On this day, 23 August 1305, Sir William Wallace was tortured to death, executed for High Treason by the English for defending his homeland from invasion.
Occasionally my novel, Freedom's Sword, is compared to the movie 'Braveheart' since William Wallace makes several appearances and it covers the Battle of Stirling Bridge. I realize this was a popular movie, but I must admit I cringe, since the ONLY accurate bit of the movie is (sort of) Sir William's execution--except that it was far more horrific than represented.
What was the truth of that execution and the many similar executions carried out against Scots who defended their homeland in the following years?
After his showcase trial in which he was not allowed to defend himself, Wallace was stripped naked. He was tied by his heels to the tail of a horse to be dragged the four miles to the Elms at Smithfield while being pelted with rotted food and shit by the watching populace.
Still alive, he was then strangled by hanging, but carefully so that it did not kill him and cut down. He was then castrated. Afterwards, his belly was slit open and his intestines were drawn out and burned before his eyes.
No one knows the exact point at which the brave freedom fighter died. In the end, he was beheaded and his body cut into four parts. His head was tarred and displayed atop London Bridge, later to be joined by the heads of other patriots executed for defending Scotland, including the Earl of Atholl.
I have visited the place of William Wallace's execution which is marked by a plaque and left flowers there. While he was not by any means the only hero of that gallant fight for Scottish freedom and independence, he was one whose importance can not be over stated. Thomas Jefferson centuries later said that the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots... It was indeed fed by the blood of this Scottish patriot and martyr.