though he has become a leading symbol of Scottish nationalism in recent years, details of Wallace's life are sketchy, with most of what we know of him coming from the fifteenth-century ballad "The Wallace" by the virulently anti-English bard Blind Harry. In May, 1297, Wallace and a company of thirty men burned Lanark, Scotland and killed the royally-installed sheriff there, apparently to protest English King Edward I's efforts to control the region. Bolstered by this triumph, Wallace organized an army that took Glasgow and marched on the English stronghold of Scone in September, 1297. Though the English army (which, according to most sources, numbered 50,000) greatly outnumbered the Scots, the English made a grave tactical error by engaging the Scots at Sterling Bridge over the Forth River. The English were not able to bring their full force to bear because of the bridge's narrowness, and the Scots were able to pick them off as they came across. Wallace conducted further campaigns in England's northern counties and assumed the office of Guardian of the Realm. In July, 1298, however, Wallace lost to Edward I's forces at Falkirk, and he would flee Scotland for the continent in 1299. In the years that followed, Wallace would try to gain support for the Scottish cause from French King Philip IV and various other European nobles; these efforts met with little success. By 1304, Wallace was again campaigning in Scotland. He was captured in 1305 and executed in London in August of that year. In 1995, Australian actor/director Mel Gibson made the highly-regarded film "Braveheart", which was inspired by Wallace's story. Though much of the movie is outright fabrication (including the chronologically impossible romance between Wallace and the Princess Isabelle character), "Braveheart" would renew interest in Wallace and stimulate resurgent Scottish separatist sentiment.
Bio by: Stuthehistoryguy