William Wallace. Braveheart, 1995
Directed by Mel Gibson, who also played the starring role, Braveheart purports to tell the story of William Wallace, a leader in the first Scottish War of Independence from England in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. In the film, Wallace’s acts of vengeance against the conquering English make him a living legend as a warrior and leader. Although he dies before the Scottish expel the English from their land, his memory is invoked to inspire the troops of Robert the Bruce to crush the British army at Bannockburn in 1314, achieving Scottish independence.
Beginning with Wallace and his troops wearing plaid kilts nearly three centuries before their time, the film is fraught with historical inaccuracies. The wearing of war paint prepared from woad is on the other hand ten centuries after its time, and the implication made in the film that Scotland had been occupied by the British since the time Wallace was a child is a fabrication. The English invasion took place the year prior to Wallace’s campaign, following the death of Scottish King Alexander III in 1286.
The real Wallace won an important victory over the British at the Battle of Stirling in 1297, he later was forced to flee to France where he spent several years in exile. When he returned to Scotland in 1304 he spent several months evading capture before being taken prisoner in Glasgow in 1305.
The film also shows Wallace seducing Isabella of France, and her becoming pregnant with his child. At the time referenced in the film, Isabella of France was three years of age, living in France. The child she later carried and who became Edward III was born seven years after Wallace was executed, making the implication of his being William’s son impossible.
The historical Wallace also made it a practice to hang Scottish men who refused to serve in his army, ignored by the film as out of context with his presented character. Historian Elizabeth Ewan, writing of Braveheart in American Historical Review in October 1995, said of the film that it “â¦almost totally sacrifices historical accuracyâ¦”