« AnteriorContinuar »
and was particularly dexterous in the use of all weapons which were then employed in battle. Wallace, like all Scotsmen of high spirit, had looked with great indignation upon the usurpation of the crown by Edward, and upon the insolence which the English soldiers committed on his countrymen.
The action which occasioned his finally rising in arms happened in the town of Lanark. Wallace was at this time married to a lady of that place, and residing there with his wife. It chanced, as he walked in the market-place, dressed in a green garment with a rich dagger by his side, that an Englishman came up and insulted him on account of his finery; saying, a Scotsman had no business to wear so gay a dress, or carry so handsome a weapon. .. It soon came to a quarrel, and Wallace, having killed the Englishman, fled to his own house, which was speedily assaulted by all the English soldiers. The governor of Lanark, whose name was Hazelrigg, burned the house, and put his wife and servants to death. He also proclaimed Wallace an outlaw, and offered a reward to any one who should bring him to an English garrison alive or dead.
On the other hand, Wallace soon collected a body of men outlawed like himself. One of his earliest expeditions was directed against Hazelrigg, whom he killed. He fought skirmishes with the soldiers who were sent against him, and often defeated them; and in time became so well known and so formidable, that multitudes began to resort to his standard, until at length he was at the head of a considerable army, with which he proposed to restore his country to independence.
At length, an opportunity presented itself near Stirling to engage the English army under the Earl of Surrey and the Scotch were victorious.
The remains of Surrey's great army fled out of Scotland after this defeat; and the Scots, taking arms on all sides, attacked the castles in which the English soldiers continued to shelter themselves, and took most of them by force or stratagem. Wallace defeated the English in
several combats, chased them out of Scotland, regained the towns and castles of which they had possessed themselves, and recovered for a time the complete freedom of the country.
Edward I was in Flanders when all these events took place. You may suppose he was very angry when he heard that Scotland, which he thought completely subdued, had risen into a great insurrection against him, defeated his armies, killed his treasurer, and chased his soldiers out of their country. He came back from Flanders in a mighty rage, and determined not to leave that rebellious country until it was finally conquered, for which purpose he assembled a very fine army and marched into Scotland.
In the meantime the Scots prepared to defend themselves, and chose Wallace to be governor or protector of the kingdom, because they had no king at the time. He was now titled Sir William Wallace, Protector, or Governor of the Scottish nation. But, although, as we have seen, he was the best soldier and bravest man in Scotland, and therefore the most fit to be placed in command, at this critical period, when the King of England was coming against them with such great forces, yet the nobles of Scotland envied him this important situation, because he was not a man born in high rank, or enjoying a large estate. So great was their jealousy of Sir William Wallace, that many of these great barons did not seem very willing to bring forward their forces, or to fight against the English. Yet, notwithstanding this unwillingness of the great nobility to support him, Wallace assembled a large army; for the middle, but especially the lower classes, were very much attached to him. He marched boldly against the King of England, and met him near the town of Falkirk. Most of the Scottish army were on foot, because in those days only the nobility and great men of Scotland fought on horseback.
The English king, on the contrary, had a very large body of the finest cavalry in the world, Normans and English, all clothed in complete armour. He had also the celebrated archers of England, each of whom was said to carry twelve
Scotsman's lives under his girdle, because every archer had twelve arrows stuck in his belt.
The Scots had some good archers from the forest of Ettrick; but they were not nearly equal in number to the English. The greater part of the Scotch, armed with long spears, were placed thick and close together, and laid all their spears so close, point over point, that it seemed as difficult to break through them as through the wall of a strong castle. When the two armies were drawn up facing each other, Wallace said to his soldiers, "I have brought you to the ring, let me see how you can dance.”
The English made the attack. King Edward, though he saw the close ranks and undaunted appearance of the Scottish infantry, resolved nevertheless to try whether he could not ride them down with his cavalry. He therefore gave his horsemen orders to advance. They charged accordingly at full gallop. It must have been a terrible thing to have seen these fine horses riding as hard as they could against the long lances which were held out by the Scots to keep them back, and a dreadful cry arose when they came against
The Scottish spearmen being thrown into some degree of confusion by the loss of those who were slain by the arrows of the English, the heavy cavalry of Edward again charged with more success than formerly, and broke through the ranks, which were already disordered. Sir John Graham, Wallace's great friend and companion, was slain, with many other brave soldiers; and the Scots, having lost a very great number of men, were at length obliged to take to flight.
After the fatal defeat of Falkirk, Sir William Wallace seems to have resigned his office of Governor of Scotland. The King of England obliged all his nobles and great men, one after another, to submit themselves once more to his yoke. Wallace, alone, refused either to acknowledge the usurper Edward or to lay down his arms. He continued to maintain himself among the woods and mountains of his native country for no less than seven years after the battle
of Falkirk. Many proclamations were sent out against him by the English, and a great reward was set upon his head. For the sake of this reward Wallace was basely betrayed by a pretended friend, and led prisoner to the Tower of London.
Edward caused this gallant defender of his country to be brought to trial in Westminster Hall before English judges. He was accused of having been a traitor to the English crown, to which he answered, "I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject." He was then
charged with having taken and burnt towns and castles, with having killed many men, and done much violence. He replied, with the same calm resolution, "That it was true he had killed very many Englishmen, but it was because they had come to subdue and oppress his native country of Scotland, and far from repenting what he had done, he declared he was only sorry that he had not put to death many more of them."
Notwithstanding that Wallace's defence was a good one, both in law and in common sense (for surely every one has not only a right to fight in defence of his native country, but is bound in duty to do so), the English judges condemned him to be executed. So this brave
patriot was dragged upon a sledge to the place of execution, where his head was struck off and his body divided into four quarters, which, according to the cruel custom of the time, were exposed upon spikes of iron on London Bridge.
Patriots have toiled, and in their country's cause
To latest times; and Sculpture, in her turn,
Their blood is shed
In confirmation of the noblest claim-
Yet few remember them. They lived unknown,
And chased them up to Heaven. Their ashes flew~-
He is the freeman whom the truth makes free,
Can wind around him, but he casts it off