WILLIAM WALLACE—THE BATTLE OF FALKIRK
‘ My son, I tell thee soothfastly
No gift is like to liberty ;
Then never live in slavery.’
During this time King Edward had been in a far-off
land called Flanders. Now he returned, and full of anger
against Wallace, gathered an army and once more marched
to Scotland. ‘ Had I been in England,’ he said, ‘ Wallace
durst not have done such cruelties to my people.’
‘I chose but my time in England,’ replied Wallace,
‘ I chose but the time when King Edward was out of it,
as King Edward chose his time in Scotland when he found
the same without a leader. For when the nobles took
him as a friend to decide upon the rights of those who
were struggling for the throne, he tried to conquer the
kingdom for himself.’
It was a great and mighty army that now marched
into Scotland with King Edward at its head. Horsemen
and footmen, great lords and barons, and all the proudest
and best warriors of England were there. Wallace, too,
had a large army, but his were mostly foot soldiers. Only
the great in Scotland rode in those days, and as you know,
few of the great nobles had joined Wallace.
Wallace knew that it was best not to try to fight a
battle against the whole strength of Edward‘s army.
He hoped rather to weaken the English by hunger and
122 SCOTLAND’S STORY
weariness. So he laid waste the country through which
they would have to pass. And when Edward came, he
found only a desolate, deserted land, with no food for his
men to eat, and no enemy for them to fight.
But Wallace and his army were never far off. When
ever they saw a chance of attacking a small company of
the English, they came out of their hiding-place and fell
upon them. Having killed as many as they could, they
would dash away again and wait for another chance.
Thus with many little fights, or skirmishes as they
are called, by the way, Edward marched far into Scotland
without fighting any great battle, or even finding out
where Wallace and his men really were.
At last Edward grew tired of marching through a
barren land, in search of an enemy who would not fight an
open battle. He had given orders to his men to turn and
march home again, when a sad thing for Scotland happened.
Two of the jealous Scottish nobles came to Edward and
told him where the Scottish army lay. They were not
far off, in a forest, near a town called Falkirk. These
wicked nobles not only told Edward where the Scottish
army lay, but they also told what plans Wallace had made.
‘ Hearing that you are turning homeward,’ they said, ‘he
is going to take you by surprise at night and attack you
‘ Thanks be to God, who hitherto hath brought us safe
through every danger,’ cried Edward, when he heard the
news. ‘ They shall not need to follow me, since I shall
forthwith go to meet them.’
Not a moment was lost. The order to advance was
given. The King himself was the first to put on his
armour, the first to mount his horse. Without rest, the
soldiers marched onward while daylight lasted. When
night fell they lay down where they were, clad in their
THE BATTLE OF FALKIRK 128
armour, their weapons beside them and their shields for
pillows. Horse and horseman lay together, so that each
man was ready at the least alarm to vault into his saddle.
Among them, like any other soldier, lay the King beside
In the middle of the night a sudden cry arose. The
enemy was upon them ! Their King was wounded I In
a moment all was bustle and preparation. Every man
seized his weapon and stood ready in his place. But
there was no enemy. The King indeed was wounded,
but by his own horse, which had kicked him in the side,
and broken two of his ribs.
As the camp was now thoroughly aroused, and as
morning was not far off, the King gave the order to
advance. He himself, in spite of his hurt, mounted upon
his horse and led the way.
Through the grey morning light the army marched,
and as the first beams of the sun shone out they were
flashed back from the glittering spears of the Scots army.
At last the long-looked-for enemy was in sight.
It was but a little army compared with the English.
But Wallace was not afraid. He divided his men into
four companies and placed them to the best advantage.
‘ I have brought you to the ring,’ he said, ‘ now let me see
how you can dance,’ meaning, ‘ I have brought you to the
battlefield, let me see how you will fight.’
And bravely and well did these Scotsmen fight. But
it was the people only, the foot soldiers, who fought For
hardly had the battle begun than the horsemen turned
and rode from the field, without giving or taking a blow.
Oh bitter was the heart of Wallace as he watched them
go 1 The nobles had forsaken him.
The famous English archers showered arrows on the
Scottish spearmen. So true was their aim that it was
124 SCOTLAND‘S STORY
said that every archer carried four-and-twenty Scottish
lives beneath his belt. Which meant that he carried
twenty-four arrows in his quiver, and with every arrow
he killed a man.
The English horsemen, splendid in glittering steel
armour, charged the sturdy Scottish archers. They,
although they were armed only with their bows and
arrows and short daggers, would not yield. To a man
they fell where they stood. So gallant and brave were
they that even their enemies praised them.
But no bravery could stand against such numbers and
such skill. Wallace, seeing that the battle was hopelessly
lost, commanded his men to retire. With his best knights
round him he fought bravely to the last, keeping the
enemy off until his soldiers had found shelter in the forest
Nearly fifteen thousand Scots were slain upon the field,
among them Sir John the Graham, the dear friend of
Next day Wallace returned to bury the dead and to
seek for the body of his friend.
‘ When they him found and good Wallace him saw,
He lighted down, took him before them a’
In arms up. Beholding his pale face
He kissèd him, and cried full oft Alas !
My best brother in world that ever I had,
My faithful friend when I was hardest stead.’
So he mourned his loss.
When the rough soldiers saw how sad their master
was, they sorrowed with him. Then taking up the dead
body of the Graham, they carried him to the church at
Falkirk. Over his grave they laid a stone and carved
these words upon it,
THE BATTLE OF FALKIRK 125
Here lies Sir John the Graham, both wight and wise,
One of the chiefs who rescued Scotland thrice,
A better knight not to the world was lent,
Than was good Graham of truth and hardiment.’
Thus Wallace had lost his wife and his friend, and in
spite of his brave struggles it seemed as if he would lose
his country. He gave up his post of Governor of Scot
land. The happiness of his country was all he longed for.
He saw that it was useless to struggle against the jealousy
of the barons. They would never consent to be ruled by
him. He could not even hope to lead his army to victory
when the nobles were ever ready to desert him, as they
did at Falkirk.
So Wallace once more became a simple country
It is said that in this battle of Falkirk, Robert the
Bruce, who afterwards became such a good King in Scot
land, fought on the side of the English. After the battle
Bruce and Wallace met. They were both brave men,
and Bruce was filled with admiration for the courage and
skill of Wallace. ‘ But,’ he said, ‘ what is the use of it ?
You cannot overcome so great a King as Edward. And
if you could, the Scots would never make you King.
Why do you not yield to him as all the other nobles have
‘I do not fight for the crown,’ replied Wallace, ‘I
neither desire it nor deserve it. It is yours by right.
But because of your sloth and idleness the people have
no leader. So they follow me. I fight only for the
liberty of my country, and should surely have won it, if
you and the other nobles had but done your part. But
you choose base slavery with safety rather than honest
liberty with danger. Follow, hug the fortune, then, of
which you think so highly. As for me, I will die free in
126 SCOTLAND’S STORY
my own country. My love for it shall remain as long as
my life lasts.’
At these words Bruce burst into tears, and never
again did he fight for Edward.
Edward now marched through Scotland, but he
found only a deserted country. Burned towns and
ruined castles met him everywhere, for the people had
destroyed their homes, rather than that they should fall
into the hands of the English King. His soldiers began
to starve, and at last, angry and sullen, he was forced
to march back to England, leaving the North still un-
Hardly had he left the country when messengers came
to him, telling him that the southern Scots had again risen,
and were driving out every English soldier whom he had
left to guard his conquests. So again he gathered an
army and marched back to Scotland, and for seven long
years the struggle lasted. Five times during those years
did Edward’s army ravage Scotland. Broken, crushed,
but still unconquered, the people fought on. Had they
only been united under some strong leader, the struggle
would not have lasted so long. But since Wallace had
given up in despair no great leader had arisen.
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