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Episode
186

William Wallace

Aug 20, 2021
History
-
23
minutes
Scotland
UK politics
The Middle Ages
War
Politics
Film & Cinema
Great Britain

He was the Scottish rebel who fought against the English and has become the most famous freedom fighter in Scottish history.

In this episode, we'll learn all about his battles against the English, and the legacy that William Wallace left on the country.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge and today is the start of another mini-series, this time on Scottish Heroes.

[00:00:30] In part one, today’s episode, we are going to be talking about William Wallace, the Scottish freedom fighter.

[00:00:39] Then in part two, we are going to talk about Mary Queen of Scots, probably the best known woman in Scottish history, and one who met a tragic end at the hands of her cousin.

[00:00:53] And finally, in part three we will meet Bonnie Prince Charlie, another revolutionary leader who has gone down in Scottish history for his fight against the English.

[00:01:06] Throughout this mini-series you’ll notice some common themes. 

[00:01:11] Constant battles against the English being the main one, but also conflicts within Scotland, the role of women, developing military tactics, Protestantism vs. Catholicism, the French, quite how interrelated the European royal families were and how a lot of these conflicts were very, very bloody.

[00:01:33] All of these episodes have been a huge amount of fun to make, so I hope you’ll enjoy them.

[00:01:40] Before we get right into today’s episode though, let me remind you that you can become a member of Leonardo English and follow along with the subtitles, the transcript and its key vocabulary over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:55] Membership of Leonardo English gives you access to all of our learning materials, all of our bonus episodes, so that’s more than 180 different episodes now, as well as two new ones every week, plus access to our awesome private community where we do live events, challenges, and much, much more.

[00:02:16] Our community now has members from over 50 countries, and it's my mission to make it the most interesting place for curious people like you to improve their English.

[00:02:28] So, if that is of interest - and I can't see a reason why it wouldn't be - then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:02:39] OK then, William Wallace.

[00:02:42] If you were in London on August 23rd 1305, almost exactly 716 years before this episode will be released, you might have witnessed a brutal event.

[00:02:56] A man was stripped naked, his feet tied together with a rope. 

[00:03:02] The rope was tied to 5 horses, which dragged the man 6 kilometres through the hard, cobbled streets of London.

[00:03:12] As he was being dragged along the streets, his head bumping up and down on the hard stones, crowds of people shouted at him, throwing stones and rotten vegetables.

[00:03:26] When he arrived at his final destination, an area of the city called Smithfield, the rope was cut, and the half-conscious man was dragged up onto a stage.

[00:03:38] From there, a rope was tied around his neck, he was pulled up, and hung until he was half dead.

[00:03:46] But instead of being left there to die, he was cut down, and placed on a table.

[00:03:53] If he was still conscious, he would have seen the executioner’s knife come down on his chest, and his heart, stomach, liver, lungs and testicles removed and thrown on a burning fire.

[00:04:09] His head was then cut off, and put on a pole on London Bridge.

[00:04:15] The rest of his body was cut into four pieces and sent to four different towns in England and Scotland.

[00:04:23] That man’s name was William Wallace.

[00:04:27] Now, I appreciate that this was quite a graphic description that you might not have been expecting, and I apologise if you were eating your breakfast, but the brutality of it does help us understand several things.

[00:04:43] Firstly, quite how bloody life was back then. 

[00:04:47] And secondly, most importantly, quite how much of a threat this man was considered to be by the English king.

[00:04:57] So, to tell the story of William Wallace, and in fact to tell the stories of the protagonists in every episode in this mini-series, we are going to split it into several parts, with a bonus section at the end.

[00:05:13] We will start by talking about the life of our protagonist, then we’ll talk about their fight with England. 

[00:05:21] In every case, their lives and stories are pretty closely intertwined with a struggle against England. 

[00:05:29] Then, we’ll talk about how they are remembered in Scotland, and their influence after their death.

[00:05:37] And in every part of this mini-series, we will end with a few unusual and surprising facts about our main characters.

[00:05:46] In this first episode, to help set the scene for the entire series, I’ll start by painting a brief picture of Scotland as a part of the British Isles.

[00:05:59] You may well know some of this already, but it’s helpful to be reminded of it.

[00:06:05] Scotland is the country at the north of the British Isles. 

[00:06:09] It’s almost exactly 60% of the size of England from a geographical area point of view, and about a third of this is what’s called The Highlands, a beautiful area of hills and mountains. 

[00:06:26] The majority of the Scottish population, which has always been significantly smaller than the English, lives to the south of the country, close to the border with England.

[00:06:38] And talking about the border, there is a direct land border with England. It’s about 150km long. 

[00:06:46] The Romans built a wall in 122AD to try to keep out invaders from the north, but since they left there has basically been no real physical border.

[00:06:59] Now, coming back to our story of William Wallace, not a huge amount is known for sure about his early life, and separating William Wallace “the man” from William Wallace “the legend” is a task that historians are still working on.

[00:07:17] We believe that he came from a relatively upper middle-class family, of Welsh descent. 

[00:07:24] Indeed, Wallace comes from “of Wales”, so he probably had Welsh ancestors.

[00:07:32] When he was growing up, there was no fight with England. There was a Kingdom of Scotland which was ruled by a man named Alexander III. 

[00:07:43] Unfortunately, Alexander died in 1286, when Wallace was around 16 years old.

[00:07:51] Alexander’s granddaughter, a girl called Margaret, Maid of Norway was his heir

[00:07:58] But there were two problems with Margaret, which caused a third problem.

[00:08:04] Firstly, she was only 3 years old when Alexander died. 

[00:08:09] Secondly, she lived in Norway.

[00:08:11] And the third problem was that she was sent from Norway to Scotland to be crowned queen, but she died on the way.

[00:08:21] With no clear next king or queen, Scotland was thrown into a crisis

[00:08:28] There was disagreement between the Scottish lords about who should become the next leader, and it looked like civil war was about to break out.

[00:08:39] To avoid this, the King of England, King Edward I was invited to help with the succession.

[00:08:48] But, Edward I was power-hungry, and he saw this as an opportunity to enlarge his territory, and take Scotland for himself. 

[00:09:00] He quickly ordered the Scottish lords to recognise him as their leader. 

[00:09:07] The Scottish lords wouldn’t have this, and instead recognised a man named John Balliol as their king. 

[00:09:16] But Balliol was weak, he didn’t have the support required from the entire Scottish nobility, and he grew weaker under constant pressure from Edward I.

[00:09:28] At the time that this was all happening, a young man was starting to make a name for himself. 

[00:09:36] William Wallace was in his early 20s, and had started to develop a reputation as a fierce hater of the English.

[00:09:46] There is a legend that one day Wallace was fishing in a Scottish river. 

[00:09:52] He was approached by a group of five English soldiers, who demanded he give them the fish he had caught. 

[00:10:01] He offered them part of them, part of the fish, but not all of them.

[00:10:07] The English soldiers were furious, how dare a Scotsman answer back to them, and one drew his sword, ready to attack Wallace.

[00:10:17] Wallace wasn’t armed, he didn’t have a sword, but he managed to hit one of the English soldiers with his fishing rod, snatch his sword, and killed two of the other soldiers.

[00:10:32] This incident has actually given the name to a Scottish plant, a “Bickering Bush”. 

[00:10:39] To bicker means to argue, and legend has it that this particular bush grew where Wallace had this famous argument.

[00:10:49] Wallace’s hatred of the English grew even stronger when he heard about how Edward I was marching north to invade Scotland, and had committed brutal attacks on Scottish towns.

[00:11:03] In particular, there was an account of an attack on a town called Berwick, which is now in England but used to be in Scotland, where King Edward ordered for men, women and children to be slaughtered by his English soldiers.

[00:11:19] Wallace started to raise support to fight the English, and before long his small militia had turned into a small army.

[00:11:29] In September of 1297 his army was to be put to its first real test outside the town of Stirling, in central Scotland.

[00:11:40] Wallace’s army waited on one side of the river as the English army approached.

[00:11:46] The Scottish army was significantly smaller than the English, with around 5 or 6,000 men to the English army’s 9,000. 

[00:11:56] It was also, unlike the English army, not a professional one.

[00:12:01] But on Wallace’s side was a deep knowledge of the local terrain, of the land around him, and the mentality of a revolutionary freedom fighter.

[00:12:14] As the English approached the river, they had to go across a narrow bridge, a bridge that could only manage two soldiers side by side at one time.

[00:12:26] On the other side of the bridge was what’s called a bog, a marshland, an area of very wet grass.

[00:12:35] Traditional battle etiquette, traditional military manners, would dictate that the English would be allowed to cross the bridge, to go to the decided battle location, to line up across from the Scots, and only then the battle would start.

[00:12:54] But William Wallace didn’t care for manners, he didn’t play by the rules.

[00:13:00] Wallace waited until just enough English soldiers had crossed the bridge, then his troops charged at them and pushed them onto the boggy, wet ground. The soldiers couldn’t go back across the bridge, they were stuck, and 5,000 of the 9,000 English soldiers were killed.

[00:13:23] Wallace was hailed as a military genius - he had beaten the English army, and he became the face of the battle for Scottish independence.

[00:13:34] He was rewarded with the position of Guardian of Scotland, which was essentially the role of protecting the country while a new king was found.

[00:13:46] Energised by this victory, Wallace’s army moved south, and continued to fight against any English settlements he found. 

[00:13:56] There are some truly terrible stories here about burning monasteries, raping women, and killing civilians in brutal ways. 

[00:14:06] But these accounts mainly come from English sources, who were of course trying to portray William Wallace as a tyrant and a criminal, rather than a legitimate military leader.

[00:14:19] King Edward I of England was in France fighting the French at the time. 

[00:14:25] When he heard the news he was furious, and set off personally to defeat Wallace.

[00:14:33] As the English armies headed north, Wallace retreated and burned everything on his way back, trying to make it harder for the English armies to find supplies.

[00:14:46] But the English army was professional, they weren’t going to stop just because Wallace had made life harder for them. Plus, they were thirsty for revenge.

[00:14:57] In July 1298, A year after the glorious victory at Stirling, Wallace’s army again faced the English at a town called Falkirk, just south of Stirling.

[00:15:11] This time, the Scottish army did not fare so well.

[00:15:15] The reason? 

[00:15:17] The English army had started using something called the longbow, a bow that allowed archers to fire arrows great distances.

[00:15:27] This weapon is often called the machine gun of the Middle Ages. 

[00:15:32] An archer could fire it quickly, the arrows could go great distances, over 300 metres, and they were deadly.

[00:15:41] Wallace’s army learned this the hard way, and 2,000 Scottish soldiers were slaughtered as the arrows rained down from the sky.

[00:15:53] Wallace managed to escape with his life, but his reputation as a military genius was in tatters

[00:16:01] With his army partially destroyed, and support reduced, he was stripped of his title of Guardian of Scotland.

[00:16:11] While the military fight might have been over, he took to diplomacy to try to continue his quest for independence.

[00:16:20] There are records of him going to France and even Rome to try to get support for Scottish independence, but to no avail, he had no luck.

[00:16:32] He was still a symbol of Scottish freedom though, of Scottish independence, and King Edward I wanted him dead. 

[00:16:43] He promised great rewards for anyone who would give him Wallace, but for 7 years Wallace managed to evade capture, travelling throughout Scotland and France and Italy.

[00:16:55] But he couldn’t escape the English forever.

[00:16:59] The reward for his capture was too tempting, and indeed Wallace was betrayed by one of his own, he was betrayed by his own servant.

[00:17:10] On 5 August 1305 Wallace was captured while he was sleeping, and taken to London. 

[00:17:18] He was given a show trial, he was charged with the crime of high treason, and well, you heard at the start of the episode what happened next.

[00:17:30] So, that is the life of William Wallace, and of his fight with the English. 

[00:17:35] His impact since his death has been vast, and it is rare for any discussion of Scottish independence to not mention William Wallace. 

[00:17:47] Going back to the aftermath of his death, he set the wheels in motion for the subsequent Scottish Wars of Independence, and his fight was continued by Robert The Bruce, a Scottish nobleman who was to repeat Wallace’s success at Stirling Bridge with another epic victory over the English at Bannockburn.

[00:18:08] There is a huge monument to William Wallace on a hill in Stirling, which you can see from the main road driving north. 

[00:18:17] And his story is taught in every Scottish school. I actually grew up in Scotland, and lived there until I was 13, and the story of William Wallace was one of the first ones we learned in history class.

[00:18:32] It really is hard to find any other individual that has such a strong hold over the Scottish national psyche as William Wallace. 

[00:18:42] The characters we’ll hear about in parts two and three of this mini-series are also important, but when it comes to Scottish independence, William Wallace is the original freedom fighter, the original campaigner for Scottish independence.

[00:19:00] Now, to conclude this episode with some weird or unusual facts.

[00:19:06] You might have noticed that I haven’t said the word Braveheart once during this episode, until now that is.

[00:19:13] William Wallace is of course the inspiration for the 1995 movie with Mel Gibson, Braveheart. 

[00:19:21] The film did a lot to raise awareness of the story of William Wallace, although there is a lot of the film that is completely inaccurate, and large parts of it that come from legends still slightly doubted by historians. 

[00:19:37] For example, in the film the main reason to rebel against the English is because Wallace’s wife is killed by an Englishman. 

[00:19:47] There are some accounts of this in different stories that came years after Wallace died, but there isn’t much evidence for it actually being true.

[00:19:58] It does make a good story though, and if you haven’t seen it, Braveheart is certainly a fun film to watch. 

[00:20:04] Although I wouldn’t rely on it for historical accuracy.

[00:20:08] And our final unusual fact about William Wallace is that he was incredibly tall, and accounts have him standing at over 2 metres in height. 

[00:20:20] Given that the majority of the population would have been significantly smaller than we are now, this really must have made him seem like a real giant.

[00:20:30] And interestingly, his arch nemesis, and the man who had him killed, King Edward I of England, was also known for his height. He was nicknamed Edward Longshanks - a shank is another name for a leg - and he was reportedly almost 190cm tall.

[00:20:51] So, there we have it, the most famous freedom fighter in Scottish history, and his almost 10 year campaign for Scottish independence. 

[00:21:02] He was killed 23 years before independence was to be achieved again, in 1328, but it is arguably the fact that he fought so bravely against the English, and was killed because of it, that turned him into a legend, and has continued to unite and inspire the Scottish people ever since.

[00:21:26] OK then, that is it for today's episode on William Wallace, the Scottish freedom fighter.

[00:21:33] As a reminder, this is part one of a three-part mini-series on Scottish Heroes. 

[00:21:39] Next up, part two, our members-only episode will be on Mary Queen of Scots, the woman who was made queen when she was only 6 days old. 

[00:21:49] And then part three will be on Bonnie Prince Charlie, the man who was either a Scottish Legend or an Italian Coward.

[00:21:58] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:22:02] Did you know much about the life of William Wallace? 

[00:22:05] If you have any Scottish friends, or you have been to Scotland, have you heard many people’s opinions about William Wallace?

[00:22:13] I would love to know.

[00:22:15] For the members among you, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:22:25] And as a final reminder, if you enjoyed this episode, and you are wondering where to get all of our bonus episodes, plus the transcripts, subtitles, and key vocabulary, then the place to go to for that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:22:41] I am on a mission to make Leonardo English the most interesting way of improving your English, and I would love for you to join me, and curious minds from 50 different countries, on that journey.

[00:22:56] The place you can go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:23:02] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:23:07] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]


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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge and today is the start of another mini-series, this time on Scottish Heroes.

[00:00:30] In part one, today’s episode, we are going to be talking about William Wallace, the Scottish freedom fighter.

[00:00:39] Then in part two, we are going to talk about Mary Queen of Scots, probably the best known woman in Scottish history, and one who met a tragic end at the hands of her cousin.

[00:00:53] And finally, in part three we will meet Bonnie Prince Charlie, another revolutionary leader who has gone down in Scottish history for his fight against the English.

[00:01:06] Throughout this mini-series you’ll notice some common themes. 

[00:01:11] Constant battles against the English being the main one, but also conflicts within Scotland, the role of women, developing military tactics, Protestantism vs. Catholicism, the French, quite how interrelated the European royal families were and how a lot of these conflicts were very, very bloody.

[00:01:33] All of these episodes have been a huge amount of fun to make, so I hope you’ll enjoy them.

[00:01:40] Before we get right into today’s episode though, let me remind you that you can become a member of Leonardo English and follow along with the subtitles, the transcript and its key vocabulary over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:55] Membership of Leonardo English gives you access to all of our learning materials, all of our bonus episodes, so that’s more than 180 different episodes now, as well as two new ones every week, plus access to our awesome private community where we do live events, challenges, and much, much more.

[00:02:16] Our community now has members from over 50 countries, and it's my mission to make it the most interesting place for curious people like you to improve their English.

[00:02:28] So, if that is of interest - and I can't see a reason why it wouldn't be - then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:02:39] OK then, William Wallace.

[00:02:42] If you were in London on August 23rd 1305, almost exactly 716 years before this episode will be released, you might have witnessed a brutal event.

[00:02:56] A man was stripped naked, his feet tied together with a rope. 

[00:03:02] The rope was tied to 5 horses, which dragged the man 6 kilometres through the hard, cobbled streets of London.

[00:03:12] As he was being dragged along the streets, his head bumping up and down on the hard stones, crowds of people shouted at him, throwing stones and rotten vegetables.

[00:03:26] When he arrived at his final destination, an area of the city called Smithfield, the rope was cut, and the half-conscious man was dragged up onto a stage.

[00:03:38] From there, a rope was tied around his neck, he was pulled up, and hung until he was half dead.

[00:03:46] But instead of being left there to die, he was cut down, and placed on a table.

[00:03:53] If he was still conscious, he would have seen the executioner’s knife come down on his chest, and his heart, stomach, liver, lungs and testicles removed and thrown on a burning fire.

[00:04:09] His head was then cut off, and put on a pole on London Bridge.

[00:04:15] The rest of his body was cut into four pieces and sent to four different towns in England and Scotland.

[00:04:23] That man’s name was William Wallace.

[00:04:27] Now, I appreciate that this was quite a graphic description that you might not have been expecting, and I apologise if you were eating your breakfast, but the brutality of it does help us understand several things.

[00:04:43] Firstly, quite how bloody life was back then. 

[00:04:47] And secondly, most importantly, quite how much of a threat this man was considered to be by the English king.

[00:04:57] So, to tell the story of William Wallace, and in fact to tell the stories of the protagonists in every episode in this mini-series, we are going to split it into several parts, with a bonus section at the end.

[00:05:13] We will start by talking about the life of our protagonist, then we’ll talk about their fight with England. 

[00:05:21] In every case, their lives and stories are pretty closely intertwined with a struggle against England. 

[00:05:29] Then, we’ll talk about how they are remembered in Scotland, and their influence after their death.

[00:05:37] And in every part of this mini-series, we will end with a few unusual and surprising facts about our main characters.

[00:05:46] In this first episode, to help set the scene for the entire series, I’ll start by painting a brief picture of Scotland as a part of the British Isles.

[00:05:59] You may well know some of this already, but it’s helpful to be reminded of it.

[00:06:05] Scotland is the country at the north of the British Isles. 

[00:06:09] It’s almost exactly 60% of the size of England from a geographical area point of view, and about a third of this is what’s called The Highlands, a beautiful area of hills and mountains. 

[00:06:26] The majority of the Scottish population, which has always been significantly smaller than the English, lives to the south of the country, close to the border with England.

[00:06:38] And talking about the border, there is a direct land border with England. It’s about 150km long. 

[00:06:46] The Romans built a wall in 122AD to try to keep out invaders from the north, but since they left there has basically been no real physical border.

[00:06:59] Now, coming back to our story of William Wallace, not a huge amount is known for sure about his early life, and separating William Wallace “the man” from William Wallace “the legend” is a task that historians are still working on.

[00:07:17] We believe that he came from a relatively upper middle-class family, of Welsh descent. 

[00:07:24] Indeed, Wallace comes from “of Wales”, so he probably had Welsh ancestors.

[00:07:32] When he was growing up, there was no fight with England. There was a Kingdom of Scotland which was ruled by a man named Alexander III. 

[00:07:43] Unfortunately, Alexander died in 1286, when Wallace was around 16 years old.

[00:07:51] Alexander’s granddaughter, a girl called Margaret, Maid of Norway was his heir

[00:07:58] But there were two problems with Margaret, which caused a third problem.

[00:08:04] Firstly, she was only 3 years old when Alexander died. 

[00:08:09] Secondly, she lived in Norway.

[00:08:11] And the third problem was that she was sent from Norway to Scotland to be crowned queen, but she died on the way.

[00:08:21] With no clear next king or queen, Scotland was thrown into a crisis

[00:08:28] There was disagreement between the Scottish lords about who should become the next leader, and it looked like civil war was about to break out.

[00:08:39] To avoid this, the King of England, King Edward I was invited to help with the succession.

[00:08:48] But, Edward I was power-hungry, and he saw this as an opportunity to enlarge his territory, and take Scotland for himself. 

[00:09:00] He quickly ordered the Scottish lords to recognise him as their leader. 

[00:09:07] The Scottish lords wouldn’t have this, and instead recognised a man named John Balliol as their king. 

[00:09:16] But Balliol was weak, he didn’t have the support required from the entire Scottish nobility, and he grew weaker under constant pressure from Edward I.

[00:09:28] At the time that this was all happening, a young man was starting to make a name for himself. 

[00:09:36] William Wallace was in his early 20s, and had started to develop a reputation as a fierce hater of the English.

[00:09:46] There is a legend that one day Wallace was fishing in a Scottish river. 

[00:09:52] He was approached by a group of five English soldiers, who demanded he give them the fish he had caught. 

[00:10:01] He offered them part of them, part of the fish, but not all of them.

[00:10:07] The English soldiers were furious, how dare a Scotsman answer back to them, and one drew his sword, ready to attack Wallace.

[00:10:17] Wallace wasn’t armed, he didn’t have a sword, but he managed to hit one of the English soldiers with his fishing rod, snatch his sword, and killed two of the other soldiers.

[00:10:32] This incident has actually given the name to a Scottish plant, a “Bickering Bush”. 

[00:10:39] To bicker means to argue, and legend has it that this particular bush grew where Wallace had this famous argument.

[00:10:49] Wallace’s hatred of the English grew even stronger when he heard about how Edward I was marching north to invade Scotland, and had committed brutal attacks on Scottish towns.

[00:11:03] In particular, there was an account of an attack on a town called Berwick, which is now in England but used to be in Scotland, where King Edward ordered for men, women and children to be slaughtered by his English soldiers.

[00:11:19] Wallace started to raise support to fight the English, and before long his small militia had turned into a small army.

[00:11:29] In September of 1297 his army was to be put to its first real test outside the town of Stirling, in central Scotland.

[00:11:40] Wallace’s army waited on one side of the river as the English army approached.

[00:11:46] The Scottish army was significantly smaller than the English, with around 5 or 6,000 men to the English army’s 9,000. 

[00:11:56] It was also, unlike the English army, not a professional one.

[00:12:01] But on Wallace’s side was a deep knowledge of the local terrain, of the land around him, and the mentality of a revolutionary freedom fighter.

[00:12:14] As the English approached the river, they had to go across a narrow bridge, a bridge that could only manage two soldiers side by side at one time.

[00:12:26] On the other side of the bridge was what’s called a bog, a marshland, an area of very wet grass.

[00:12:35] Traditional battle etiquette, traditional military manners, would dictate that the English would be allowed to cross the bridge, to go to the decided battle location, to line up across from the Scots, and only then the battle would start.

[00:12:54] But William Wallace didn’t care for manners, he didn’t play by the rules.

[00:13:00] Wallace waited until just enough English soldiers had crossed the bridge, then his troops charged at them and pushed them onto the boggy, wet ground. The soldiers couldn’t go back across the bridge, they were stuck, and 5,000 of the 9,000 English soldiers were killed.

[00:13:23] Wallace was hailed as a military genius - he had beaten the English army, and he became the face of the battle for Scottish independence.

[00:13:34] He was rewarded with the position of Guardian of Scotland, which was essentially the role of protecting the country while a new king was found.

[00:13:46] Energised by this victory, Wallace’s army moved south, and continued to fight against any English settlements he found. 

[00:13:56] There are some truly terrible stories here about burning monasteries, raping women, and killing civilians in brutal ways. 

[00:14:06] But these accounts mainly come from English sources, who were of course trying to portray William Wallace as a tyrant and a criminal, rather than a legitimate military leader.

[00:14:19] King Edward I of England was in France fighting the French at the time. 

[00:14:25] When he heard the news he was furious, and set off personally to defeat Wallace.

[00:14:33] As the English armies headed north, Wallace retreated and burned everything on his way back, trying to make it harder for the English armies to find supplies.

[00:14:46] But the English army was professional, they weren’t going to stop just because Wallace had made life harder for them. Plus, they were thirsty for revenge.

[00:14:57] In July 1298, A year after the glorious victory at Stirling, Wallace’s army again faced the English at a town called Falkirk, just south of Stirling.

[00:15:11] This time, the Scottish army did not fare so well.

[00:15:15] The reason? 

[00:15:17] The English army had started using something called the longbow, a bow that allowed archers to fire arrows great distances.

[00:15:27] This weapon is often called the machine gun of the Middle Ages. 

[00:15:32] An archer could fire it quickly, the arrows could go great distances, over 300 metres, and they were deadly.

[00:15:41] Wallace’s army learned this the hard way, and 2,000 Scottish soldiers were slaughtered as the arrows rained down from the sky.

[00:15:53] Wallace managed to escape with his life, but his reputation as a military genius was in tatters

[00:16:01] With his army partially destroyed, and support reduced, he was stripped of his title of Guardian of Scotland.

[00:16:11] While the military fight might have been over, he took to diplomacy to try to continue his quest for independence.

[00:16:20] There are records of him going to France and even Rome to try to get support for Scottish independence, but to no avail, he had no luck.

[00:16:32] He was still a symbol of Scottish freedom though, of Scottish independence, and King Edward I wanted him dead. 

[00:16:43] He promised great rewards for anyone who would give him Wallace, but for 7 years Wallace managed to evade capture, travelling throughout Scotland and France and Italy.

[00:16:55] But he couldn’t escape the English forever.

[00:16:59] The reward for his capture was too tempting, and indeed Wallace was betrayed by one of his own, he was betrayed by his own servant.

[00:17:10] On 5 August 1305 Wallace was captured while he was sleeping, and taken to London. 

[00:17:18] He was given a show trial, he was charged with the crime of high treason, and well, you heard at the start of the episode what happened next.

[00:17:30] So, that is the life of William Wallace, and of his fight with the English. 

[00:17:35] His impact since his death has been vast, and it is rare for any discussion of Scottish independence to not mention William Wallace. 

[00:17:47] Going back to the aftermath of his death, he set the wheels in motion for the subsequent Scottish Wars of Independence, and his fight was continued by Robert The Bruce, a Scottish nobleman who was to repeat Wallace’s success at Stirling Bridge with another epic victory over the English at Bannockburn.

[00:18:08] There is a huge monument to William Wallace on a hill in Stirling, which you can see from the main road driving north. 

[00:18:17] And his story is taught in every Scottish school. I actually grew up in Scotland, and lived there until I was 13, and the story of William Wallace was one of the first ones we learned in history class.

[00:18:32] It really is hard to find any other individual that has such a strong hold over the Scottish national psyche as William Wallace. 

[00:18:42] The characters we’ll hear about in parts two and three of this mini-series are also important, but when it comes to Scottish independence, William Wallace is the original freedom fighter, the original campaigner for Scottish independence.

[00:19:00] Now, to conclude this episode with some weird or unusual facts.

[00:19:06] You might have noticed that I haven’t said the word Braveheart once during this episode, until now that is.

[00:19:13] William Wallace is of course the inspiration for the 1995 movie with Mel Gibson, Braveheart. 

[00:19:21] The film did a lot to raise awareness of the story of William Wallace, although there is a lot of the film that is completely inaccurate, and large parts of it that come from legends still slightly doubted by historians. 

[00:19:37] For example, in the film the main reason to rebel against the English is because Wallace’s wife is killed by an Englishman. 

[00:19:47] There are some accounts of this in different stories that came years after Wallace died, but there isn’t much evidence for it actually being true.

[00:19:58] It does make a good story though, and if you haven’t seen it, Braveheart is certainly a fun film to watch. 

[00:20:04] Although I wouldn’t rely on it for historical accuracy.

[00:20:08] And our final unusual fact about William Wallace is that he was incredibly tall, and accounts have him standing at over 2 metres in height. 

[00:20:20] Given that the majority of the population would have been significantly smaller than we are now, this really must have made him seem like a real giant.

[00:20:30] And interestingly, his arch nemesis, and the man who had him killed, King Edward I of England, was also known for his height. He was nicknamed Edward Longshanks - a shank is another name for a leg - and he was reportedly almost 190cm tall.

[00:20:51] So, there we have it, the most famous freedom fighter in Scottish history, and his almost 10 year campaign for Scottish independence. 

[00:21:02] He was killed 23 years before independence was to be achieved again, in 1328, but it is arguably the fact that he fought so bravely against the English, and was killed because of it, that turned him into a legend, and has continued to unite and inspire the Scottish people ever since.

[00:21:26] OK then, that is it for today's episode on William Wallace, the Scottish freedom fighter.

[00:21:33] As a reminder, this is part one of a three-part mini-series on Scottish Heroes. 

[00:21:39] Next up, part two, our members-only episode will be on Mary Queen of Scots, the woman who was made queen when she was only 6 days old. 

[00:21:49] And then part three will be on Bonnie Prince Charlie, the man who was either a Scottish Legend or an Italian Coward.

[00:21:58] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:22:02] Did you know much about the life of William Wallace? 

[00:22:05] If you have any Scottish friends, or you have been to Scotland, have you heard many people’s opinions about William Wallace?

[00:22:13] I would love to know.

[00:22:15] For the members among you, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:22:25] And as a final reminder, if you enjoyed this episode, and you are wondering where to get all of our bonus episodes, plus the transcripts, subtitles, and key vocabulary, then the place to go to for that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:22:41] I am on a mission to make Leonardo English the most interesting way of improving your English, and I would love for you to join me, and curious minds from 50 different countries, on that journey.

[00:22:56] The place you can go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:23:02] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:23:07] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]


[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge and today is the start of another mini-series, this time on Scottish Heroes.

[00:00:30] In part one, today’s episode, we are going to be talking about William Wallace, the Scottish freedom fighter.

[00:00:39] Then in part two, we are going to talk about Mary Queen of Scots, probably the best known woman in Scottish history, and one who met a tragic end at the hands of her cousin.

[00:00:53] And finally, in part three we will meet Bonnie Prince Charlie, another revolutionary leader who has gone down in Scottish history for his fight against the English.

[00:01:06] Throughout this mini-series you’ll notice some common themes. 

[00:01:11] Constant battles against the English being the main one, but also conflicts within Scotland, the role of women, developing military tactics, Protestantism vs. Catholicism, the French, quite how interrelated the European royal families were and how a lot of these conflicts were very, very bloody.

[00:01:33] All of these episodes have been a huge amount of fun to make, so I hope you’ll enjoy them.

[00:01:40] Before we get right into today’s episode though, let me remind you that you can become a member of Leonardo English and follow along with the subtitles, the transcript and its key vocabulary over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:55] Membership of Leonardo English gives you access to all of our learning materials, all of our bonus episodes, so that’s more than 180 different episodes now, as well as two new ones every week, plus access to our awesome private community where we do live events, challenges, and much, much more.

[00:02:16] Our community now has members from over 50 countries, and it's my mission to make it the most interesting place for curious people like you to improve their English.

[00:02:28] So, if that is of interest - and I can't see a reason why it wouldn't be - then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:02:39] OK then, William Wallace.

[00:02:42] If you were in London on August 23rd 1305, almost exactly 716 years before this episode will be released, you might have witnessed a brutal event.

[00:02:56] A man was stripped naked, his feet tied together with a rope. 

[00:03:02] The rope was tied to 5 horses, which dragged the man 6 kilometres through the hard, cobbled streets of London.

[00:03:12] As he was being dragged along the streets, his head bumping up and down on the hard stones, crowds of people shouted at him, throwing stones and rotten vegetables.

[00:03:26] When he arrived at his final destination, an area of the city called Smithfield, the rope was cut, and the half-conscious man was dragged up onto a stage.

[00:03:38] From there, a rope was tied around his neck, he was pulled up, and hung until he was half dead.

[00:03:46] But instead of being left there to die, he was cut down, and placed on a table.

[00:03:53] If he was still conscious, he would have seen the executioner’s knife come down on his chest, and his heart, stomach, liver, lungs and testicles removed and thrown on a burning fire.

[00:04:09] His head was then cut off, and put on a pole on London Bridge.

[00:04:15] The rest of his body was cut into four pieces and sent to four different towns in England and Scotland.

[00:04:23] That man’s name was William Wallace.

[00:04:27] Now, I appreciate that this was quite a graphic description that you might not have been expecting, and I apologise if you were eating your breakfast, but the brutality of it does help us understand several things.

[00:04:43] Firstly, quite how bloody life was back then. 

[00:04:47] And secondly, most importantly, quite how much of a threat this man was considered to be by the English king.

[00:04:57] So, to tell the story of William Wallace, and in fact to tell the stories of the protagonists in every episode in this mini-series, we are going to split it into several parts, with a bonus section at the end.

[00:05:13] We will start by talking about the life of our protagonist, then we’ll talk about their fight with England. 

[00:05:21] In every case, their lives and stories are pretty closely intertwined with a struggle against England. 

[00:05:29] Then, we’ll talk about how they are remembered in Scotland, and their influence after their death.

[00:05:37] And in every part of this mini-series, we will end with a few unusual and surprising facts about our main characters.

[00:05:46] In this first episode, to help set the scene for the entire series, I’ll start by painting a brief picture of Scotland as a part of the British Isles.

[00:05:59] You may well know some of this already, but it’s helpful to be reminded of it.

[00:06:05] Scotland is the country at the north of the British Isles. 

[00:06:09] It’s almost exactly 60% of the size of England from a geographical area point of view, and about a third of this is what’s called The Highlands, a beautiful area of hills and mountains. 

[00:06:26] The majority of the Scottish population, which has always been significantly smaller than the English, lives to the south of the country, close to the border with England.

[00:06:38] And talking about the border, there is a direct land border with England. It’s about 150km long. 

[00:06:46] The Romans built a wall in 122AD to try to keep out invaders from the north, but since they left there has basically been no real physical border.

[00:06:59] Now, coming back to our story of William Wallace, not a huge amount is known for sure about his early life, and separating William Wallace “the man” from William Wallace “the legend” is a task that historians are still working on.

[00:07:17] We believe that he came from a relatively upper middle-class family, of Welsh descent. 

[00:07:24] Indeed, Wallace comes from “of Wales”, so he probably had Welsh ancestors.

[00:07:32] When he was growing up, there was no fight with England. There was a Kingdom of Scotland which was ruled by a man named Alexander III. 

[00:07:43] Unfortunately, Alexander died in 1286, when Wallace was around 16 years old.

[00:07:51] Alexander’s granddaughter, a girl called Margaret, Maid of Norway was his heir

[00:07:58] But there were two problems with Margaret, which caused a third problem.

[00:08:04] Firstly, she was only 3 years old when Alexander died. 

[00:08:09] Secondly, she lived in Norway.

[00:08:11] And the third problem was that she was sent from Norway to Scotland to be crowned queen, but she died on the way.

[00:08:21] With no clear next king or queen, Scotland was thrown into a crisis

[00:08:28] There was disagreement between the Scottish lords about who should become the next leader, and it looked like civil war was about to break out.

[00:08:39] To avoid this, the King of England, King Edward I was invited to help with the succession.

[00:08:48] But, Edward I was power-hungry, and he saw this as an opportunity to enlarge his territory, and take Scotland for himself. 

[00:09:00] He quickly ordered the Scottish lords to recognise him as their leader. 

[00:09:07] The Scottish lords wouldn’t have this, and instead recognised a man named John Balliol as their king. 

[00:09:16] But Balliol was weak, he didn’t have the support required from the entire Scottish nobility, and he grew weaker under constant pressure from Edward I.

[00:09:28] At the time that this was all happening, a young man was starting to make a name for himself. 

[00:09:36] William Wallace was in his early 20s, and had started to develop a reputation as a fierce hater of the English.

[00:09:46] There is a legend that one day Wallace was fishing in a Scottish river. 

[00:09:52] He was approached by a group of five English soldiers, who demanded he give them the fish he had caught. 

[00:10:01] He offered them part of them, part of the fish, but not all of them.

[00:10:07] The English soldiers were furious, how dare a Scotsman answer back to them, and one drew his sword, ready to attack Wallace.

[00:10:17] Wallace wasn’t armed, he didn’t have a sword, but he managed to hit one of the English soldiers with his fishing rod, snatch his sword, and killed two of the other soldiers.

[00:10:32] This incident has actually given the name to a Scottish plant, a “Bickering Bush”. 

[00:10:39] To bicker means to argue, and legend has it that this particular bush grew where Wallace had this famous argument.

[00:10:49] Wallace’s hatred of the English grew even stronger when he heard about how Edward I was marching north to invade Scotland, and had committed brutal attacks on Scottish towns.

[00:11:03] In particular, there was an account of an attack on a town called Berwick, which is now in England but used to be in Scotland, where King Edward ordered for men, women and children to be slaughtered by his English soldiers.

[00:11:19] Wallace started to raise support to fight the English, and before long his small militia had turned into a small army.

[00:11:29] In September of 1297 his army was to be put to its first real test outside the town of Stirling, in central Scotland.

[00:11:40] Wallace’s army waited on one side of the river as the English army approached.

[00:11:46] The Scottish army was significantly smaller than the English, with around 5 or 6,000 men to the English army’s 9,000. 

[00:11:56] It was also, unlike the English army, not a professional one.

[00:12:01] But on Wallace’s side was a deep knowledge of the local terrain, of the land around him, and the mentality of a revolutionary freedom fighter.

[00:12:14] As the English approached the river, they had to go across a narrow bridge, a bridge that could only manage two soldiers side by side at one time.

[00:12:26] On the other side of the bridge was what’s called a bog, a marshland, an area of very wet grass.

[00:12:35] Traditional battle etiquette, traditional military manners, would dictate that the English would be allowed to cross the bridge, to go to the decided battle location, to line up across from the Scots, and only then the battle would start.

[00:12:54] But William Wallace didn’t care for manners, he didn’t play by the rules.

[00:13:00] Wallace waited until just enough English soldiers had crossed the bridge, then his troops charged at them and pushed them onto the boggy, wet ground. The soldiers couldn’t go back across the bridge, they were stuck, and 5,000 of the 9,000 English soldiers were killed.

[00:13:23] Wallace was hailed as a military genius - he had beaten the English army, and he became the face of the battle for Scottish independence.

[00:13:34] He was rewarded with the position of Guardian of Scotland, which was essentially the role of protecting the country while a new king was found.

[00:13:46] Energised by this victory, Wallace’s army moved south, and continued to fight against any English settlements he found. 

[00:13:56] There are some truly terrible stories here about burning monasteries, raping women, and killing civilians in brutal ways. 

[00:14:06] But these accounts mainly come from English sources, who were of course trying to portray William Wallace as a tyrant and a criminal, rather than a legitimate military leader.

[00:14:19] King Edward I of England was in France fighting the French at the time. 

[00:14:25] When he heard the news he was furious, and set off personally to defeat Wallace.

[00:14:33] As the English armies headed north, Wallace retreated and burned everything on his way back, trying to make it harder for the English armies to find supplies.

[00:14:46] But the English army was professional, they weren’t going to stop just because Wallace had made life harder for them. Plus, they were thirsty for revenge.

[00:14:57] In July 1298, A year after the glorious victory at Stirling, Wallace’s army again faced the English at a town called Falkirk, just south of Stirling.

[00:15:11] This time, the Scottish army did not fare so well.

[00:15:15] The reason? 

[00:15:17] The English army had started using something called the longbow, a bow that allowed archers to fire arrows great distances.

[00:15:27] This weapon is often called the machine gun of the Middle Ages. 

[00:15:32] An archer could fire it quickly, the arrows could go great distances, over 300 metres, and they were deadly.

[00:15:41] Wallace’s army learned this the hard way, and 2,000 Scottish soldiers were slaughtered as the arrows rained down from the sky.

[00:15:53] Wallace managed to escape with his life, but his reputation as a military genius was in tatters

[00:16:01] With his army partially destroyed, and support reduced, he was stripped of his title of Guardian of Scotland.

[00:16:11] While the military fight might have been over, he took to diplomacy to try to continue his quest for independence.

[00:16:20] There are records of him going to France and even Rome to try to get support for Scottish independence, but to no avail, he had no luck.

[00:16:32] He was still a symbol of Scottish freedom though, of Scottish independence, and King Edward I wanted him dead. 

[00:16:43] He promised great rewards for anyone who would give him Wallace, but for 7 years Wallace managed to evade capture, travelling throughout Scotland and France and Italy.

[00:16:55] But he couldn’t escape the English forever.

[00:16:59] The reward for his capture was too tempting, and indeed Wallace was betrayed by one of his own, he was betrayed by his own servant.

[00:17:10] On 5 August 1305 Wallace was captured while he was sleeping, and taken to London. 

[00:17:18] He was given a show trial, he was charged with the crime of high treason, and well, you heard at the start of the episode what happened next.

[00:17:30] So, that is the life of William Wallace, and of his fight with the English. 

[00:17:35] His impact since his death has been vast, and it is rare for any discussion of Scottish independence to not mention William Wallace. 

[00:17:47] Going back to the aftermath of his death, he set the wheels in motion for the subsequent Scottish Wars of Independence, and his fight was continued by Robert The Bruce, a Scottish nobleman who was to repeat Wallace’s success at Stirling Bridge with another epic victory over the English at Bannockburn.

[00:18:08] There is a huge monument to William Wallace on a hill in Stirling, which you can see from the main road driving north. 

[00:18:17] And his story is taught in every Scottish school. I actually grew up in Scotland, and lived there until I was 13, and the story of William Wallace was one of the first ones we learned in history class.

[00:18:32] It really is hard to find any other individual that has such a strong hold over the Scottish national psyche as William Wallace. 

[00:18:42] The characters we’ll hear about in parts two and three of this mini-series are also important, but when it comes to Scottish independence, William Wallace is the original freedom fighter, the original campaigner for Scottish independence.

[00:19:00] Now, to conclude this episode with some weird or unusual facts.

[00:19:06] You might have noticed that I haven’t said the word Braveheart once during this episode, until now that is.

[00:19:13] William Wallace is of course the inspiration for the 1995 movie with Mel Gibson, Braveheart. 

[00:19:21] The film did a lot to raise awareness of the story of William Wallace, although there is a lot of the film that is completely inaccurate, and large parts of it that come from legends still slightly doubted by historians. 

[00:19:37] For example, in the film the main reason to rebel against the English is because Wallace’s wife is killed by an Englishman. 

[00:19:47] There are some accounts of this in different stories that came years after Wallace died, but there isn’t much evidence for it actually being true.

[00:19:58] It does make a good story though, and if you haven’t seen it, Braveheart is certainly a fun film to watch. 

[00:20:04] Although I wouldn’t rely on it for historical accuracy.

[00:20:08] And our final unusual fact about William Wallace is that he was incredibly tall, and accounts have him standing at over 2 metres in height. 

[00:20:20] Given that the majority of the population would have been significantly smaller than we are now, this really must have made him seem like a real giant.

[00:20:30] And interestingly, his arch nemesis, and the man who had him killed, King Edward I of England, was also known for his height. He was nicknamed Edward Longshanks - a shank is another name for a leg - and he was reportedly almost 190cm tall.

[00:20:51] So, there we have it, the most famous freedom fighter in Scottish history, and his almost 10 year campaign for Scottish independence. 

[00:21:02] He was killed 23 years before independence was to be achieved again, in 1328, but it is arguably the fact that he fought so bravely against the English, and was killed because of it, that turned him into a legend, and has continued to unite and inspire the Scottish people ever since.

[00:21:26] OK then, that is it for today's episode on William Wallace, the Scottish freedom fighter.

[00:21:33] As a reminder, this is part one of a three-part mini-series on Scottish Heroes. 

[00:21:39] Next up, part two, our members-only episode will be on Mary Queen of Scots, the woman who was made queen when she was only 6 days old. 

[00:21:49] And then part three will be on Bonnie Prince Charlie, the man who was either a Scottish Legend or an Italian Coward.

[00:21:58] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:22:02] Did you know much about the life of William Wallace? 

[00:22:05] If you have any Scottish friends, or you have been to Scotland, have you heard many people’s opinions about William Wallace?

[00:22:13] I would love to know.

[00:22:15] For the members among you, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:22:25] And as a final reminder, if you enjoyed this episode, and you are wondering where to get all of our bonus episodes, plus the transcripts, subtitles, and key vocabulary, then the place to go to for that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:22:41] I am on a mission to make Leonardo English the most interesting way of improving your English, and I would love for you to join me, and curious minds from 50 different countries, on that journey.

[00:22:56] The place you can go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:23:02] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:23:07] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]