Defiant warrior who paid in blood

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The Independent Online
William Wallace, whose fearless spirit and hatred of the English made him one of the great nationalist heroes of the Middle Ages, was born in 1270 in Renfrewshire. After his father and elder brother were killed by English troops occupying Scotland, he took up arms against the southern "oppressor".

In 1297, he killed the English Sheriff of Lanark, mounted numerous attacks on English troops garrisoned in Scottish castles and towns, and went on to defeat the English army at the battle of Stirling Bridge. The victory established him as the leader of Scottish resistance to English domination.

He later expelled English clergy from Scotland, recaptured Berwick and launched raids into Northumberland, before trying to win support from France and Germany for a final showdown with England's King Edward I. But his plans were scuppered when Edward, who was known as the "Hammer of the Scots", defeated his army at Falkirk in 1298.

Wallace was later betrayed by one of his own men, and taken to London where he was convicted of treason. Before he was sentenced, he told the court: "To Edward, King of England, I cannot be a traitor. I owe him no allegiance, he is not my sovereign. He never received my homage and whilst life is in this persecuted body, he never shall receive it." He was hanged, disembowelled and beheaded at Smithfield and his limbs sent to Newcastle, Berwick, Perth and Stirling to discourage other Scots patriots.

He was immortalised by Burns in the poem Scots wha hae wi Wallace Bled, and by Wordsworth, who wrote: "How Wallace fought for Scotland, left the name of Wallace to be found like a wild flower all over his dear country."

Monuments to his victories have been erected in Aberdeen, Stirling and London.