Since there aren't many Scots here, I've decided to represent Scotland. I'll leave Italy to other members.
(For those who have seen Braveheart please read this as not all events were accuratley represented by the film)
Sir William Wallace was a Scottish knight and landowner who is known for leading a resistance during the Wars of Scottish Independence and is today remembered in Scotland as a patriot and national hero.
Along with Andrew Moray, he defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, and became Guardian of Scotland, serving until his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk. A few years later Wallace was captured in Robroyston near Glasgow and handed over to King Edward I of England, who had him executed for treason.
Wallace enters history when he killed William Heselrig, the English Sheriff of Lanark, in May 1297. According to later legend this was to avenge the death of Marion Braidfute of Lamington — the young maiden Wallace courted and married in Blind Harry's tale. Soon, he achieved victory in skirmishes at Loudoun Hill (near Darvel, Ayrshire) and Ayr; he also fought alongside Sir William Douglas the Hardy at Scone, routing the English justiciar, William Ormesby from cities such as Aberdeen, Perth, Glasgow, Scone and Dundee.
Supporters of the growing revolt suffered a major blow when Scottish nobles agreed to personal terms with the English at Irvine in July. In August, Wallace left Selkirk Forest with his followers to join Andrew Moray at Stirling. Moray began another uprising, and their forces combined at Stirling, where they prepared to meet the English in battle.
Battle of Stirling Bridge
On September 11, 1297, Wallace won the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Although vastly outnumbered, the Scottish forces led by Wallace and Andrew Moray routed the English army. John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey's professional army of 3,000 cavalry and 50,000 infantry met disaster as they crossed over to the north side of the river. The narrowness of the bridge prevented many soldiers from crossing together (possibly as few as three men abreast), so while the English soldiers crossed, the Scots held back until half of them had passed and then killed the English as quickly as they could cross.
A pivotal charge, led by one of Wallace's captains, caused some of the English soldiers to retreat as others pushed forward, and under the overwhelming weight, the bridge collapsed and many English soldiers drowned. Harry claims that the bridge was rigged to collapse by the action of a man hidden beneath the bridge. The Scots won a significant victory which boosted the confidence of their army. William Crawford led 400 Scottish heavy cavalry to complete the action by running the English out of Scotland. It is widely believed that Moray died of wounds suffered on the battlefield sometime in the winter of 1297, but an inquisition into the affairs of his uncle, Sir William Moray of Bothwell, held at Berwick in late November 1300, records he was "slain at Stirling against the king."
Upon his return from the Battle of Stirling Bridge, Wallace was knighted along with his second-in-command John de Graham, possibly by Robert the Bruce, and Wallace was named "Guardian of Scotland and Leader of its armies".
In the six months following Stirling Bridge, Wallace led a raid into northern England. His intent was to take the battle to English soil to demonstrate to Edward that Scotland also had the power to inflict the same sort of damage south of the border. Edward was infuriated but he refused to be intimidated.
Battle of Falkirk
A year later, Wallace lost the Battle of Falkirk. On 1 April 1298, the English invaded Scotland at Roxburgh. They plundered Lothian and regained some castles, but had failed to bring Wallace to combat. The Scots adopted a scorched earth policy in their own country, and English quartermasters' failure to prepare for the expedition left morale and food low, but Edward's search for Wallace would not end at Falkirk.
Wallace arranged his spearmen in four "schiltrons" — circular, hedgehog formations surrounded by a defensive wall of wooden stakes. The English however employed Welsh longbowmen which swung strategic superiority in their favour. The English proceeded to attack with cavalry, and breaking up the Scottish archers. Under the command of the Scottish nobles, the Scottish knights withdrew, and Edward's men began to attack the schiltrons. It remains unclear whether the infantry firing bolts, arrows and stones at the spearmen proved the deciding factor, although it is very likely that it was the arrows of Edward's bowmen. Gaps in the schiltrons soon appeared, and the English exploited these to crush the remaining resistance. The Scots lost many men, including John de Graham. Wallace escaped, though his military reputation suffered badly.
By September 1298, Wallace had decided to resign as Guardian of Scotland in favour of Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick (the future king) and John Comyn of Badenoch, King John Balliol's brother-in-law. Bruce became reconciled with King Edward in 1302, while Wallace spurned such moves towards peace.
Wallace evaded capture by the English until 5 August 1305 when John de Menteith (not Robert The Bruce according to Braveheart), a Scottish knight loyal to Edward, turned Wallace over to English soldiers at Robroyston near Glasgow. Wallace was transported to London and taken to Westminster Hall, where he was tried for treason and was crowned with a garland of oak to suggest he was the king of outlaws. He responded to the treason charge, "I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject." With this, Wallace asserted that the absent John Balliol was officially his king. Wallace was declared guilty.
Following the trial, on 23 August 1305, Wallace was taken from the hall, stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to the Elms at Smithfield. He was hanged, drawn and quartered — strangled by hanging but released while he was still alive, eviscerated and his bowels burnt before him, beheaded, then cut into four parts. His preserved head (dipped in tar) was placed on a pike atop London Bridge. It was later joined by the heads of the brothers, John and Simon Fraser. His limbs were displayed, separately, in Newcastle upon Tyne, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Stirling, and Aberdeen.
Following Wallace’s death, Robert the Bruce became King of Scotland and continued to lead the armies against the English, recording important victories in Bannockburn. Scotland eventually won it’s freedom.
To knog or not to knog......