Friday, August 13, 2010
When Wallace got to England, it seemed that the whole city had turned out to see him. Reports say that the streets were so packed that the guards set in charge of Wallace were not even able to get him to the Tower of London where he was supposed to pass the night. They ended up having to keep him chained in the cellar of the house of a man named William de Leyre who was an alderman of London. I cannot imagine what Wallace was thinking that night as he sat there, probably awake, perhaps getting a little bit of sleep, but surely nothing restful. I don't know if he knew he was to die the next day.
The next morning, he was taken from the cellar, and taken through the streets again where everyone had turned out once more, taking every opportunity to abuse and sneer at their enemy. Wallace most likely took it silently. He was not the kind of man to complain, being accustomed to the hardships of living out in the hills.
His trial took place at Westminster Hall which still stands today. The whole place was packed, all the nobility of London had come to see the trial of William Wallace. This was medieval entertainment. Peter Mallory was the justicular of England and he was the one of passed sentence on Wallace. The other men of import were Ralph de Sandwych, the judge and constable of the Tower of London, the mayor of London, John le Blunt, and John de Bacwell. Along with them were John de Seagrave and his brother, Geoffrey who escorted Wallace through the town.
Wallace was placed on a dais at the south end of the hall and surrounded by guards while Peter Mallory read out his sentence. It was said that they put a circlet of laurel leaves on Wallace's head which they refused to let him take off. It was thought that this was because he had said he was going to be king of England, but that is just plain stupid because, from what we know of Wallace, that was not the kind of man he was. He didn't even want to be king of Scotland, for goodness sake. The English were famous for making up stories about people they did not like.
Wallace's sentence was also full of foolishness. He was charged for robbery, sacrilege, rebellion, sedition, homicide, and arson. One of the main things mentioned was his killing of Sheriff Heselrig, in Lanark. (Heselrig had Wallace's wife, Marion, killed for hiding him and William took retribution, ending Heselrig's life.) This was a main crime for the English, though they slew many of the Scottish nobles in the Barns of Ayr incident, where they gathered them all together for a "meeting" and hung them one at a time as they came in the door. Wallace's uncle was among them. He was also charged for his foray into England after the Battle of Stirling on the winter of 1297. The English had been occupying Scotland and doing far worse atrocities there than Wallace even thought of when he was in England. At least he left the women and children be. Another foolish thing Wallace was accused of was flying banners in the field against England. I don't exactly know what the point of that was, seeing as you usually fly your countries banners when you are at war. (??) Then they charged his for treason. Wallace was then reporter to have spoke up, saying something "How can I be a traitor? England is foreign to me!" He never served England, he never pledged his allegiance to Longshanks, and thus he was not a traitor. He served his country and he defended it truthfully. This was a high point in Wallace's life for me. I can just see him standing there, surrounded by guards, but still defiant enough to tell them that he was a Scot and he was not going to be made anything different by them no matter what they did to him.
No one seemed amused by his defense though. This was not a real trial and he was not allowed to defend himself. Peter Mallory simply read his sentence:
" And that for the robberies, homicides and felonies he comitted in the realm of England and in the land of Scotland to be there hanged and afterwords cut down from the gallows. And in as much as he was an outlaw, and was not afterwords restored to the peace of the Lord King, he be decollated while he yet lives before being decapitated, and that thereafter, for the neasureless turpitude of his deeds towards God's Holy Church, in burning down churches, the heart, the liver, the lungs and all the internal organs of William's body, whence such perverted thoughts proceeded, be removed out of his person and cast into the fire and burnt. Furthermore and finally, that in as much as it was not only against the Lord King himself, but against the whole community of England and of Scotland, the body of the said William be cut up and devided into four parts, the the head, so cut off, be set up on London Bridge, in the sight of such as pass by whether by land or by water, and that one quarter be hung on a gibbet at Newcastle upon Tyne, another quarter at Berwick, and third quarter at Stirling and the fourth at St Johnstone (Now Perth) as a warning and deterrent to all that pass by and behold them."
That was the sentence passed on William Wallace, Scotland's brave hero and it was to be enacted immediately. The guards hustled Wallace out quickly before the press of the crowd made it impossible and prepared to take him to Smithfield where the execution would take place.
I'll be back next week with more on Wallace (And Sunday is another special birthday!) so please check back!