Why We Love William Wallace: "Freedom!"

Updated on November 21, 2016
Scotland's Flag
Scotland's Flag

William Wallace's battle cry, "Freedom!" resonates a deep chord in Americans' hearts. Perhaps it is the powerful war-voice of the bagpipes, the poetic thunder of a thousand hooves of Highland-bred horses, the brilliant flag-blue war paint on sweaty muscular faces, or the burning villages where bonny highland lasses and bairns used to romp and play portrayed so vividly in Mel Gibson's Braveheart. These images move a certain muscle in the jaw of every patriot, but I submit to you that the thrill we Americans get from the mere mention of "Braveheart" or "WIlliam Wallace" or even "bagpipes" comes from something deeper, something that brings us home to a place we've never been before, something that both Scotland and America share.

Wallace statue on the Wallace Monument, Stirling
Wallace statue on the Wallace Monument, Stirling

The Scottish Wars for Independence and America's War for Independence

Two hundred and thirty years ago colonial America fought for its freedom from tyrannical British rule. America's reasons for resistance were listed in the Declaration of Independence. Seven hundred years ago Scotland fought for its freedom from tyrannical British rule. Scotland's wars were called the Wars of Scottish Independence and they also wrote a treatise of Independence from England.

Patrick Henry gave an impassioned speech to members of America's Continental Congress proclaiming, "Give me liberty or give me death!" His words roused the colonials into action and started the fires that would burn the chords that bound America to England. William Wallace was known for his battle cry "Freedom!" and he led thousands of his Scottish countrymen into battle to free their families and land from England. He was given death for his fight for liberty, but because of his sacrifice, was able to uphold Scotland's status as an independent nation.

Bannockburn: "We fight not for glory, nor for wealth, nor honour but only and alone we fight for freedom which no good man surrenders but with his life."
Bannockburn: "We fight not for glory, nor for wealth, nor honour but only and alone we fight for freedom which no good man surrenders but with his life."
William Wallace: "Freedom!"
William Wallace: "Freedom!"

The William Wallace Braveheart Speech: "Freedom!"

Wallace also pledged his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor for the freedom of his country. The speech Wallace gave to his apprehensive troops at Stirling in the movie Braveheart, though not necessarily word-for-word, is a dramatic and powerful representation of the real William Wallace's courage in fighting for freedom.

"I am William Wallace. And I see a whole army of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny. You have come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What would you do without freedom? Will you fight?"

A middle-aged soldier counters, "Fight? Against that? No, we will run; and we will live."

Wallace responded: "Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you'll live -- at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom! Alba gu bra (Scotland Forever)!"

Wallace's point is well taken. Living in bondage to tyrannical government was not the kind of living that Wallace or any of his other Scotsmen wanted to be a part of. Liberty or death was Patrick Henry's maxim; freedom or death was William Wallace's.

Wallace and his wife Marion before her death.
Wallace and his wife Marion before her death.
Wallace draws the king's sword in the throne room in N. C. Wyeth's painting.
Wallace draws the king's sword in the throne room in N. C. Wyeth's painting.

About William Wallace: a Man of Honor

The William Wallace of Mel Gibson's Braveheart was courageous, strategic, and patriotic, but that seems to be the sum total of his virtue. I much prefer the William Wallace of Jane Porter's novel, Scottish Chiefs, whose chivalric honor only a Victorian novel writer can portray. She seems to have fashioned her portrayal of this Scottish hero after king David of the Bible; but no, as I read deeper into her thick book, I realized she was showing us a man who was truly Christ-like in his innocent death for his people. At the beginning of the book, William Wallace enters into a meditative and mournful mental state after the murder of his wife by the British. His brave and noble deeds following her murder are done in her memory and for the sake of her honor. In a way, his wife was an allegorical symbol of the honor of the country of Scotland that he fought for as well. Scotland had become defiled by national tyrants; his wife had been defiled by a local tyrant. Because of this, Wallace never profaned his purity or became distracted from the battle by fornicating or flirting with a woman, though romance does enter the story at the end of his life when he is wed to Lady Helen Mar in his cell in the Tower of London. Porter also portrays Wallace as a devout Christian, often going to the chapel to inquire of God before a decision or a battle. His choices in battle seemed divinely strategized and planned with wisdom beyond his thirty years. He was a source of encouragement as a friend and brother to his soldiers. As he commanded them to do, he did himself. After Wallace's death, his successor Robert the Bruce begged to see his commander before he was buried: "Show me that heroic face from whose beams my heart first caught the fire of virtue!" (Porter, p. 480)

This virtue is what we recognize in William Wallace when we see something there worth noting. Like moths attracted to the light, humans are attracted to virtue. It is a quality that cannot be hidden by centuries of history, and the memory of William Wallace testifies to this fact. He was given to Scotland at a pivotal point in Scotland's history, and the heart of this "king" was in the hand of God, and God turned it whichever way He wished.

Robert the Bruce weeps over his mentor, William Wallace.
Robert the Bruce weeps over his mentor, William Wallace.
Robert the Bruce later led in the victory at the field of Bannockburn.
Robert the Bruce later led in the victory at the field of Bannockburn.

William Wallace Loved His Psalms Book

Blind Harry or "Henry the Minstrel" wrote most of what we know about William Wallace. In his poem, he describes Wallace's dying moments:

Wallace about him, from his Child-hood kept,

Where e'er he went, whither he walk'd or slept,

A Psalter Book, which he beseech'd the Knight,

Lord Clifford, might be brought into his Sight.

Which done, he caus'd a Priest upon the Place

To hold it open straight before his Face,

On which he look'd, sometimes his Eyes up cast,

Religiously unto his very last.

Then quickly came the Executioner who,

Gave him the fatal, and the Mortal blow.

Thus in Defence, that Hero ends his Days,

Of Scotland's Right, to his immortal Praise...

William Wallace's Sword in the Wallace Monument, Stirling
William Wallace's Sword in the Wallace Monument, Stirling
Full-length view of Wallace's sword.
Full-length view of Wallace's sword.

The Virtuous Sword of William Wallace

When Alexis de Tocqueville came to America from France, he observed the people and the government, then wrote a book on why America was great. His reasons will reveal that the virtue of men and women and families is the measure of greatness: "America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." De Tocqueville also recognized that America's pursuit of liberty was in reality a pursuit of religion. The War for Independence was a religious war, as all wars are. “The Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.” (Alexis de Tocqueville)

Perhaps this is the thrill that courses through our veins when we hear of the brave deeds of WIlliam Wallace, or when the cry of freedom meets our ears. Perhaps it is the voice of virtue, calling for patriots who are just as meek as they are courageous, just as compassionate as they are warriors, and just as pure as they are chivalrous.

All photos © Jane Grey 2010

N C Wyeth paintings from Scottish Chiefs

Questions & Answers

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      • Matt Stan profile image

        Matt Stan 

        6 years ago from Colorado

        Love it! The movie Braveheart is one of my favorites!

      • profile image

        francis5k 

        6 years ago

        nice freedom and nice article! good job scot and hub!

      • profile image

        James McClure 

        7 years ago

        The votes that came in look favorable for the future of freedom in America. We will soon see if the Tea Partiers of this era can hold a candle to those who gave birth to our Republic. God bless you and all those who fight the socialist tyranny that is found wherever there is Big Government.

      • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Leavitt 

        7 years ago from Oregon

        James McClure, I praise God for your faithfulness to His cause of freedom from tyranny! Thank you for spreading the word so diligently, and I am honored that you included my article in your email. As the votes come in today (day after election day), we will see how many people truly fear God and value that liberty that only comes with Him, or how many will "live, at least for a little while" but with a guilty conscience and hearts in bondage to socialism. Thanks for speaking out!

      • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Leavitt 

        7 years ago from Oregon

        James Watkins, I'm honored to have you here! Always grateful to hear your thoughts. There is something precious about Wallace and his God that we need to hear. Rather than being a frog slowly boiled alive in tyranny and socialism, we should fight for what we believe and continue to broadcast the clarion of freedom.

      • profile image

        James McClure 

        7 years ago

        This site makes it clear that William Wallace loved the cause of freedom as much as his life, and that Patrick Henry shared this sentiment. I emailed a link to this site out yesterday (Nov. 1, 2010) along with a link to a Youtube video of the "freedom speech" in the movie Braveheart. The "Subject" of my email was this question: "Will you vote for freedom?" In the text of my email, prior to the link posting, I wrote this: Paraphrasing, vote for socialism "and you will live, at least for a little while. . . But what will you do without freedom?" My thanks to the creator of this hub for giving aid to the cause of freedom!

      • James A Watkins profile image

        James A Watkins 

        7 years ago from Chicago

        I truly enjoyed this fantastic Hub about a great man. Thank you for weaving this story masterfully. I could not have enjoyed it more. Well done!

      • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Leavitt 

        8 years ago from Oregon

        Mohamed, That's why I wrote this article-- so that it will inspire our little boys to follow in a great leader's footsteps and heroically build God's kingdom.

      • profile image

        mohamed 

        8 years ago

        william wallace is the one we need now in our earth

      • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Leavitt 

        8 years ago from Oregon

        Shinkicker, Thanks for stopping by! Wallace has a special place in your memory now, it sounds like.

      • Shinkicker profile image

        Shinkicker 

        8 years ago from Scotland

        Great Hub on a Scottish legend.

        I was working in Italy recently and the local workers called me Braveheart because of my long hair(my photo is a couple of years old now)

        "LIBERTA!!!" I'd shout :-)

      • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Leavitt 

        8 years ago from Oregon

        Vox Vocis, the sword was huge! I have no idea how he could have wielded it to any effectiveness. I'm five foot seven, and it seemed to be taller than I am.

      • vox vocis profile image

        Jasmine 

        8 years ago

        Oh, my! Wallace had a really big sword!!! At least, it seems so judging from the pic you posted.

      • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Leavitt 

        8 years ago from Oregon

        You're welcome, tdarby! We can always learn from the great heroes of freedom who have gone before us.

      • tdarby profile image

        tdarby 

        8 years ago

        Thanks so much for a fantastic hub.

      • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Leavitt 

        8 years ago from Oregon

        Saintatlarge, You are blessed to be a true-blood Scot! You certainly have a heritage worth fighting for. I hope you enjoy the book. I believe it is out of print now, but I have run across it at used book sales numerous times, so I know you should be able to find it if you're looking for it.

      • Saintatlarge profile image

        Saint Lawrence 

        8 years ago from Canada

        Hi Jane, blessings and thank you for a well devised hub. My Heritage is Scottish, so I know my ancestors benefited from Wallaces feats. I too will have to check out that book. Thx St.L.

      • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Leavitt 

        8 years ago from Oregon

        Elayne, Great pun! He really was a champion. Thanks for your comment!

        Jane

      • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Leavitt 

        8 years ago from Oregon

        Thank you, Pamela! I hope you check out the book; it was inspiring, and gave a much deeper look at Wallace's life and what he stood for.

      • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Leavitt 

        8 years ago from Oregon

        Hello Duchess!

        I hope you get Scottish Chiefs as a mother's day gift! If not, you could probably find it at the library. It's a huge book, but captivating and well-worth the read. I've never read such an interesting history! The N. C. Wyeth illustrations inside are beautiful, too. You'll have to tell me what you think of it after you read it!

      • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Leavitt 

        8 years ago from Oregon

        Thank you, LadyJane! That's what I was trying to do, so it's good to know I was successful. This man was truly a hero, and one we should teach our sons and grandsons to respect, honor, and imitate. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Leavitt 

        8 years ago from Oregon

        Quill,

        You're right, determination goes a long way! If only we could learn from Wallace's determination and take action when we need to!

      • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Leavitt 

        8 years ago from Oregon

        Hi Rose!

        Our two countries really seemed similar to me after I spent some time in Scotland, and I realized it was because we both fought for our independence from tyrannical rule. Another similarity was Colorado and the Scottish Highlands-- the same kind of mountains and hill nurtured the same kind of rugged independence!

        Don't worry about not having seen Braveheart, Rose! You'll have to see it eventually, but if you don't like war and gore and bloody battles, then you might not want to see it. (I have a confession to make too: I don't know if I would watch it again. I love William Wallace, but I had a hard time with Braveheart, the movie.)

      • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Leavitt 

        8 years ago from Oregon

        Kendall, Bagpipes do the same for me. There's hardly a word to describe the thrill! That is, when I'm not laughing at the funny bags and arm-pumping that go into the sounds they make! The sword is massive: taller than me, and I'm 5'7"! Imagine a giant that could hold a sword like that, much less swing it! You're right, his story is inspiring because it shows what can happen when you stand and fight for what is right!

      • Jane Grey profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Leavitt 

        8 years ago from Oregon

        Ultimate Hubber, I hope you enjoy Jane Porter's book! I'm sure you will. It was a fascinating story and I almost forgot it wasn't fiction. Thanks for your kind comment!

      • elayne001 profile image

        Elayne 

        8 years ago from Rocky Mountains

        Great Scot, literally. Wallace sure is admirable for his courage. Good hub.

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        8 years ago from Sunny Florida

        This is a very interesting hub. Braveheart is a great movie and I didn't know there was a book. Your hub is very well written and I enjoyed it very much.

      • profile image

        Duchess OBlunt 

        8 years ago

        Very interesting hub, and you have given me an idea for a mother's day gift. I think I would like that book by Jane Porter! :) Thanks for the idea

      • ladyjane1 profile image

        ladyjane1 

        8 years ago from Texas

        I loved the movie Braveheart and your hub really captured the heart and soul of what William Wallace stood for. Great read.

      • profile image

        "Quill" 

        8 years ago

        Braveheart was a great movie that and depicted his life very well according to all I have read. Interesting how one person who is determined can and will change a Nation...Great Hub and very well written..

        Be Blessed

      • Rose West profile image

        Rose West 

        8 years ago from Michigan

        Well, I really enjoyed this article; I love how you compared the two wars. I must confess I haven't seen "Braveheart" yet. Everyone gives me a hard time about that... indeed I don't know why I'm even confessing to it here :) I'll get around to it sometime I hope!

      • Kendall H. profile image

        Kendall H. 

        8 years ago from Northern CA

        There is something about listening to bagpipes that excites my heart and indeed my soul. Braveheart reminded us all why we cannot just sit back and watch the world go by, sometimes we must fight to preserve what we love. Excellent hub! Also isn't his sword huge?! I can't imagine carrying it! Nevermind running at top speed during a battle!

      • Ultimate Hubber profile image

        Ultimate Hubber 

        8 years ago

        I have seen brave heart but didn't know that a novel by Jane Porter existed on the subject too. Thank you for writing this. Now I will look for the novel I think. :)

        And nice hub!

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