3.5 Scottish Wars of Independence: Conclusion

William Wallace avoided the English until August 1305 when John de Menteith, a Scottish knight loyal to Edward I, betrayed Wallace turning him over to English soldiers.

Wallace was transported to Westminster Hall in London and tried for high treawestminsterson. He was crowned with a garland of oak suggesting he was the king of outlaws. The charge of high treason usually carried with it the death penalty. Wallace responded to the charge by saying, "I could not be a traitor to Edward for I was never his subject."

Following his trial, on August 23rd, 1305, Wallace was taken from the court, stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to the Elms at Smithfield. He was hanged—strangled by hanging but released while still alive, emasculated, eviscerated and his bowels burnt before him; he was then beheaded and cut into four parts. His preserved head was placed on a pike atop London Bridge; it was later joined by heads of his brothers—John and Simon Fraser. His limbs were displayed, separately, in the four corners of Britain.

In the years following the execution of William Wallace, King Edward I of England continued having problems controlling Scotland. By 1306 Scotland's Robert Bruce defeated any remaining contenders to the Scottish throne; and by 1307 Bruce was crowned king at Scone.

Robert Bruce did not have Edward I’s blessing; however, fortunately for the new Scottish king Edward I died in that same year while marching his army north to crush yet another Scottish uprising. The new king, Edward II, assumed the thrown.  Edward II, compared to his father, was a weak and ineffectual leader.

Edward I was so obsessed with the Scots that he ordered that he not be buried "properly" until the Scots were completely conquered. Although Scotland and England were officially combined into the "United Kingdom" in the early 18th Century, Scotland retained some of its autonomy. In the 21st Century, Scotland held a referrendum on leaving England and becoming its own independent country. The Scots voted to remain united with England. Nonetheless, Edward I remains entombed in a plain lead casket in Westminster Abbey (awaiting "proper" burial).

By 1313 AD King Robert Bruce freed most of Scotland from English control. Robert followed his success up by successfully pressuring his nobles to renounce their loyalty to England swearing allegiance to him and him alone.

bannockburnThe English weren’t quite finished with the Scots. In 1314, Edward II led a massive invasion force into Scotland. The Battle of Bannockburn saw a Scottish army of 9,000 defeat an English force almost three times larger. Although Robert was king in the eyes of the Scottish people, England and the Pope refused to acknowledge Scotland’s independence. (Watch a re-enactment of the Battle of Bannockburn by clicking here.)


On September 21st, 1328 England fell into crisis after Edward II was overthrown by his wife Isabella and her lover Robert Mortimer. Queen Isabella ruled England until her son Edward III turned 18 years old. Robert Bruce took advantage of England’s weakness and actually threatened to annex England. In return for promises of Robert Bruce to leave England alone, King Edward III was forced to acknowledge Scotland’s independence. King Robert died a year later of natural causes.