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Blind Harry's Wallace: Synopsis

The Life and Heroick Actions of the Renoun'd Sir William Wallace,
General and Governour of Scotland
by William Hamilton of Gilbertfield

Book XII, Chapter I
How WALLACE conquer'd the Land of Guyen and was made Lord thereof

In France, Wallace continues to get the better of the English. Following on from victory in five set battles he pursues the retreating army to Burdeous (Bordeaux) where the town is besieged for three weeks. Short of supplies, he returns in triumph to the French court where the King thanks him.

The King of France has received a letter from Scotland begging for Wallace's return but he keeps the contents secret from Wallace.

A French knight makes claim to the lands of Guyen (Aquitaine) so recently freed by Wallace. He arranges to meet Wallace; each agree to have fifteen supporters, but the Frenchman brings forty more and ambushes the Scots, making demands that Wallace hand over his rightful lands. The sixteen Scots fight the fifty-six Frenchmen; the knight and his brother are killed along with forty-seven others. During the fight a group of nine Frenchmen mowing hay nearby join in against the Scots. Wallace quickly deals with them, ably evading the slashing of their scythes and cutting each one down.

Wallace sends word to the King, telling him all that has happened and asks that he become one of the King's own household. This is granted and for two full years he stays at the French court, entertained by sport, the King, the lords and ladies.

Read Book XII, Chapter I in its original dialect.

Book XII, Chapter II
How WALLACE killed the Two French Champions

Two French champions resent the success and esteem Wallace has earned. They speak with disdain and make satirical fun at Wallace's expense, which angers him. One day they are all three left talking and the Frenchmen comment about the Scots and speak with great contempt saying they are known to be liars. Wallace strikes out and gives the man a bloody nose; the other attacks Wallace but is struck with a mortal blow. The first is killed also and their brains dashed out on a pillar.

Many great Lords of the court are displeased with this brutal act but the King knows of the men's jealousies and lets the matter pass. From then on Wallace suffers no harsh words from the knights at court.

Read Book XII, Chapter II in its original dialect.

Book XII, Chapter III
How WALLACE killed the Lyon

Wallace has achieved much for the King of France and is rewarded with great respect, putting him beyond the common law. Courtiers are angered by this and two squires, relatives of the champions recently killed, plot Wallace's downfall.

The King keeps a cruel and vicious lion that is beyond all control. The squires go to the King saying they have come at Wallace's request to ask if he can fight and tame the lion in return for his liberty and leave to return to Scotland. The King is not pleased that Wallace wants to leave, but grants this request.

The squires then go to Wallace, telling him the King has commanded him to fight the lion. Thinking it a true command, Wallace agrees and sets off to see the King. On the way a knight asks if he's going to fight the lion; Wallace replies that he is, and will fight the knight as well if he so desires, for he is a true Scot.

The King knows nothing of the squires' plot, thinking still that it's Wallace's desire to fight the lion. He calls for armor, but Wallace refuses. He takes his sword in one hand and wraps his cloak around the other. The lion roars in anticipation, but this ferocity is short-lived as Wallace's sword cleaves the animal in two halves from head to heel. Turning to the King, he asks if there are any more to kill and that he thought the King had more important things to do than fight lions. The plot is revealed when the King discloses it was not his request but Wallace's that the lion was fought. The squires are quickly brought before the King and beheaded for their treachery.

Wallace recognizes that all the French court is envious of him and decides it is time to return to Scotland. At this, the King produces the letter he's kept hidden for so long, which strengthens Wallace's resolve. Taking only the Longueville and eight other men with him, Wallace sets sail and soon arrives at the Tay.

Read Book XII, Chapter III in its original dialect.

Book XII, Chapter IV
How WALLACE came again to Scotland, and The Battle of Elchock Park

Arriving at night, Wallace quickly makes his way, with eighteen men, to Elchock, to his relative, Crawford's house. They hide among bales of hay in a barn, and are brought food and drink; they rest there for several days. The Englishmen in the town take note of Crawford's increased consumption of provisions and take him into custody to question him. He replies that it's for a church feast and nothing out of the ordinary, but the English are aware of Wallace's departure from France and they're suspicious, so they follow Crawford home.

Wallace was suspicious as well, at the delay in Crawford's return, and asks if he sold them out to the English. Crawford denies all, but fearing that he may have been followed, presses Wallace to leave; he joins up with them as twentieth man.

Eight hundred armored Englishmen led by a young knight, Butler, chase the Scots across the plains of Elchoke Park to a low pass into the hills. There Wallace has trees cut down and makes a barricade of them. Meanwhile, back at Crawford's house, his wife is captured by Butler, a huge fire is prepared as if to burn her unless she tells what she knows about Wallace's whereabouts. Wallace has returned to the house and calls out to Butler saying he is there to fight, but to let the woman live. He makes it back to the pass and his men with Butler in pursuit.

Fifteen Englishmen are killed in the first assault. Wallace watches as Butler divides his men into three groups;recognizing the tactic, he prepares a counter attack. Some English are allowed to enter the pass and are killed, others are attacked on each side. As night falls, Butler withdraws and sets watchers, then retires to eat a hearty meal. The Earl York, at Perth with many men, hears the news and sends word that he will come to reinforce and ensure victory, though the odds are already heavily in Butler's favour.

With many men Butler approaches; he calls out to Wallace, telling him to repent the killing of his father and mother and to yield up his men without further fighting. With great disdain Wallace declines, saying he would cut his way through the eight hundred before nine the next day. Watches are set, but a mist falls allowing Wallace to break out and go stealthily inton Butler's camp and kill him. Fighting breaks out and a wounded Crawford is carried far by Wallace before setting off to hiding in Methven Woods.

Nearing Methven they see a group of thirty-four men. They approach and find an old friend, Sir Hugh Dundass, and his brother-in-law Sir John Scot. On their way to pay their fealty to the English, they are pleased to find Wallace and the two groups join.

They refresh themselves with the meager supplies to be found in Methven Woods, then move on to Birnane Wood and a meeting with Ruthven who lives there as an outlaw. Then to Atholl, where food and friends are scarce, and on to Lorn where little is to be found. Wallace regrets having to lead the men so far on empty stomachs and sets out himself to find provisions. Walking far he rests beneath a tree and contemplates leaving the wealth of France for this hardship. He prays for help and falls asleep.

Five men - three Scots and two Englishmen - had joined together in a vow, swearing to take Wallace dead or alive. They have been following Wallace and his men for several days, watching from afar. Now watching Wallace sleep, apart from his men, they discuss what they should do. They decide their fame will be greater if he is brought alive to Perth. As they seize him Wallace wakes and throws them off, grabbing a sword and killing two. The others flee, but are chased by Wallace and each caught and killed.

As Wallace returns to camp he meets up with a servant boy, who tells Wallace he's been providing meat to the five men that Wallace just killed. Wallace tells the boy to come along with him, that "Meat at this Time is better far than Gold, Its Worth at present cannot well be told." The fifty-four men in Wallace's group feast on meat, bread and cheese; having gone three days without food their strength is quickly recovered.

They set off for Rannach Plain where food is more plentiful, and where it is said the Lord unwillingly supported Edward. They expect a fight and were relieved to find instead a warm and grateful welcome. This Lord has three sons and twenty men at his command willing to join up with Wallace.

In the morning he gathers the men and proudly unfurls the Royal Banner calling on brave Scots to join them. To Dunkell they march, claiming it - and the provisions, gold and jewels they find there. As Wallace's men set about killing the English, the English bishop who resides there makes haste for Perth. Wallace and his men spend five days at Dunkell, and not having enough men to make a move on Perth, head north to Ross, then Bute to gather the western men who had given great support in the past.

Many strongholds are deserted by the English as they hear the Scots approaching and many Scots join the growing army. Now seven thousand strong they march through Aberdeen, while nearby Lord Bewmont escapes by sea from Buchaness. From Buchan and Murray they rally, bringing Sir John Ramsay. Soon all the northlands are recovered and the gathering force sets off for Perth.

Read Book XII, Chapter IV in its original dialect.

Book XII, Chapter V
The Siege of St. JOHNSTOUN

Wallace's army besieges the town, setting guards at every gate. His supporters from past attacks gather, Bishop Sinclair from Bute, Lindsay and Boyd from Arran, Adam Wallace, Seaton, Lauder and Lundie.

King Edward had learned of Wallace's return and sent Vallange (Vallance) north to find Scots willing to betray Wallace. Vallange arranges a meeting with Sir John Monteith and asks him to join in a plan to betray Wallace for the good of the country, saying he would not be killed only imprisoned. Sir John is promised an Earldom, three thousand English pounds in gold, and command of Lennox. Sir John is tempted and receives the gold binding him to the treachery.

Meanwhile, in Perth the English are trying to break out; they are contained within the town, but capture the knight Dundas and present him before the Earl of York who, surprisingly sets him free.

The Earl of Fife has a truce with Edward but secretly supports The Bruce; he joins in the siege bringing with him John Vallange, who was then Sherriff of Fife. They set fires at the gates and rush the stronghold, killing many and capturing more. The Earl of York is taken, but freed with safe conduct at Wallace's command as a reward for his earlier goodwill to Dundas.

Edward the Bruce comes from Ireland and with fifty kinsmen attacked Kirkcudbright. He marches to Wigtown, taking the town, and meeting with Wallace there. Together they lead men to Lochmaben, where Wallace hands command to Edward the Bruce saying that unless Robert the Bruce returns and claims the crown soon, then he should have it.

News goes out to King Edward of Wallace's great victories and of his support for Edward Bruce, but Parliament will not support another Scottish war while Wallace is there. Edward writes to Monteith reminding him of his pledge and the monies paid and received. Monteith arranges for his sister's son, John Short, to join with Wallace as a spy. He plots to find a time when Wallace is alone, to allow Monteith to capture or kill him.

Read Book XII, Chapter V in its original dialect.

Book XII, Chapter VI
How WALLACE was betray'd by Sir John Monteith, carry'd to England and martyr'd there

Jop is sent again to plead with Robert the Bruce for him to return and take his Kingdom. The Bruce writes to Wallace saying he will meet with him, first of July on Glasgow Moor. As the time approaches, Wallace rides on the moor each evening with only two companions, Keirly, who has been with him almost from the beginning, and the Monteith's nephew. On the eighteenth night Monteith, with sixty men, waits by Glasgow Church. They watch and follow Wallace until midnight when he takes rest in a loyal house. The house is surrounded and Keirly is killed. The spy has stolen Wallace's sword, knife and bow, but Wallace will not be taken and swears to die in the fight. Monteith comes in and tells Wallace he has come to save him, saying he has negotiated free passage to Dunbarton, but Wallace must come out of the house bound, appearing to be his prisoner, or they will take him by force. Wallace relents and allows himself to be bound, but soon realizes that he has been betrayed.

Wallace is taken south, over the Solway Firth and imprisoned in Carlisle under Vallange and Lord Clifford's hands. Wallace's men grieve over the loss of their leader; Longueville goes to Lochmaben to support Edward Bruce, swearing he will stay and fight for Scotland and not return to France until The Bruce returns.

Robert the Bruce returns to Scotland three days later and at Lochmaben his brother tells him the news and reminds him how stalwart and loyal Wallace has been to Scotland's and to Bruce's cause. Edward is sent to Dalswinton, but fails to seek out Comyn, who is later killed by Robert the Bruce in Dumfries. The nobles rally to the Robert the Bruce; he defeats John of Lorn in Galloway, Brechin, and takes the north with Douglas.

Wallace arrives in London and is imprisoned there.

In Burie Abbey, there was a monk who promised to his younger fellow that when he died he would return to tell of heaven and hell. He returns now and is asked by the young man if he is in heaven or hell. Answering that he was in purgatory for six months until he passed on to heaven, he adds that there are two others he must visit. The first is Wallace, who will surely go to heaven for his part in a just and righteous war.

On the following Wednesday, Wallace is taken from the prison. King Edward refuses him a priest, but the Bishop of Canterbury protests, saying he will hear Wallace's final confession, or curse the King as a heretic. Unwillingly this is granted and Wallace's confession is heard before the Bishop rides off for Westminster.

Wallace always kept by him, since childhood, a psalter book which he asks the priest to hold open before his face. Wallace looks into the book, casting his eyes upward religiously at times; the executioner arrives and quickly strikes the mortal blow.

Read Book XII, Chapter VI in its original dialect.