William Wallace is one of Scotland's greatest national heroes, undisputed leader of the Scottish resistance forces during the first years of the long and ultimately successful struggle to free Scotland from English rule at the end of the 13th Century.
Wallace was born in around 1270, in Ayrshire, Scotland. His father was Sir Malcolm Wallace, a small landowner and little-known Scottish knight who lived a peaceful life.
Initially William Wallace was educated at home by his mother, then given schooling and religious education by monks. Though William Wallace could read and write he was probably more interested in activities such as horsemanship, hunting and swordmanship - sparring with his elder brother.
William Wallace also grew up to become a powerful and sturdy young man, with a height of 6 foot 7 inches and a physique to match, he too was a giant of a man. It is often debated that it would have been impossible for such a man to exist in a time when the average height of a man was little over 5 feet.
William Wallace demonstrated an aptitude for a career in the Church. Here he was expressing his intellect by showing his command of French, Gaelic and Latin.
Wallace's father was killed in a skirmish with English troops. It is likely that the death of his father at the hands of the English contributed to Wallace's lifelong desire to fight for his nation's independence. Wallace lived the life of an outlaw, moving constantly to avoid the English, and occasionally confronting them with characteristic ferocity.
Outside the south-east corner of Scotland, there was widespread disorder, and opposition against the English was increasing. Wallace was involved in a fight with local soldiers. After killing several of them, he was overpowered and thrown into a dungeon where he was slowly starved. Wallace was left for dead, but sympathetic villagers nursed him back to health. When he had regained his strength, Wallace recruited several local rebels and began his systematic and merciless assault on the hated English and their Scottish sympathisers.
As his support grew, Wallace's attacks broadened. With as many as 30 men, he avenged his father's death by killing the knight responsible and some of his soldiers. Now, he was no longer merely an outlaw but a local military leader who had struck down one of Edward's knights and some of his soldiers. William Wallace had become the king's enemy.
Although most of Scotland was in Scottish hands by August 1297, Wallace successfully recruited a band of commoners and small landowners to attack the remaining English garrisons between the Rivers Forth and Tay.
He had shown not only that he was a charismatic leader and warrior, but also that his tactical military ability was strong. Never before had a Scottish army so triumphed over an English aggressor. Wallace captured Stirling Castle and for the moment Scotland was almost free of occupying forces.
Wallace invaded northern England. Upon returning to Scotland in 1297, he was knighted and proclaimed guardian of the kingdom, ruling in Balliol's name. In less than six years, he had risen from obscurity to become Sir William Wallace.
Wallace's acclaim following the battle of Stirling Bridge was short-lived.
There was another battle between Wallace and this time king Edward. This also took place in Stirlin. Wallace's military reputation was ruined. He retreated to the thick woods nearby and resigned his guardianship.
In 1305, Wallace was betrayed by a Scottish knight in service to the English king, and arrested near Glasgow. He was taken to London and denied the status of a captured soldier.
On 23rd August 1305, he was executed.
Wallace's place as a hero in Scottish history is assured. There can be little doubt that he has always been revered as a self-effacing and passionate patriot by later generations of Scots. Wallace had never sought personal fame nor benefited from it. He had accrued neither wealth nor land.