Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Not Exactly the Man from Braveheart

N. C. Wyeth's illustration of William Wallace
from The Scottish Chiefs, by Jane Porter
It's my day to post on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, and for your delectation, I've elected to write about William Wallace of Braveheart fame--but not everyone agrees with Mel Gibson that Wallace was such a hero. Learn what one contemporary English source had to say about him.
About the time of the festival of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a certain Scot, by name William Wallace, an outcast from pity, a robber, a sacrilegious man, an incendiary and a homicide, a man more cruel than the cruelty of Herod, and more insane than the fury of Nero…a man who burnt alive boys in schools and churches, in great numbers.... (read more)
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The English Historical Fiction Authors blog is quite an extraordinary collaborative effort. Spearheaded by author Debra Brown, it brings together over thirty authors who write historical fiction connected in some way with the British isles. Established in September, 2011, the blog has had to date nearly 56,000 unique visitors and has about 1000 page views per day. Yesterday, Mary Tod (who has been writing a series on top historical fiction sites) posted an interview with Debra Brown and some of the other EHFA authors. Head on over there to hear them talk about how the blog works and about historical fiction in general.


  1. Sounds good. I like to think of the the real Willism Wallace was not a kilt-wearing blue face paint donning hollering neo-Pictish warlord with a flyaway red(ish) hair but as chain mail clad French speaking knight. Oh, and he was never called 'Braveheart' but Im sure you know that.

    BTW thanks for liking the Facebook page

    1. My pleasure. It's nice to have links to blog posts show up in my FB feed as well as my Blogger feed--then I'm sure not to miss anything.

    2. Your remark about vouching for the underdog is interesting.
      I vaguely remeber a remark someone made on a discussion board about a movie set during the Hundred Year War that was typically Anti-English which said something about wanting to side with the the 'underdog' as a possible reason reason why the movie was pro-French. (I think that's what it said anyway).

      It seems a little ironic in that historical context though, as I seem to recall I was taught or read that France was much wealthier and more powerful than England for at least some of the 14th century, so that would rather make the English the underdogs, not the French.

    3. The Hundred Years' War is a tricky one, because although the English were vastly outnumbered by the French forces, they were also the aggressor. It's harder to empathize with the English as the underdog in this situation because they're the one picking the fight. Yes, it was to regain territory that had been formerly theirs, but that territory had been lost over a century ago, and it wasn't as if the people living there invited them to come liberate them from the French king.

    4. You probably know more about it than I, must of my knowledge is based on Lectures, and reading on the later phases (post 1400).

      What I do know is that the lost lands had been something of a contentious issue before and there had apparently been failed attempts or at least intent to retake some of them in that century.

      Also, I do rather recall my Prof telling of how the French attacked and reportedly sacked at least one English coastal town (Portsmouth/Southampton?) before Edward III actually invaded.

      I'm not necessarily trying to 'justify' anything, but it seems to me there was agression on both sides.
      Personally though, I blame the Normans because it all seems to go back to thier conquest untimately.

  2. I loved both Scottish Chiefs and Braveheart. Things are so black and white in 8th grade!

    1. Yes, and it's so disillusioning when you first start to understand there are gray areas in the world.

  3. Thanks Rose for the good reminder of the importance of learning to see history in its many facets and perspectives.

    After Braveheart was released I read a half a dozen books on Wallace trying to see how much of it was historical. I came away with a sense that much was romanticized, and yet he was indeed an impressive man. Apparently his size, strength and fighting prowess were indeed things to be feared. Moreover, he was vital figure in overthrowing the horrific oppressions of the English.

    Having learned over the last few years of the English oppression of the Irish I've felt even more of a romantic appreciation for William Wallace! Go underdogs!!!


    1. You have undoubtedly read more on WW than I. Do you have a specific biography you would recommend?

  4. Doug I question the extent to which the 'English' aristocracy and royalty of that period should actually be regarded as su considering the string connections and ties some of them had culturally, linguistically and ancestrally with France. Edward I was half-French for example.

    May I politely say that the sentiments expressed in your comment suggest a certain historical bias against the English on your part andme question sought out 'both sides' in what you heard about Ireland or read about Scotland.

    1. Uh-oh...a confrontation between commenters. Any thoughts on this, Doug?

    2. I dont intend to be confrontational, honest- I just dont like bias and though Doug's statement seemed rather contradictory in the sense of talking about different perspectives then sharing a POV that seems to represent a rather one sided perspective:).
      Nothing against Doug personally.

      There's a biography by Andrew Fisher that's said to be very good.

    3. Dear medievalgirl3

      I can certainly see how my “statement seemed rather contradictory” by first asserting how important learning about various facets and perspectives in history form a more accurate history, and then giving my own POV. I was probably out of place for making my underdog comment.

      However, my new found understanding of English oppression in Ireland followed 25 years of readings that were almost wholly from an English perspective, and I had no idea of the involvement the English in Ireland beginning in the 10th and 11th centuries – stretching into modern times. Now that I have seen much more of both sides of what has happened I feel much more informed. I have been, and remain, a great admirer of the English. Yet, I am also willing to reevaluate my previously held positions on the goodness of various historical actions. What seems clear to me is that much of the English rule of Ireland was unjust and inconsistent with Christian ideals (both Roman Catholic and Protestant).

      I acknowledge the importance of not reading back into history our own concerns, and to understand as clearly and fairly as possible the issues of the day. However, as time rolls on, the moral actions of peoples come into clearer focus – and making moral judgments is an important component of being wise in the present, and for the future.


    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Hi Doug
      First I apologise if my reaction seemed a little extreme, but in my experience therE is much vilification of the English and taking of sides by people who seem to oversimplify history , and do not take full account of, or are unaware of relvant issues involved.

      Can you clarify what you mean by 'the 10th and 11th centuries' because technically the 10th century began in the year 900 and the 11th ended in 1099, but there can be confusion as some people refer to the 1100's as 'the eleventh century' when historians count this period as the 12th century.

      My knowledge of the former period is limited, but I know that the English were mainly occupied with fighting Vikings.
      It was only after the Norman Conquest that any attempt was made to subjugate Ireland that I know of, and untimately Henry II who first did this. Is this the 'involvement' you refer to?

      If so, please note that Henry II's father was French, his mother was Half-Norman and he was born in Anjou I think, so the extent to which he could really be regarded as 'English' is questionable.

      I personally have something of an issue with counting the aristorcracy of this period who led such conquests as 'English' as well many still seem to have had connections culturally linguistically and to some extent ethnically with France.

      I also know that the exiled King of Ireland is said to have asked them for assistance in retaking his throne, hence they came to Ireland in numbers.

  5. Odd that if WW was that treacherous to his own people, that he would be that revered/legendary? Scotland, though the faithful remnant stories ravish our hearts (Cameron/Renwick/Nisbet), certainly had its complement of treacherous characters. I like to see the conflict, not so much as English vs. Scots, as Union vs. Confederates, Unitarian vs. Trinity, Christ as Head of Church & State, vs. (human) King is Law, deified Man.
    Scotland also profound source of Druid/Occult streams that have flowed down through history since. Certainly a piece of Geography where the spiritual war waxed HOT.
    Recommend: http://www.amazon.com/Covenant-Heritage-Moore-Edwin-Nisbet/dp/1857926188/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344380278&sr=1-1-fkmr2&keywords=Covenanters%27+James+Nisbet

    1. I think Robin Hood stands as a good example what you mention, namely a revered and legendeary figure whose historical basis is likely that of a violent criminal with few moral scruples, and who probabaly commited acts of brutality agaist his own people.

      We like to think of Robin and his merry men robbing from the rich to give to the poor but real Medievel outlaws would likely have done no such thing.
      If people can transform such as these into heroes it does not seem such a far leap to for people to have made the potentially treacherous and brutal Wallace into one as well.

    2. "Christ as Head of Church & State, vs. (human) King is Law, deified Man."

      Watchman, I think you are subject to something of a misconception here. The English rejected the idea that the 'King was Law' centuries before America was founded.
      I am sure you have heard of Magna Carta, and are aware of its background, but there is more than that. One of thE central ideas behind having a parliament was that the King should be accountable, and should not weild absolute power over his subjects.
      How about the English system of trial by Jury, and presumption of Innocence which are not common to all of Europe even today?

      As much as some Americans like to think they invented freedom and Liberty but they did not. Mary of the foundations of consistutional democracy were established or founded in Britain and Europe.


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