The Real Story of William Wallace

23 Years Ago today, the movie Braveheart came out - introducing an entire world of Medieval Myth and History to a public hungry for the romance of the Middle Ages. But the movie was full of assumptions, mistakes, and a downright novel license. The real story is VERY complex and requires a true understanding of The History of England, Ireland and Scotland. EACH of these should be seen from their own standpoint because the viewpoint and opinions we have are often based on just one side.

The Story Begins

It’s mid-winter, 1230AD. A horrific scene is played out in a busy and bustling market square. An infant child is held up to the crowds, and seconds later, she is dead. It was an exceedingly cruel murder. King Alexander II, King of the Scots has ordered the murder a small female child. A local chronicler of the time wrote that the infant was ‘ripped from her mother’s arms and dashed against the rocks and unmercifully put to death.’’

The moment of this brutal and senseless murder begins in process, the creation of a new cultural identity and a search for justice. Out of this time period rises William Wallace, whose resistance to the King of England, hammered the consciousness of the newly unified Scots into their own kingdom.

Far from the movies historical inaccuracies, Scotland will forge ahead. But it won’t happen in reality the way it happened in the movies. In fact, the real story is far more fascinating than the fiction!

Scone of Destiny – The Ancient Coronation Bench for Scots Kings

Uncovering Myths, Re-Writing History

Although Chain-Mail and Armor is often associated with the Middle-Ages, it actually owes its origins to the Romans. The images of men on horseback with articulated plates and chain mail appear in a 4th century book. Pictures of fully armored men and titles of all the Roman officers. Many are called ‘’Catafracs’ or ‘Heavily Armored Calvary.’’ Whereas the Roman infantry had Shields with Insignias that identified each unit in battle, the Catafracs did not. Armor in the Roman era was so good, they didn’t need a shield. Chivalry, unknown to exist prior to the Middle Ages, appears a thousand years before we ever imagined.

Despite the general feeling that the Scots were largely without culture, Alexander II considered himself an equal to the King of England. He was not about to bow to the British King. The early Canmores had recognized English superiority and were given lands to maintain the truce. This was not to be the case with Alexander. The Brits had acted as overlords for the Scots, making them subservient to their English overlords. They were brutal and ruthless to the Scots and often imprisoned them without trial and on trumped up charges. Alexander was brash and arrogant, and he set out on a mission to prove it. In order to do so, he would have to settle a bitter conflict with the King of England.

King John II, one of the most reviled monarchs in British history, was not about to relent. The provinces of Cumberland, Westmoreland and Northumbria were all in dispute, and both King John and Alexander were in a fierce competition to exact tribute and exert its rule. Northumbria was especially important given both its geography (close to Scotland) and its prize farmland.

To settle the argument, Alexander’s father had given both money and two of his own daughters to the King John of England. But John reneged on the deal, and Alexander wanted revenge. He set about a plan to take back what he felt was rightfully his. It was a matter of honor that was taken seriously in the Middle Ages. To a Scotsman, this was as unpardonable a sin as blasphemy upon the Holy Spirit. As often is the case in the Middle Ages , the King of England had many enemies. As it would turn out, the land owners and Barons were about to turn on him too. Their anger toward the King was due to fact that he had bled them dry in order to fund his war in France, and now they demanded retribution. King John was facing an ominous future.

In protest, they drew up a list of over sixty demands – known today as the Magna Carta. One of the things that we historians love to do is to go to Primary source documents and learn from the mouths of those who lived then, to those who live now. The Magna Carta was an enormous influence on worlds to come. And, here, at the very bottom of the list – in clause 59 – they even made a provision for Alexander to give back his lands as well.

Historian’s Tip: One cannot merely discuss such a pivotal event without referring to the contemporary account. The story would lose its ‘life.’ So as I began to put this in a historical context, I relied on the Primary Documentation to fill in the lesser known gaps in the story. In the Magna-Carta, you can really see what the English Land Barons felt about King John. Keep in mind, they were not friendly toward the Scots either – but it is much easier to include a foreign power in your protest as it adds weight and gravitas to the demands.

Alexander mowed through Gaelic rebels and won the respect of his men in doing so. He headed through the highlands of England. In January of 1216, the English land barons of the north signed a pact with the king. Now, the king they would follow was Alexander, swearing Fealty to the king of the Scots.

When we speak of Feudal definitions such as Fealty, it is hard for us to place in our modern minds exactly what that means. So, in order to understand it, we must imagine ourselves living in the moment. This act of taking an Oath of Fealty was one of the most important in the Middle Ages and was an essential part of feudal life.

Prior to an Oath of Fealty, you would have paid homage to the king. This could be done in a number of different ways. The symbolic act of kneeling and kissing the ring of the king was and placing his hands between that of the overlord. At that point, you would swear an Oath of Fealty. The word itself is from the Latin and it means ‘faithfulness.’

The king would be the highest member of the hierarchy. His knights would swear an Oath of Fealty to protect him. These were called vassals. The knights would then hire mercenaries to also protect themselves as well as the king. All of this would be done in exchange for a tract of land. Sometimes a wealthy land baron would be called to do both roles, but in any event, the power system of feudal society was much like a pyramid with vassals being loyal to other vassals who were then loyal to still more vassals.

This was a momentous time in Scotland’s history. Alexander now had vassals and he tightened his grip in the north. The Barons then invited Prince Louis of France to come to England in 1216. Alexander was going to ask Louis of France to recognize the Kingdom of Scotland, thus removing the subservient nature of the relationship between Britain and Scotland. John meanwhile, didn’t grasp the enormous importance of the moment. Meeting little resistance, Alexander accomplished something no other monarch of Scotland has ever achieved – he took his troops all the way to the straits of Dover. Alexander’s plan was working with precision.

He joined the French, and together, they laid siege to Dover castle. Half of Britain was now under Alexander’s control. A storm scattered John’s Navy and his ship with the treasury and gold to the sea. John was in danger of losing Britain and the Angevin Empire, but he would have lost it to the dreaded French. Yet, in a manner that was befitting only to King John, he contracted dysentery from over indulgence and passed away!

His death pulled the rug out from underneath the feet of Louis. Now the barons switched their allegiance again, to the newly crowned King Henry III of England, Ireland, and the Duke of Aquitaine. He had all of this under his control, and he was just nine years old.

William Marshall was the king’s consort due to the youthfulness of the new king. He wisely renounced most of the Magna Carta and gave powers back to the land barons, who now supported the young king and saw the French as foreign invaders. The wisdom of Marshall would come through time and time again.

No one knew it then, but the child-king would rule for fifty-four years. Under the guidance of senior ministers, Henry III eliminated some of the more ‘radical’ elements of the Magna-Carta and reissued it with the blessing of the Church. The charter itself became part of English political life and was typically renewed by each monarch in turn. Henry was faced with daunting challenges for an adult mind to handle. But over time, Henry proved himself surprisingly astute and capable.

As he got older, he preferred to stay in England as opposed to travelling outside the country. Instead, he invested heavily in building new castles and churches and upgraded the ones that had fallen into a state of disrepair. His personality was one of extreme piousness and devotion to the Church. He held lavish ceremonies in some of his newly built churches.

His marriage to Eleanor of Provence (and sister to Queen Margaret of France)* was a bit more complicated. While very devoted to her, the rest of the English population was not so devoted. She came to England with a large contingent of her family. She appointed them to positions rather high up in the government and gave them large tracts of land. One can imagine the resentment that people began to develop towards her. And her hatred of Londoners was as legendary as their hatred of her.

In 1263, her royal barge was attacked by Londoners who began pelting her with rotten fruit and vegetables. She antagonized the English by demanding the city render back-payments in a form of monetary tribute known as ‘queen-gold.’ She received a tenth of all fines which came to the Crown. In addition to the queen-gold, countless other fines were levied on the citizens on a very suspect.

She was complex in character. In many ways, she embodies the spirit of the Middle Ages. She was a romantic figure who wrote poetry, sang songs about the valor of the knights, and wore some of the finest clothing fashions of the entire era. (1) She was known for wearing both a tunic and a girdle and she wore pillbox hats long before Jacqueline Kennedy.

She was immensely popular at first, just going to show you how important it is to have a good public relations department in your leadership. Much was made of her wedding dress, which was shimmering gold with beautiful silk sleeves. It tied at the waist.

Unlike her sisters, who also married kings, Eleanor was renowned for her beauty. Several contemporaries refer to her as the ‘fairest of them all’ and as a brunette with ‘beautiful almond eyes.’’ Matthew Paris, the famous Benedictine Monk on Chronicler said that she was older than most, ‘’jamque duodennem" In case you are wondering, that means, ‘’already twelve.’’

The wedding was a lavish affair and the reception at Westminster Abbey had most of the nobility in attendance. The entire city was decorated with streamers and the streets were cleaned to the best they could be cleaned. The grandeur of a Medieval Wedding, complete with its music, jousting and sense of play combined with celebration was a sight to remember and clearly left a mark in the English.

With her being so young, it gave her the opportunity to bear a lot of children. Infant mortality was a given, and you often expected to bury some of your children. Eleanor and Henry would prove no different. There are four children whose only proof of survival is their names in a hospital rectory. They nearly lost their son, with whom Eleanor was very close to. Edward grew deathly ill when he was seven years old and Eleanor was said to be disconsolate at that time.

But when their three year old Katherine died, it devastated both of them. She had a degenerative disease that rendered her deaf but she was the apple of their eyes, even to those on the outside of the family. It was a loss all of England shared with Eleanor.

As she got older, every fashion trend possible was attributed to her. Known for her cleverness, poetry and artistic endeavors, Eleanor was certainly a trend setter early in her reign. She wore ‘’parti-coloured’’ cottes, (tunics) gold or silver girdles and sleeves of many colors. Had she been even mildly in-touch with the Londoners which made up 80% of England’s population, things might have turned out differently.

So, what exactly happened that made Eleanor so unpopular? She happened to bring in a lot of her uncles and cousins and gave them large tracts of land. To make matters worse, her uncle. William of Savoy, replaced the barons and began to enact legislation which was restrictive to he Barons. Soon, every trip she made to London was met with increasing rudeness.

Furthermore, she wasn’t exactly diplomatic. She sought vengeance on the Londoners by exacting a tax from them known as a ‘’Queen-Gold’’ which was a tenth of all fines that went to the crown. As a result, she was pelted when her barge made its way down the Thames with stones and rotten fruits and vegetables. It took the mayor of London to step in and rescue her form serious injury.

Unpopularity always catches up people, no matter who they might be. When Eleanor finally passed away in 1291, she was so reviled that they had to bury her in an unmarked grave, making her the only known royal-family member to be buried in such a manner.

She was immensely popular at first, just going to show you how important it is to have a good public relations department in your leadership. Much was made of her wedding dress, which was shimmering gold with beautiful silk sleeves. It tied at the waist.

Unlike her sisters, who also married kings, Eleanor was renowned for her beauty. Several contemporaries refer to her as the ‘fairest of them all’ and as a brunette with ‘beautiful almond eyes.’’ Matthew Paris, the famous Benedictine Monk on Chronicler said that she was older than most, ‘’jamque duodennem" In case you are wondering, that means, ‘’already twelve.’’

The wedding was a lavish affair and the reception at Westminster Abbey had most of the nobility in attendance. The entire city was decorated with streamers and the streets were cleaned to the best they could be cleaned. The grandeur of a Medieval Wedding, complete with its music, jousting and sense of play combined with celebration was a sight to remember and clearly left a mark in the English.

With her being so young, it gave her the opportunity to bear a lot of children. Infant mortality was a given, and you often expected to bury some of your children. Eleanor and Henry would prove no different. There are four children whose only proof of survival is their names in a hospital rectory. They nearly lost their son, with whom Eleanor was very close to. Edward grew deathly ill when he was seven years old and Eleanor was said to be disconsolate at that time.

But when their three year old Katherine died, it devastated both of them. She had a degenerative disease that rendered her deaf but she was the apple of their eyes, even to those on the outside of the family. It was a loss all of England shared with Eleanor.

As she got older, every fashion trend possible was attributed to her. Known for her cleverness, poetry and artistic endeavors, Eleanor was certainly a trend setter early in her reign. She wore ‘’parti-coloured’’ cottes, (tunics) gold or silver girdles and sleeves of many colors. Had she been even mildly in-touch with the Londoners which made up 80% of England’s population, things might have turned out differently.

So, what exactly happened that made Eleanor so unpopular? She happened to bring in a lot of her uncles and cousins and gave them large tracts of land. To make matters worse, her uncle. William of Savoy, replaced the barons and began to enact legislation which was restrictive to he Barons. Soon, every trip she made to London was met with increasing rudeness.

Furthermore, she wasn’t exactly diplomatic. She sought vengeance on the Londoners by exacting a tax from them known as a ‘’Queen-Gold’’ which was a tenth of all fines that went to the crown. As a result, she was pelted when her barge made its way down the Thames with stones and rotten fruits and vegetables. It took the mayor of London to step in and rescue her form serious injury.

Unpopularity always catches up people, no matter who they might be. When Eleanor finally passed away in 1291, she was so reviled that they had to bury her in an unmarked grave, making her the only known royal-family member to be buried in such a manner.

This was the situation Henry III was facing as king. He was generally well

regarded and seen as a loyal and pious king. But there were many old traditions that simply refused to relent. Like just about every king before him, he exacted a huge tax upon the Jews and generally made life very difficult for them. He wasn’t the first monarch to attempt to segregate them from the rest of Christian England but he may have been the most successful.

Alexander married Queen Margaret of France, thus tying King Henry III directly to the Scottish throne. In fact, on the very day of their wedding, Henry demanded that Alexander pay homage to him but Alexander did not comply. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the Pope chastised Alexander and ex-communicated the King. The powers of the church in Edinburgh were now halted and the rebuke stung Alexander. The Pope ordered Alexander to pay homage to the king – the NINE year old king. Imagine Alexander kneeling to one knee and kissing the royal ring on the small finger of the new king. It must have been thoroughly humiliating.

Alexander’s own ambition of ruling the north of England was shattered. He was despondent and depressed. The northern Barons had betrayed Alexander and it was something that would come back to haunt them. Their allegiance to Henry III was a sore spot for Alexander. But what of the Scottish nobles? They seemed to be split along several lines. In November of 1217, Alexander gave his homage and returned the lands he conquered to Henry III.

At this time, there were two powerful groups; the factions of Norman Vikings and supported by the ancient Canmore families, who for generations fought for bloodlines and kingdoms. In Scottish-Gaelic they were the House of Dunkeld, or the Caledonians. (The Shakespeare play MacBeth is based on them) The appearance of the towns that they founded was remarkable for their European look and architecture. The early Canmore family had understood English power and they took a knee to it almost from the beginning.

Alexander had to deal with claims of Norway on the Herbides Islands. The Gaelic warlords would fight alongside Alexander in Cateness, where one of his bishops was beaten and roasted alive. Alexander responded in a fierce and bloody manner. Showing that he could be bloody himself, the King took a fierceness seldom seen to the Celts. In the west, he set out to attack the lands of the Norwegian king.

King Edward I was deeply saddened over the loss of his relatives. Upon returning, he sent a warm letter of condolences to Alexander III. Alexander’s reply was reflective of what he thought was a deep understanding and appreciation of their friendship. In the end, it would prove a fatal assumption.

.You have offered much solace for our grief by saying that although death has borne away your kindred in parts, we are united together, God willing by the tie of indissoluble affection…’’ Alexander III reply to King Edward Longshanks

In 1286, Alexander III was eager to consummate his marriage and against the advice of his elders, took to horseback in the middle of a rainstorm. This resulted in yet another stroke of bad-luck for Alexander. He was thrown from his horse during a storm and broke his neck. He was genuinely well thought of and left a surprising legacy behind him. The situation left as heir to the throne of Scotland the three-year-old Margaret, the Maid of Norway. She was the only child of Margaret and King Eric II of Norway.

By the Treaty of Salisbury, it was declared that the little toddler would marry King Edward’s then one-year old son, Edward of Carnarvon. The compromise meant that the Scots would be free of English Lordship. In keeping with the tradition of understanding the Primary Source documentation, it reads as follows: "The land of the Scots are to be separate and divided from England according to its rightful boundaries, free in itself and without subjection.”

Nearly all of the provisions in the treaty were disregarded. There were fourteen claimants to the thrown but only two stood out as frontrunners. John Balliol, one of Scotland’s largest land-owners and Robert the Bruce, who had a distant but hereditarily verifiable relationship to the throne. The two of them opted to ask Edward to intervene, which he readily agreed to if they would take an Oath of Fealty to him. The problem was circumvented when both agreed that the realm would be handed over to Edward until a rightful heir had been found. King Edward most certainly wanted a weak ruler that he could take advantage of. Robert the Bruce had quite a following and was a strong personality. John Balliol was a political player who was a bit more in awe of Edward than Robert the Bruce was. The decision wasn’t a difficult one. After hearing both sides, the decision was made in favor of John Balliol on 17 November 1292.

Inside History: Hollywood got it completely wrong with the story of Braveheart. Robert the Bruce was far from the figure portrayed in the movie Braveheart. In fact, he WAS Braveheart. Robert the Bruce had asked that upon his death his heart be shipped to the Holy Land, henceforth being known to contemporaries as ‘’Braveheart.’’ He was a four-time traitor and skillful political figure. His early life was one of great affluence. He was a tournament champion and he so impressed everyone with his military skills that King Edward I began to build a relationship with him. In an age such as this one, when chivalry was at its rapid popularity, Robert was gaining a reputation as Scotland’s finest knight.

He came from fighting stock. His grandfather, Robert Brus the Competitor, was a huge influence on him. He was heir to the lands in both Scotland and parts of England. He had gone on crusade with Edward I and both developed a great respect for one another. The entire Bruce family so generally well thought of and was popular amongst even most competing clans. In fact, legends were written about Brus the Competitor (as he was known even then) that any extended member of his family was shown great privilege and honor. Without a doubt, the grandfather was a huge influence on the grandson.

Robert the Bruce--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  • Country of Origin / Nationality: Scottish

  • Also Known as: King Robert I of Scotland and Robert de Brus

  • Lifetime: 1274 – 1329

  • Robert the Bruce was King of Scotland from 1306-1329

  • Born: He was born on 11 July 1274

  • Family connections : He was the son of Robert de Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale and Marjorie of Carrick

  • Died: Robert the Bruce died on 7 June 1329

  • Character of Robert the Bruce:

  • Accomplishments and Achievements or why Robert the Bruce was famous: As the greatest Scottish King, the story of Robert the Bruce and the spider and his victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314


Common Medieval Weapons

One of the first truly Medieval objects that I ever found on my own, Caltrops ended up making up a sizeable amount of my collection. In fact, I discovered that these were not only common in warfare but were early home safety devices, being spread out amongst the perimeters of homes to keep unwanted vagrants from wandering where they shouldn’t.

Caltrops: They have four barbed points and it is considered a ‘’Denial Weapon.’’ They were easy to make. It took less than five minutes to make one and were incredibly efficient to make. These would be put into the ground inside moats and along flat ground. Caltrops are used even today in mines.

With caltrops on the ground, even elephants weren’t of any use. Elephants would step on these with their sensitive feet and then they would backup, causing chaos amongst the troops. Cunning use did more than just stop the enemy. You could drive the enemy directly where you wanted them to go.

But the way to the throne of Scotland wasn’t so clear. John Balliol, the Lord of Galway, has his own share of supporters and a bloodline to match. His sister married into the Comyns family, combining much of the north of Scotland and the east of Scotland under Balliol’s hand. The two boys grew up together but they were more rivals than they were friends. Balliol has support from the powerful Comyns family.

The decision to bring King Edward I of England in to help decide the matter was complex. Edward had always been a close friend to the King of Scotland, and as mentioned earlier, developed a fondness for Robert the Bruce. Edward probably saw something in Robert that he didn’t see in his own son, Edward III, who was widely known to be a homosexual and would not leave an heir.

Edward saw himself as the ‘’Feudal Superior’’ to the throne of Scotland. Suddenly, Edward sees himself as a bit of an imperialist. In case the Scots have a reason to abandon their ideas, he has amassed a large number of troops on the border. The Bruce family banked on the relationship with Edward I.

Inside History: Edward I was known as the ‘’The Hammer of the Scots” and in his time he gave England more stability than it had previously. But one group of his subjects that were exclusively his were the Jews. He began to make laws that made it harder and harder for them to do business with the citizenry. Since Jews were not ‘’licensed’’ to buy land, they acquired it through a system called ‘’Usury.’’ Essentially, they were money-lenders who grew wealthy by driving interest rates through the roof, thus earning the wrath of the European gentiles. Edward sought to tax them very heavily in order to fund his wars in France.

At first, Edward publicly spoke out against the practice of usury but he made so much money on the practice that little was done. Then he began leveraging laws on the Jews that made them want to get out. Jews had acquired large tracts of land from English who couldn't pat their debts, yet they had no proper ‘license’ to own such land. As the Jews began to run out of money to finance Edward’s wars, they had just one thing left to give, and that was their land. Edward was bound by his own laws regarding the taking over of land that belonged to someone else, and thus he couldn’t confiscate it. Instead, he rewrote the King’s law and issued what would become known as the ‘’Jewish Expulsion Act of 1290’’’ With that, he rounded up close to 300 Jews and sent them to their deaths. There were a total of 3,000 Jews living in England at the time and they continued to be harassed. Any Jew over the age of twelve was made to wear a yellow patch on their linen coats.

The antagonism towards Jews in England must be tempered by two facts: (1) Prior to Edward’s reign, Jews were welcomed into the England and it proved a friendly place for them. During the middle part of twelfth century, they were even allowed to attend university. (2) Edward was a man of his era. Being Anti-Semitic was a large part of the Middle-Ages. In fact, it could be argued that Edward was exceedingly nice to the Jews when he first became King but that’s a dubious claim given his propensity to kill both Arabs and Jews while on the ninth crusade.


So why does John Balliol even think he has a chance to be King of Scotland? He was a great-great-great-grandson of King David I through his mother (and therefore just one generation further than his main rival Robert Bruce. Still, Balliol was considered a bit of a loose cannon and the Comyns family was fiercely against the rule of England in any manner whatsoever. Still, Balliol was a surprise choice. The weakness of Balliol was a more likely choice if Edward truly wanted vassalage.

The Bruce’s relationship with England were in a precarious position. The Scots had no interest in supporting Balliol and there were factions in England that saw the Bruce as a powerful force. The Scottish land owners did not believe that Balliol would fight for their lands in the same way Robert the Bruce did and they had good reason. Balliol turned his attention on protecting the Comyn’s family lands – much to the dismay of Edward.

Needing an ally, he reached out to Robert the Bruce’s father and asks for assistance. But the fabric of where Scotland was to fit into a European stage was forever changed by Balliol’s commitment to send troops to help Edward. Many of them simply refused to go, and Balliol wasn’t keen on forcing them anyway. Edward despised the arrogance of Balliol by now and he became determined to replace him at once.

To back up this theory, consider this: Edward declared war on France and demanded that Scotland send a large contingency of infantry to aid the English in their war. Secondly, the more Scotsmen that are fighting in France the less there are to fight the English. Thirdly, Scotland and France had always had a good relationship and the idea that they should betray a longtime ally was repulsive to many of the Scots. Since they are bound by an Oath of Fealty, they had no choice. Shortly after the war begins, Edward then signs a peace treaty, leaving the Scots utterly exposed to an angry French military.

King Edward wasn’t above the using the tool of propaganda through his relationship with Pope Gregory X. He convinced the Pope that the war was the result of the Scots. As a result, the Pope then summarily excommunicated Robert the Bruce and all of his lieutenants and bishops.

Meanwhile, the Bruce’s were seen as working alongside Edward and retaining their relationship with political factions within the kingdom. The Scots under John Balliol and John Comyns attacked the castle at Carlisle where Bruce was holding it. The civil war dissolved when the attack began. Edward looks on the entire episode as a rebellion. And, the Balliol’s were repelled.

Edward responded by invading Scotland in 1296 and in a savage attack, took the town of Berwick. This hamlet sits right across the border on the Scotland side. It was an important trading area. But the English were determined to send a message to the rest of Scotland and they succeeded only in raising the fury of the country. 10,000 men, women and children were brutally slaughtered in a battle horrific even by Medieval standards. One bishop recalls that the English spared no one, ‘’not even a woman in the very act of labor.’’ When Edward was leaving Scotland, it was said that he was immensely satisfied with his total victory at Berwick. He had succeeded in attacking a large number of the nobility, but the contrast of English ways of life and Scots way of life play out.

To he Scots, numerous uprisings broke out. To them, it was much more than nobility, it was the very heart of Scotland. Rich or poor, proud or humble, the Scots were much more apt to fight as one than the British were. And out of this comes William Wallace We see a piece of artwork of Balliol’s surrender. He is on his knees before the king and he has his Scottish coat of arms stripped from him and he becomes a pathetic figure in Scotland, He has to plead for his life. In fact, his nickname, ‘’Tomb-de-Bard’ means ‘Empty Court.’ It means he was the King of nothing. The ancient history and legacy of Scotland was trampled on.

All summer long, his following grew and the legend along with it. Wallace raided the English and harassed supply lines. He wanted the English out of the Scotch castles. Each castle presented challenges. The castles were strongholds of power. The castle at Lachleven has been the site of power since 490AD. It was not an easy feat to get to Lachleven. It resembles a smaller version of Alcatraz. The English however had thought the lake was a natural deterrent. With just eighteen men, he slaughtered the thirty-two men of the garrison, but left the women and children. Wallace had done what was actually considered impossible, and taken the most heavily fortified castle of the Middle Ages.

Inside History: Make History enjoyable by making it relative. In the movie Braveheart, they scarcely touched on what a Medieval Wedding was like. A big wedding is likely a part of everyone’s lives. So why not take a look back and imagine what a landmark event in ones life would be like back then? So, have you ever wonder just what a Medieval Wedding looked like? Many of the traditions we have today were in use during Wallace’s wedding. The floral bouquet, the careful attention to make-up and the ever-fashionable high forehead were in regular use in poor and wealthy weddings alike. The garter was important then as well. After the wedding, the entire party would take the newly wed couple to their room where men tried to grab a piece of the dress in order to have something of good luck. The Wedding Cakes owe their origins to the early middle ages, where a wedding in 1021 in France was recorded as having ‘’multiple caykes, stayked highe.’’ The bride and groom would try to kiss without knocking over the cakes. But there was one thing that was very different. The color of purity was not white, but blue. While we don’t wear blue wedding gowns today, the origin of ‘’something borrowed, something blue’’ came from that very notion.

Who was this man, William Wallace? Born of minor nobility and patronized to the Stewart family, the Wallace clan would owe and swear their allegiance to James the Steward, later to be known as ‘Stewart.’ In 1270, Uilliam Uallas (Gaeilic) William de Waleys (Norman French) would take incredulous exception to the bloodthirsty murder of so many Scotsman at the hands of Edward. Historians have taken to the DNA bloodlines of Wallace and came to the determination that he was a large man, especially for the era in which he lived. For instance, a claim of 6’5’’ would not be an unreasonable claim. What little we know about Wallace is written nearly four hundred years later by a cleric known as ‘’Blind Harry.’’ Given the era and the lack of written records, much of what blind Harry has to say must be taken with some skepticism.

His name gives us one clue as to where his family was originally from. ‘’Wallace’’ comes from the Gaelic for the word ‘stranger.’ Ultimately the word would become would ‘’Waleys’’ and ultimately, ‘’Wales.’’ Gaelic absorbed Welsh or Welsh absorbed Gaelic, either way the name of Wallace is a very old name. He was not the first-born son of his own family and hence he owned no land he call his own. Thanks to William the Conqueror, the surnames of many individuals are recorded in his ‘’Domesday Book.’’

In the 1200s, these are called the ‘’Ragman Rolls.’’ Essentially, this record is where we get one of our greatest examples of what Feudal society was all about. The documents are a list of who has accepted vassalage and to whom has received it. It was in these documents that the Oath of Fealties are recorded for prosperity. His own father’s name appears as one of those taking an Oath of Fealty.

‘’…All of the procurators and counsels renewed their annunciations and made agreement, praised them and also approved them, and have renewed the Fealty and homage for all their lands existing within the said kingdom of Scotland by the [consent of the] community of all the prelates and nobles of the said kingdom of Scotland and of all the nobles, subjects and communities of the towns of the whole kingdom of Scotland, [and] by the consent and unanimous will of the said lord king of England; and, touching and kissing God’s holy Bible, have confirmed their Fealty in the way written above by a bond of bodily Oath. And they made their letters patent, sealed by hanging their seals concerning the making of their fealties and homages, as is again clear below….’’

Ragman Rolls We wouldn’t even know of William Wallace if it wasn’t for an accident in history. On the night of March 19th, 1286, Alexander had been carousing at a function in Edinburgh castle. Against his advisors direction, Alexander III set off to head back to his home in Kinghall, and to his new bride. In driving rain and wind, he pushed forward even when his men lost him. Along the coastal path on the way to Kinghall, his horse stumbled and Alexander had suffered a fatal injury to his neck. Seldom had libido proven so costly. With no heir to the throne, powerful rival factions took to a civil war. A king had to be chosen, and so they asked King of England I. They couldn’t have asked a worse man. For them, it was an attempt to guarantee that the Earl’s would be able to keep their lands.

Each of the Scottish landowners was made to kneel before Edward in subjugation. Edward Longshanks did have a legitimate claim to the throne but the idea that England would rule over Scotland was not an easy cultural thing to accept. After-all, everything about English way of living was so different from that of the Scots. And - very few of the Scots even spoke English and had little appreciation for the emerging refinement of English life. Archaeology backed up tradition in 1998. Found under a parking lot, a wooden palisade that was the fortification to the Wallace estate. Timber and stone would surround the outside of the home and it tells us that he was an upper middle-class environment.

They would have spoken French. His upbringing seems to indicate he was raised by monks and may have been heading toward a life on the clergy. It was possible, since he had no lands to inherit. Also discovered was a seal that indicates that he and his father were archers. It wasn’t for warfare but for hunting. Archers after-all weren’t in use in warfare yet, but they were keen to have around when a major deer-hunt was going on. Since we see no sign of archers in the nobility and above, we can safely positionWallace in the middle-class of men, and definitely above Yeoman and Tanners. In 1296, after repeated humiliations, the Scots rebelled when the despised John Balliol – a puppet of Edward’s, suddenly decided to he had enough. They picked up an army and raided northern England, which was the pretense Edward needed to invade.

The town of Berwick-on-Tweed was a major trading hamlet sits right across the border on the Scotland side. It was messaged to Edward that there had been a number of English merchants killed and their stores ransacked. Edward was determined to destroy the town in a show of brutal force. But the English were determined to send a message to the rest of Scotland and they succeeded only in raising the fury of the country. The slaughter in Berwick lasted three days and only stopped when Edward saw one of his men hacking to death a woman. 10,000 men, women and children were brutally slaughtered in a battle horrific even by Medieval standards. One bishop recalls that the English spared no one, ‘’not even a woman in the very act of labor.’’ At Lanark, Wallace fell in love with a woman of ‘’renowned beauty’’ at St. Kinnegans Church and married Marion Braidfoot.

The love affair was clandestine, in part because the sheriff, William Heselrig, had his eye on her too. Even if he couldn’t have her, perhaps he could marry his fourteen year-old son to her. When Wallace married Marion, it set Hesilrig into a rage. And when Wallace got into a minor skirmish, Heselrig has Marion taken away and savagely murdered. Hearing of he murder, Wallace sneaks into the estate in the middle of the night. Wallace’s men slipped into town and they all met up to begin a mission of revenge. According to the story, Wallace struck Heselrig with his sword so hard that it went through his skull all the way to the collarbone. (In the movie, it showed Wallace using a spiked-mace)

What then do we make of King Edward I? He is one of the most polarizing figures of the Middle-Ages, and he seemed very aware of his place in English history. The movie Braveheart portrays Edward as cold and ruthless. He was definitely calculating but he was effective in his rule. He had a fierce temper to go along with his intimidating height and stature.

You would clearly get the impression that this man is a type of king who would finish the things he started. There was his war in France and his expansionistic ideas regarding the English empire. Edward wanted to finance the European conflict with the conquering of Scotland, which was in the midst of a financial and architectural renaissance all their own. The money and the opportunity were met with preparation and some good old-fashioned luck. In personality, Edward was driven and very aware of his role as king. By mastering perception amongst the English people, he engendered great loyalty amongst the land barons, earls and merchant classes. Even the serfs and peasants felt protected by Edward and generally speaking, he kept taxes reasonable.

In addition, he was a pious man with connections deep inside the Vatican. He went on Crusade and was regarded as a brave leader who led from the front. But when making his second journey with his friend King Phillip of France when he failed to get beyond the city of Tunis. What happened next could not been foreseen. There, on the rope of merchant vessel, a small black rat followed the pitch line and saturated the city of Tunis. The Bubonic Plague did not discriminate in social class. King Phillip died and Edward’s troops were reduced to just over 1000 men. The most he could do is take over a small piece of the Holy Land and confiscate some church relics to be brought back as centerpieces for new Church projects.

In physical appearance, Edward was around 6’2’’ and earned the nickname of ‘Long-Shins’ or as it was spoken then as ‘’Longshanks.’’ He wore a beard and moustache as was customary during this era, and his hair was blond when he was younger and as he got older it darkened and then became white with the onset of old-age.

Inside History: Geography probably plays more of a role in History than any other subject. Students of history are also students of Geography and that goes far beyond capitals and large cities. Harbors, natural geology and other formations can pre-engineer historical events. Look for

place-names, rivers, key passages, mountains and deserts have all been central to some of the greatest world events.

Even the physical nature of the earth has changed over the last 4000 years. Earthquakes, volcanoes, storms, and other natural phenomena have caused mass migrations, invasions, wars and just about anything else you can imagine.

There is ample evidence to indicate that during these years, there was a 'mini-ice age.' Temerpatures were as much as 10-12 degrees colder in the extended winters and very wet in the summers. This slowed down international trade and changed their diets.

Here is a map of England, Scotland, Ireland and France in the 13th century.

The Medieval Diet: Vegetables were not part of the Nobility’s diet during these years. Garlic and Leeks were indeed part of the cuisine aross all classes, but beets, cabbages, and onions were largely ignored. Of interest was the fact that the Medieval Diet was a highly spicy one. Cardamon, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cumin, Anise and Mustard were all traded and used heavily. The Medieval diet amongst the lower classes was lacking protein but overall was a lot healthier. The nobility was allowed to hunt boar and deer and therefore meat was a rarity.

The lower classes were apt to eat certain fowl, including swan and herron. They also shared an abundance of freshwater fish. Certain cheeses were available to both classes as well as butter and lard. As long as trade flourished, the diets of the Medieval person remained fairly constant. But climate played an important role in causing disease and driving costs for spices and goods to prices far too high for most of the people in the Middle Ages and an economically strapped society.

Disease During The Middle Ages

Life in France in the early 1400s was very chaotic and difficult. Several epidemics had broken out in Paris and in Lyon, and both were wrought with horrible suffering. The first disease noted was ‘Pertussis,’ otherwise known as Whooping Cough. (Bordatella Pertussis) The disease was transmitted from respiratory droplets usually within people who were in close proximity to one another. Such was the case in the crowded and busy streets of Paris, Lyon and Avignon.

Pertussis has some unusual characteristics that made it difficult to distinguish as one disease. Under a microscope, the pertussis virus is encapsulated and can be covered with a thin slime or uncovered. It grows in the nasal cavities and larynx where it spreads to the lungs. People who suffer from it cough until they cannot stand it any longer. Blood is expelled with phlegm and in the Middle Ages this was often cast on the streets, thus perpetuating the spread.

One interesting fact about Pertussis is that as a virus, it seeks to survive, and cannot survive without a host. When enough people finally die from it, the outbreak is stemmed and thus does not reappear for several decades or more. It nonetheless has been able to bounce pretty rapidly from host-to-host with the great assistance of the people who lived in the Middle Ages. Their reliance on superstition and a general lack of understanding how diseases develop and regenerate only served to make the disease worse.

In 1348-1349, Genovese merchants began getting violently sick. They were showing signs of a pestilence that had been written about and feared, but heretofore unseen. Violent coughs gave way to high-fever, high-fever often rose to levels that caused death, mercifully before the other symptoms would show. There were three distinct kinds of plague that devastated Europe. Bubonic Plague was what came to be known as the ‘’Black Death’’ and it left its mark on the skin in a most sickening manner.

Huge bulbs of pus in the groin and armpits of the sick. Giovanni Boccaccio, the Renaissance humanist gives a disturbing eyewitness account.

’'….In men and women alike it first betrayed itself by the emergence of certain tumours in the groin or armpits, some of which grew as large as a common apple, others as an egg...From the two said parts of the body this deadly gavocciolo soon began to propagate and spread itself in all directions indifferently; after which the form of the malady began to change, black spots or livid making their appearance in many cases on the arm or the thigh or elsewhere, now few and large, now minute and numerous. As the gavocciolo had been and still was an infallible token of approaching death, such also were these spots on whomsoever they showed themselves….”

Two other diseases associated with the Plague also destroyed the social fabric of Europe. Pneumonia and Septis both were offshoots of Bubonic Plague and spread equally as rapidly. In fact, if someone were truly unlucky, they could contract ALL three at once, and the suffering would be almost impossible to comprehend.

It was at this time that the political and cultural veneer that was Medieval Europe began to drastically change. How could it not? After all, one-in-three succumbed to the disease. Pope Clement estimated that close to 25-million people, one-third of all of Europe, from Italy all the way to Russia to the north, and from Portugal and Britain on the west to Hungary and Greece on the east, all died from the two and half year plague. It is, to this day, the single largest shock that humankind has ever suffered in recorded history.

The Hundred Years War and in-particular the Battle of Agincourt happened amidst the backdrop of an impending period of gloom. No one really expected to live to see old-age, and so warrior fighting was at the very least, a healthier alternative and certainly more noble than trudging in and out of the polluted and disease-ridden cities to conduct business. Even Henry V lamented, ‘’T’is much more noble to die in the service of a king than to die in service to no one.’’

Meanwhile, in England, they too were dealing with an outbreak. The hospital in Manchester England reported a high number of stillbirths in the month of January 1414. Over 150 cases were reported, and of those, 109 mothers were also suffering from tuberculosis. Although the records say that there 18 cases of plague, this seems unlikely as those numbers have historically been much higher. The hospital fails to detail many of the symptoms so there is little to go on in order to really find out what common illness these people died from. The weather had been mild and wet in England, which helped to spread outbreaks of influenza and Malaria.

There are a couple of fascinating notes in the Manchester Hospital record books. One of which was the construction of a ‘’sanitary room’’ in the hospital. Remember, this is 1414-1415. The other interesting note is for the first time the hospital records the number of children who were dead due to ‘’neglect or abuse.’’

The hospital also has a space reserved for those who were ‘’ill with bad temper.’’ In Manchester, drunken bar fights were resolved by sending both men to the hospital and locking them away in he sanitarium for a few days in order to dry out. If a man beat his wife too severely, a local barrister could get the violator off with a three-to-five day stay at the hospital where he would be treated for ‘’Ill-Spirited Tempers.’’

In West Smithfield, England, authorities actually prepared for the Black Death as it made its way north in France. An emergency cemetery was built with clays and limestone ready to bury on top of the corpses. As we have learned from archaeology, the bodies often revealed severe malnutrition. Other clues as to what was happening is found in the voices of the victims themselves in beautifully kept wills and legal documents that those who were afflicted would write.

We can see in these wills, the writing is beautiful and concise. The key legal phrase is in ''enrollment'' which was the date on to which the afflicted died. In the early autumn of 1348, only a few wills were enrolled. In December of 1348 began to rise and in May it reached an astounding 60% of all British citizens. The residential population was 60,000 and 36,000 of them died.

''To my wife for my life, Agnes, for my life, I will the tenement in West Smithfield, we have built; and to my first born son, 60% of the land and to the child in my wife's belly, the remaining 40%.''

John de Samweull, 1348

London was being hit on a grand scale. When looking at the skeletons of those who had the Black Death hit so quickly, it had no time to affect the bones. But there were other clues as to why the Plague hit so many, across such a huge scale, so very hard. Bones show signs of stress due to malnutrition. Anemia is a sign that the body is fighting off disease. Many had been made more vulnerable due to the act of fighting off disease. But there was something else that was happening too --- Famine.

The monk, Bernard of Nimes, writes that ''..l n'a jamais été tellement chaud. Le ble est rempli de ravageurs."" (Never has it been so hot. The wheat is filled with bugs) Sudden climate change was the culprit. Two Horseman of the Apocalypse were riding on Europe in tandem. Even before the Black Death arrived, almost 10% were already dying due to famine.

In Genoa, two-hundred people a day were buried in emergency burial pits throughout the city. It challenged Roman Catholicism with regards to the decimation of a corpse and the idea that in the name of survival, the dignity of the human body was now discarded. But in England, the outcome would be much different.

History suggests that King Edward III heard of the unrest in Genoa and knew that proper burials still needed to be adhered to. The idea was to make the plots ahead of time and to maintain the dignity of the human condition. One could only think that the super-pious city of Genoa was acting almost in self-defense with its burial methods.

In England, the disaster planning of Edward III was well ahead of its time. By having a head-start on the plague, effort was made to treat the bodies with respect. This level of care is essential around the areas of human dignity. Edward allowed there to be time for Last-Rites. The urgency around the buried bodies is essential because of the shock it would have on society to see the dead laying on the streets, neglected. The full scale of Edward III'S disaster preparation accomplished the unimaginable --- to maintain a sense of order in a world where six out of every ten people died.

Scientists initially believed that the Plague was a mutation, an organism that is freakishly stronger than it is even today. It was the only thing to explain how fast it spread so fast and with such vile consequences. But in DNA sampling of those with the plague in today's world show that the plague is identical to those who had it in the Middle Ages. Instead it was our reaction to the plague that changed. In 1348-49, people weren't afraid of the rats that passed the diseases, they were afraid of one another.

Pneumonia Plague became a pandemic. Recently we have seen a few resistant strains of plague, showing that even now we could be the crosshairs of another mass plague. Thomas Francis, a wax chandler, made his will just three days before he would die. His wife would make a will too, only to die as well. A large number of orphans were left being behind. And yet we begin to see something beautiful flowering in a cultural sense. It was the wills that left behind loved possessions. Silver cups, leather-works, Silver Crosses and many other things were now being treasured.

The plague hit at the perfect time time. A warm and wet climate in Europe made the continent fertile for disease. The trade routes that opened up to the far east only increased the potential of other diseases being brought in to a world with an already weakened immune system. The Plague has everything it already needs to be very successful. Plague has all that it requires to cause the Black Death to cause a catastrophe, and it had it -Throughout the Middle Ages.

As 1414 moved into 1415, the wars between England and France only made living conditions even worse. Shortages of food were commonplace, even amongst the nobility. Although it is difficult to compare the economic standards of the Middle Ages to that of today, there was a terrible recession in both countries and the dismal era in both places led to a very high suicide rate.

In the years immediately after the outbreak of plague ended, there was a brief period of economic revival. This was a result of so many people dying so quickly. Cultures, especially in Northern Italy, had a huge increase in financial capital per person, since so many had died in the recent years prior. If you lived during this era, Northern Italy was the place to be. All of that money, now in the hands of a few survivors, with little to spend it on except for artistic luxuries. And THAT was a key cause for the Italian Renaissance, with all of its lavish and obstinate classical revival.

In commercial terms, the city of Florence opened up the Medici Bank. It was the largest and most successful bank in its time. This era in Italy marked the rise of the city-states and the primary families of wealth and class. The city-states of Italy were seeing a classical revival of the great eras of Roman antiquity, and newly built structures reflected the love and perfection of Roman architecture. Although it was still very early in this process, the accumulation of gold, land, fine silks, and other consumer desires were rapidly setting Italy apart from its European neighbors.

The French maintained financial relationships with the Medici Bank and opportunistically borrowed the money necessary to make the sturdiest of armor and weaponry. It enabled the French to purchase the most up-to-date armor which would prove to be far too heavy and bulky for the actual battle. The English had no such connection – but as the so often say –‘’necessity is the mother of all invention.’’ The genius of Henry V was setting aside conventional method and using existing tools and turning them into viable weapons.

Everyday Jobs In The Middle-Ages

We tend to have a romantic attitude about the Age of Chivalry but this has much to do with the sentimental nature of the Victorians than in reality. So how does one become a Kinight?

The Arming Squire was the lowest rung on the ladder but a necessary one if you were to become a knight. The armor of the Knight wasn’t shiny and new after a day of practice, or worse still, battle. The knight would be covered in grime and mud, and it wasn’t like the knight could take off his armor for a bathroom break. The armor was often drenched in sweat, excrement, blood and dirt. The Arming Squire would remove the armor quickly, and then scrub it down. There are 24 items in full suit, all covered by a leather harness, and worn over a hot and sweaty jacket - all weighing over a hundred pounds.

In order to clean the armor, you would use a mixture of vinegar and sand. Occasionally you would mix urine in it because of its acidic quality. The knight would train the squire in the ways of chivalry and life. The squires didn’t just wait for the knights to return from battle. In fact, they followed along in battle. At Agincourt, they trudge hundreds of miles to get to the battlefield. A squire would have marched 200 miles in 17 days, all without food or drinking water. Dysentary killed far more soldiers than battle ever did.

The Archers may have won the battle of Agincourt, but this was among the worst of the Medieval jobs. They weren’t treated like Knights were. They were shunned from that class. And in the aftermath of a battle, the archers would walk amongst the dead and to anyone that might have been a live would have been put out of their misery.

A doctor in the Middle Ages, especially during the Black Plague, would have had a most unenviable job. Remedies may have been well intentioned, but they were hopelessly backward. In most towns, there was a notable absence of plumbing. Houses were built on top of one another, and at each level, you would see an awning over the windows and doorways. This wasn’t to keep the hot sun out, nor the rain. It was because of the practice people had of tossing their excrement and urine out the windows. It would splash on the awning instead at your front door and ultimately pass on the street, where gutters would wash the remnants into the local reservoir, which also served as the drinking water for the town.

Needless to say, these practices only made the Black Death even worse. Consider the notion that you might have simply had a stomach bug that wasn’t all that serious in nature. Your immune system was already weakened and as a result, you were unable to fight the more serious diseases that came your direction. And Doctors – as we will see – often multiplied the genetic chaos with the most creative –if not destructive – of solutions.

Leeches were used everywhere in the Middle Ages. You had to collect them first. In Kent, there are marshes that still have them. The weather, as we now know, was considerably warmer. Thatchers would often acquire reeds and sticks that they would tie together for brooms and so forth. By virtue of their position, leeches would often come up with these thatches.

It wasn’t uncommon for women to walk with their dresses lifted up knee deep in the water in hopes of catching a few. There was money to be made after-all. Either way, leeches were a staple amongst Medieval doctors throughout Europe. If you were lucky enough to get a few leeches on you, they would leave a small ‘’Y’’ shaped scar on your skin, sucking up five to six times their size. In addition, leeches have a natural anti-coagulant in their saliva that keeps the patient bleeding for some time.

Got a Headache? Grab a Leech!

And one patient might have two dozen or more leeches on them at a time! Can you imagine the bloody mess there would be? But there IS medical use for leeches, even today. For instance, if you lost a toe in battle, you would bring the toe to a doctor who would sew it back on for you and then attach a leech to the end of your toe. The leech would pull blood through the toe and your circulation – provided you didn’t die from the treatment itself – would come back.

Often the doctors would recommend amputation. If you walked around a Medieval village, it would be one of the first things you would notice. One-in-Four had three limbs or less. Almost half had lost a finger or a toe and often more. The Barber-Surgeon had probably the worst job in all of Medieval Europe.

Being a barber was a gruesome way to make a living. They would first take a urine sample and the color of the urine would be matched against temperature, cloudiness, and yes, even taste.

Being gifted with razors was just one of the many talents a barber-surgeon had. Using a straight edge knife would take an inordinate amount of time to amputate someone’s arm. For this job, you needed a ‘hook’ knife that would wrap around the arm and then with one strong swipe, you would take off about 30-40% of the muscle in the forearm.

Money was tight for the surgery, so the barber used his blades to cut hair. Some were true hair stylists but they tended to be in France more than in England. But because of the often bloody nature of their job, they would take their bloody bandages and dry them out on a stick outside their places of business. The wind would blow these bandages around the pole and you would have a red-and-white bandages twisting around it. And that is how the term – and the symbol of the barber pole – came into being.

A Hook Knife used for amputation of arms and lower legs

If you couldn’t afford a barber-surgeon, you might find yourself visiting the ‘’Wise-Women.’’ The Church turned a blind-eye because there were often elderly women who needed a place in society. They had a collection of homemade remedies that included the use of live eels – cut into pieces and then rubbed onto a wart – something that would kill off the wart.

Remedies for a sore throat included a necklace of live worms put around your neck, and as they died, they took the pain of the sore throat with them. Wise Women were paid with barter. But some of the cures weren’t so crazy after all. Let’s say you have sore joints. The wise women would take sharp nettles, a type of bush, and you whack the joints with the nettles. To counteract them, you would take the nettle-tips and smash them with water in a bowl, And the sing from this, would take away form the arthritic joints. The stinging would be great, but it did work. But let’s say you wanted to leave on a nice note....

Before leaving – you would be getting some worm-soup. It looked like a black liquid with the consistency of molasses. When I was living in England, I had to try this for myself, and I found a place in Kent that entertains tourists with a ‘’taste’’ of the Middle Ages. There weren’t a lot of spices in my worm soup, and it tasted like a cross between snot and dirt. Sometimes, I am far too curious for my own good!

Building a cathedral or even a church could be a lifetime endeavor. The Cathedral in Canterbury took over 150 years to build, meaning that there were degrees of varying skills often met that succeeding generations were slowed down, having to correct the errors of the previous generations. Nonetheless, at the very least, laying down mason work, cutting stones, and being a craftsman was hard work, but certainly well respected.

If you walked upon the site where a cathedral was being built, you would see something quite amazing. It would essentially be a human crane, lifting huge blocks of concrete by creating power from the wheel and axle and human ingenuity. This was the job of the everyday life was that of ‘’Treadmill Worker.’’ The cranes were built like huge gerbil wheels. The people would hoist these cranes high – often with massive blocks of stone. The rope is attached to the axle at the of up to two tons as high as 150 feet.

You simply got into the big wheel and you stood inside and began peddling. You certainly would work barefoot as shoes were for the rich. The treadmill workers were usually blind so that they weren’t aware of the height with which they were peddling large items. And you couldn’t just stop once you got started. The wheel worked on momentum – so you couldn’t make the wheel stop just by turning around.

If your last name is Fuller, there is a good chance that someone in your family was a Fuller – and involved in ‘Fuling’ which was a key job during the wool trade. In order to make wool soft and malleable you have to keep it underfoot in stale urine. When raw wool is first made, it is quite greasy. But over the next eight-to-ten hours, the wool becomes cleaner, and softer, and easy to sew with. If you are worried about the fragrance, it was often treated with rose-petal oil before actually being sold to the public.

Imagine walking down the streets of a Medieval town. You have feces and urine dribbling down the cobblestone street along with horse dung and various other animals such as goats and sheep. The smell would hit you first, but your attention could not help but be diverted to the sight of people walking, or often dancing and singing, while in a huge vat surrounded by insects.

These happy-go-lucky people would be marching back and forth in stale urine. The ammonia in the urine would turn and the smell was nauseating, but it would also be perfect for removing grease. Flies and mosquitos were attracted to it almost a once. You dip the raw wool in a large vat and squish the urine into the sheep-wool. The urine would soon turn into a darker color, the result of the grease being lifted from the raw wool. But the threads of the wool would get closer together and the finest wool of all of Europe was made – all to be worn by everyone who lived in the Middle Ages.

Inside History: Much of what we know of Wallace is of course written from the Scottish point of view. Americans love courageous heroes but the name William Wallace scarcely gets mentioned in American textbooks until the middle 1960s. The New York City school district printed their HS History books with the first mention of Wallace in any kind of detail. I have – in my own collection-perhaps 30 HS history textbooks from the early 1900s to the late 1980s from a variety of states and none of them mention Wallace beyond a name, and even then it was quite short on information. So why do we see the name of the heroic figure in Wallace in the middle 1960s? Perhaps it is because authors at the time desired to make history relative to the world around us. Consider that our own social revolution was going on then and America was reeling over the death of our own ‘Camelot’ in John Kennedy. We needed a hero.

But one wonders just what the English felt about the Scots rebellion and William Wallace? Here is a contemporary account by ‘’Blind Harry.’’ He is separated in time by over a hundred years and yet his account is vivid and mostly accurate. He interviewed those still closest to the original moment, usually the family members and distant relatives and he accounts for discrepancies by letting the reader decide.

Blind Harry---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  • Country of Origin / Nationality: Scottish

  • Lifetime: c. 1440 – 1492

  • Born: Blind Harry was born c1440

  • Occupation and Career: Well educated Scottish poet and Minstrel

  • Died: Blind Harry died in 1492

  • Character of Blind Harry: Determined, tenacious and ambitious

Accomplishments and Achievements or why Blind Harry was famous: Medieval Minstrel and poet whose work was the main source for the events of the life of William Wallace - Braveheart


On his epic, ''The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace,'' Harry tells the graphic story of the murder of Marion Bradefute and the escape of William Wallace. One of his primary sources was Father John Blair, Wallace’s personal chaplain and a family historian. These family records were carefully detailed and kept usually in family Bibles, so the account, although many years elapsed, was written close to the time it happened. You can easily tell where the Englishman left his mark in the account, which is why Blind Harry is an erstwhile source. He tries not to view this event from just one angle. It begins from the English point of view, and then gets carefully integrated with Harry’s, and what you have left is a very ‘’journalistic’’ account of one of the nastiest moments in Medieval History.

“William Wallace often came to Lanarck for ‘’sport.’’ He would roam about the city murdering Englishman on sight, most usually in hidden alley ways and such. In the town of Lanark was Sheriff Heselrig, who was known for his cruelty and deceitfulness. Heselrig increased the number of guards on the lookout for Wallace but even in plain sight, Wallace slipped past them, saluting them in mock show of respect. Marion Bradefute became the surviving heiress to Lamington and Heselrig had her brother murdered because she had previously rejected his advances. When that failed, Heselrig tried to have Marion marry his 14 year old son.

On one of his visits to Marion, a soldier in Heselrig's garrison confronted him. The soldier greeted him in a mixture of English and French. "Dieu garde bon Seigneur" (Good day and good morn). Wallace responded in a mixture of Scottish and Gaelic: "Gud deyn, dauch lard, bach lowch banyoch a de" (good evening lazy lord if you please, God bless you).

As this was going on, several other soldiers had gathered round to watch. All of the soldiers around were now taunting him and the band of about 40 Scotsman who were with him. One grabbed at his blade and said, "What should a Scot do with so fair a knife-as the priest said who last bedded your wife (this sinfully implying that he was not the true father of Marion's baby but that a priest of Saint Nicholas had fathered her child). The crowd continued to get larger until it reached about 200. Heselrig and Thorn were also among the crowd.

Robert Thorn was an Englishman who was a friend of Heselrig who was partly involved in the murdering of Marion. William's anger was rising as the taunts continued but the one about his wife really angered him. He tried to remain calm and cool but lost his temper. The fight was quick and viscous. He quickly drew his sword and lobbed off the head of one English man. The blood gushing forth from the decapitated soldier's neck blinded William temporarily, but in the small street the English could not win just by outnumbering the Scots.

The men with Wallace fought very skillfully. They fought a rearguard action and withdrew through the gates taking refuge in Marion's house. The Scots slaughtered fifty Englishmen in their escape, but the rest of them, led by Heselrig and Thorn, regrouped and went up to the door of Marion's home demanding the "ruffians" surrender immediately. Marion stalled them at the door arguing with the sheriff to give her husband time to escape. Soon after the English realized that the Scots had fled and they broke down the door and put Marion to death right there on the spot.

Wallace was angered beyond belief upon hearing the news of what had happened to his wife. That same night Wallace and his men, who were joined by a few others, prepared to go into the town and take the sheriff's life. Heselrig never thought that they would try an attack that same night so security was at a minimum. Wallace and his men went into the town in small groups of two or three for this way the guards would not pay much attention to them. Once inside, the band regrouped. They split into two main groups; one group would head for Thorn's house and the other, with Wallace as leader, headed for Sheriff Heselrig's house.

Upon reaching the Sheriff's house, he smashed in his door with a single foot and rushed up his stairs. He found Heselrig in his bedroom where he murdered the sheriff. With one single downward stroke of his blade Wallace lobbed off the sheriff's head, clear to the collarbone proclaiming ‘’I am Wallace!”’ Robert Thorn's house was set on fire and he burned to death. Wallace and his men fought with the British, who were now aware of their presence, and slew many Englishmen. The dead was said to be at about 240. Wallace did, however spare the priests and women but he expelled them from the city with no provisions.

Word Origins: The Ragman Rolls has a unique word origin. It was spelled out in the Norman French as ‘de Ragemannis. '’Rag’’-Comes from the Latin ‘’REX’’ which referred to as ‘’Law.’’ The letter ‘a’ replaced the letter ‘e’ because Gaelic had a bit of a different usage for the letter ‘e’’ and it was often replaced with the letter ‘‘a.’’‘’Mannis’’ is partly derived from Latin and Medieval French. It refers to ‘’Hands.’’ A Manuscript is defined as a writing performed by hand. Thus, the word means ‘’The King’s Writings.’’ It was given this name to remind the Scots that they were subserviant to the King.

She was known as the ‘Maid of Norway.’ They arranged a marriage between the three-year old and Edward’s son. Now, Scotland would belong to Edward. Because women could not rise to Queen and could own nothing, everything would fall to England through the son of Edward Longshanks. This is something the movie could have added to help viewers understand what Edward’s obsession actually was, but nonetheless, they it out. Then, unexpectedly, in 1290, infant Margaret died while on the way to England Rumor has it that she died of the flu epidemic that was taking over much of Europe. When they left, Edward was well regarded – but they had much to learn about Edward’s deep disdain for the Scots.

Scheming from the outset, Edward called for a parliament in Norham. This was significant because Norham is across the river and technically in Britain. The location was a dubious one and questions were being raised among the barons. They did not want to meet at that location. After-all, why would the future of Scotland have to be decided in England? They were right to be worried.

The Scots decided to stall on the other side of the river. Edward had intended something much more evil. They undoubtedly were betrayed and shocked. The English, after sixty years of peace threatened to attack Scotland. In the movie’s opening scene, this is the ambush that is portrayed, and for the most part it is done so accurately. The movie however fails to explain why the Scots nobles were meeting in a Parliament with Britain and it does little to explain the role of John Balloil. The guardians and nobles were ordered to pay homage to King Edward and become subservient once again. The Golden Age of Scotland was to come to an unbelievable end.

‘’…The future of Scotland will not be in tribute or homages to anyone, save God.’

King Edward brought forth a line of eleven others who could claim the throne. It was a brilliant move. Edward made the point that all anyone had to do was agree to have Scotland be ruled by the English. In the movie, we see the price that the Scots had to pay for this subservience. Under English law, the night of a marriage to a Scotsman, the new bride could be forced to sleep with the British knights or nobles beforehand. It was a shock to their culture and the Scots found it a disgusting practice – one of many that was an offense to the clans of Scotland.

The claimants had no choice but to take an Oath of Fealty to Edward. He made no effort to cheer on a winner, after all, every one of them took an Oath of Fealty which as mentioned before, was treated very seriously. Not a drop of blood had been shed and Edward got what he wanted. Of all the people claiming the throne, (thirteen in total) John Balloil emerged as the leader of the pack. In Balliol the King saw a weak ruler. Edward steadily undermined his authority throughout his rule. The Scots began to see Balliol for what he was – a truly weak and powerless ruler. They gave him the name of ‘’Toom Tabard,’’ meaning ‘Empty Coat’’- which was what they felt of Balliol when he wore the robes of a king and had no lands to rule.

Edward I then asked Balliol to lead troops to France on behalf of the Longshanks. The year was 1294 and Longshanks was on his way to war with the French. The guardians of Scotland quickly sized the situation and decided Balliol was simply no equal to Edward. There was no way the King of Scots was going to do military service to the King of England.

At Stirling, they argued about what to do with Balliol. The Bishop’s extreme views prevailed and they reduced Balliol to a figurehead. Now, the guardians had usurped Balliol’s authority. The twelve guardians of Scotland now went on a mission- to set up a treaty with the French and to unite the remaining kingdoms to take the war to the English. Military support from the French would be greatly helpful. The agreement can be found in the British Museum. It is one of the shortest treaties in world history. It is called the Auld Alliance.

Simply put, each side agreed that if the English attacked the other one, they would declare war. Both French and Scotsman would squeeze Edward from north and south alike, and frankly, given the size of the Scots army, they had no other choice. When word of the alliance got back to Edward, he was furious but hardly surprised. After all, he forced Scotland to be vassals to his rule and repeatedly humiliated them. Some say that he expressed ‘mock anger.’’

Inside History: After the ninth crusade, Edward survived an assassination attempt by the Shi’ites when they issued a Fatwa against the English King for his valiant military efforts.

On March 30th, 1296, Edward’s army crossed into Scotland. He took 30,000 warriors into Berwick, a bustling and full blown city with close to 17,000 people. The Scots had no chance whatsoever. Edward, in his brooding anger had turned on Scotland and ordered the murders of 7,500 men and 7,500 women to send a message to the next village. It was an appalling and vile and unnecessary brand of murder. He left just 2000 people alive. The battle happened so quickly, the French simply had no time to invade England. The alliance had fallen through.

At Dunbar, the Scots fell. Much of the nobility was captured and imprisoned. One by one, the cities fell. The Scone of Destiny was stolen and taken by England to Westminster Abbey. Simmering tensions in Scotland would not allow the peace to remain. Balliol, even though he was a figurehead, was seen as responsible for the Auld Alliance. Edward chased him down and Balliol ultimately surrendered. Now, the question is this: What happens when one takes an Oath of Fealty to a king and betrays it? For Edward, it was a moment of triumph. For Balliol, it was a moment he’d never forget.

Balliol was stripped of his coat of arms and imprisoned. Back in Scotland, loyalties are strong and many considered Balliol the righteous king. Even when allowed to go to France, Balliol was still the last of the bloodline of the Canmore’s and future wars the rebels would identify themselves as King John.

(This is a very interesating development given Balliol’s cowardice.) The movie highlights the life of William Wallace but says almost nothing of Andrew Moray. Who was Andrew Moray? They were among the wealthiest of land owners in both the north and south of Scotland. He lead an uprising in Scotland against King Edward in an attempt to hold onto his ancestral lands. Perhaps this is why few outside Britain know who he is compared to William Wallace. As a rising star in the Scottish wars of independence in 1297, he increased the lands of John Balloil. Both he and Wallace were the first Scottish champions of freedom.

To the English, according to their high-school textbooks, Wallace was ‘’akin to a barbarian, burning and looting the English countryside.’’ The textbook goes on to add that Wallace ‘’forced men and women to dance naked for him at drunken debauchery-ridden parties, which the British found particularly dreadful.’’ But this is the British view of the Scotsmen and it is doubtful that it is without bias.

The decision over Scots independence carried over into the present day. In 2014, Britain held elections to decide if Scotland would secede and become its own country, independent of England. Voters streamed to the voting booths amidst a wild sea of controversy and excitement. After much debate, the people of Scotland voted to stay in the Commonwealth with Britain and Wales. 85% of the population turned out in a passionate vote for something that had been on the minds and hearts of Scotsman. On the one hand, those opposed to Scottish independence cited the strong cultural and economic ties to the UK. It is also thought that the economic viability of Scotland and England together is much stronger than if separated. In a globalized economy, the appearance of England and Scotland together helps empower them in negotiations.

Finally, the dissolution of the Union would result in a serious disarmament of Scotland that was deemed both unnecessary and dangerous. But the heart of Scotland is in its desire for independence. Democracy and national self-determination are at the heart of the Scotland’s desire for independence. An independent Scotland would become an equal member in world negotiations. The fight for freedom and independence has always been on the forefront of the heart of the Scotsman. The story of Scotland is one of tremendous intrigue and fascinating personalities. In many ways it makes up the nature of the Middle-Ages and the things we tend to think about when reliving this time in history.

In some respects, your mind and imagination can carry you through these years in a memorable ride through castles and kings and queens and chivalry as well as destitution and poverty and disease. There were warrior kings and there were warrior tribes and in many cases, there was just one individual who rose above the others in warrior combat.

This is where these hundred years begin and end, but it is where the fascinating world of the Medieval Era meets the imagination and where the legacies of our past are still standing.

#Medieval #WInter #medieval #Balloil #Wales #Scotsman #Insidehistory #French #Spain #williamwallace #BlindHarry #Mongols #Jews #PhillipIV #fRANCOmONGOLaLLIANCE

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