Excruciating Death of Braveheart Execution Revealed in Account of William Wallace's Final Days
Excruciating Death of Braveheart Execution Revealed in Account of William Wallace’s Final Days

Excruciating Death of Braveheart Execution Revealed in Account of William Wallace’s Final Days

Patrick Lynch - November 18, 2017

Excruciating Death of Braveheart Execution Revealed in Account of William Wallace’s Final Days
Patrick McGoohan as Edward I in Braveheart – YouTube

Betrayal & Capture

Although Robert the Bruce had officially surrendered, he was biding his time and waiting for the death of the elderly Edward before launching a new rebellion. Meanwhile, the net was closing in on Wallace who bravely remained in Scotland and evaded the enemy for as long as he could. He was an outlaw which meant that anyone who discovered him was allowed to kill him on the spot.

In 1305, Wallace apparently sent one of his men on a journey to deliver a letter to Bruce. It urged Bruce to return and assume leadership of the country and assured him that the nobility and clergy would not stand in his way. Bruce was pleased to receive the letter and told Wallace to meet him near Glasgow at the end of June. Unbeknownst to Wallace, a Scot named Sir John Menteith betrayed him and received the sheriffdom of Dumbarton as a reward.

One story suggests that a servant named Jack Short betrayed Wallace and collected the reward. Edward apparently offered 40 merks (£30) to any servant who spied him out and 60 merks (£45) to those who were there when Wallace was captured; this money was to be shared amongst them. The reasons for Menteith’s treachery are unknown although he may have been angered by the death of his uncle at the Battle of Falkirk and held Wallace responsible.

Whatever the reason, Wallace was captured at Robroyston near Glasgow on August 3, 1305. He was handed over to Sir Robert de Clifford and Sir Aymer de Valence and taken to Carlisle Castle. Rather than executing him immediately, Edward wanted to transport the prisoner to London to show other would-be rebels what happened to those who defied the crown. He was forced to travel another 300 miles to London where a terrible fate awaited him.

Excruciating Death of Braveheart Execution Revealed in Account of William Wallace’s Final Days
Statue of Robert the Bruce – Ancient Pages

Execution Part I

There was a show trial in London, but in reality, there was zero chance that Wallace would escape with his life. While his death scene in Braveheart is excruciatingly painful, it was a mild demise compared to what really happened. After the inevitable guilty verdict on August 23, 1305, he was sentenced to die in one of the worst ways imaginable. Wallace was about to be hung, drawn, and quartered.

The English apparently took him from Westminster Hall and stripped him naked. Then they tied him to a hurdle and horses dragged him around six miles to Smoothfield where the pain began. During the journey, bystanders threw excrement and other assorted pieces of garbage at the unfortunate Scot, and he was also beaten with sticks and whipped by the angry mob.

In Braveheart, Wallace endures the painful trip to the gallows but he is clothed, and while the crowd throws items at him, he is not struck by excrement. He received the ‘drawn’ punishment for committing treason, but there was much worse to come.

Excruciating Death of Braveheart Execution Revealed in Account of William Wallace’s Final Days
Statue of William Wallace – The Philosophers Mail

Execution Part II

Wallace had also been found guilty of robbery and murder, and the sentence for these crimes was hanging. Alas, the rebel didn’t get off so easily so while he was half-strangled by the rope, he wasn’t allowed to die. In Braveheart, we see knives on the table, but we don’t see what happened below Wallace’s waist. In reality, his executioner ‘emasculated’ him; this means Wallace’s testicles and penis were cut off. Next, the prisoner’s intestines were removed and burned in front of him.

If Wallace weren’t already dead at this point, the next step would have finished him off. The executioner ripped the Scot’s heart out of his chest; there were instances when a criminal’s heart was still beating when the executioner displayed it to the crowd and declared it to be the heart of a traitor. We don’t know if Wallace’s heart was still beating when it was taken out of his body. The final brutal step involved chopping Wallace’s head off with an ax.

After the execution, his body was divided into four pieces and displayed in areas around the country as a showcase of Edward’s power. For example, Wallace’s head was stuck on a pike on London Bridge. The heads of John and Simon Fraser joined that of Wallace on the Bridge later on. Wallace’s limbs were sent separately to Berwick, Stirling, Perth, and Newcastle. The English King died two years later, and Robert the Bruce led his people to glory with a notable victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. 14 years later, Scotland had its independence, so William Wallace’s sacrifice was not in vain.

Excruciating Death of Braveheart Execution Revealed in Account of William Wallace’s Final Days
The William Wallace Sword – Awesome Stories

An Intriguing Theory

It is often assumed that William Wallace died such a cruel death because of his continued resistance to King Edward I. However, new research suggests that he was targeted because Edward believed Wallace wanted the Scottish Crown. In 2011, historians from Glasgow University found evidence which suggests the English thought Wallace was trying to become the King of Scotland.

According to Edward’s Exchequer (also known as the Pipe Roll) for 1304/05, Wallace was “a robber, a public traitor, an outlaw, an enemy and rebel of the king, who throughout Scotland had falsely sought to call himself King of Scotland.” Normally, the Pipe Roll was a dull affair, but for that particular year, the English civil servants took note of the expenses incurred in the execution of Wallace and the cost of sending the different parts of his body around Scotland.

It is probable that the English misunderstood the role of ‘guardian’ that Wallace had assumed on behalf of John Balliol. There are few documents in Wallace’s name, but in the ones that have been discovered, it is clear Wallace was always careful to write that he was acting on behalf of Balliol. Incidentally, the records also show that Edward’s Lieutenant in Scotland, John of Seagrave, received 15 shillings to bring the body back to Scotland as a means of deterring other potential rebels.

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