The history of William Wallace (Wikipedia)
Along with Andrew Moray, Wallace defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in September 1297. He was appointed Guardian of Scotland and served until his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk in July 1298. In August 1305, Wallace was captured in Robroyston, near Glasgow, and handed over to King Edward I of England, who had him hanged, drawn and quartered for high treason and crimes against English civilians.
Since his death, Wallace has obtained an iconic status far beyond his homeland. He is the protagonist of Blind Harry's 15th-century epic poem The Wallace and the subject of literary works by Sir Walter Scott and Jane Porter, and of the Academy Award-winning film Braveheart.
William Wallace was a member of the lesser nobility, but little is definitely known of his family history or even his parentage. Blind Harry's late-15th-century poem gives his father as Sir Malcolm of Elderslie; however, William's own seal, found on a letter sent to the Hanse city of Lübeck in 1297, gives his father's name as Alan Wallace.
This Alan Wallace may be the same as the one listed in the 1296 Ragman Rolls as a crown tenant in Ayrshire, but there is no additional confirmation. Blind Harry's assertion that William was the son of Sir Malcolm of Elderslie has given rise to a tradition that William's birthplace was at Elderslie in Renfrewshire, and this is still the view of some historians, including the historical William Wallace Society itself. However, William's seal has given rise to a counterclaim of Ellerslie in Ayrshire. There is no contemporary evidence linking him with either location, although both areas had connections with the wider Wallace family.
Records show early members of the family as holding estates at Riccarton, Tarbolton, Auchincruive in Kyle and Stenton in East Lothian. They were vassals of James Stewart, 5th High Steward of Scotland as their lands fell within his territory. Wallace's brothers Malcolm and John are known from other sources.
The origins of the Wallace surname and its association with southwest Scotland are also far from certain, other than the name's being derived from the Old English wylisc (pronounced "wullish"), meaning "foreigner" or "Welshman". It is possible that all the Wallaces in the Clyde area were medieval immigrants from Wales, but as the term was also used for the Cumbric-speaking Strathclyde kingdom of the Celtic Britons, it seems equally likely that the surname refers to people who were seen as being "Welsh" due to their Cumbric language.
When Wallace was growing up, King Alexander III ruled Scotland. His reign had seen a period of peace and economic stability. On 19 March 1286, however, Alexander died after falling from his horse. The heir to the throne was Alexander's granddaughter, Margaret, Maid of Norway. As she was still a child and in Norway, the Scottish lords set up a government of guardians. Margaret fell ill on the voyage to Scotland and died in Orkney in late September 1290. The lack of a clear heir led to a period known as the "Great Cause", with a total of thirteen contenders laying claim to the throne.
The most credible claims were John Balliol and Robert Bruce, grandfather of future king. With Scotland threatening to descend into civil war, King Edward I of England was invited in by the Scottish nobility to arbitrate. Before the process could begin, he insisted that all of the contenders recognise him as Lord Paramount of Scotland. In early November 1292, at a great feudal court held in the castle at Berwick-upon-Tweed, judgment was given in favour of John Balliol having the strongest claim in law based on being senior in genealogical primogeniture even though not in proximity of blood.
Edward proceeded to take steps to progressively undermine John's authority, treating Scotland as a feudal vassal state, demanding homage be paid towards himself and military support in his war against France -- even summoning King John Balliol to stand before the English court as a common plaintiff. The Scots soon tired of their deeply compromised king, and the direction of affairs was allegedly taken out of his hands by the leading men of the kingdom, who appointed a Council of Twelve--in practice, a new panel of Guardians--at Stirling in July 1295.
They went on to conclude a treaty of mutual assistance with France--known in later years as the Auld Alliance. In retaliation for Scotland's treaty with France, Edward I invaded, storming Berwick-upon-Tweed and commencing the Wars of Scottish Independence. The Scots were defeated at Dunbar and the English took Dunbar Castle on 27 April 1296.
Edward forced John to abdicate, which he did at Stracathro near Montrose on 10 July 1296. Here the arms of Scotland were formally torn from John's surcoat, giving him the abiding name of "Toom Tabard" (empty coat). By July, Edward had instructed his officers to receive formal homage from some 1,800 Scottish nobles (many of the rest being prisoners of war at that time).