I can not be a traitor, for I owe him no allegiance. He is not my Sovereign; he never received my homage; and whilst life is in this persecuted body, he never shall receive it. To the other points whereof I am accused, I freely confess them all. As Governor of my country I have been an enemy to its enemies; I have slain the English; I have mortally opposed the English King; I have stormed and taken the towns and castles which he unjustly claimed as his own. If I or my soldiers have plundered or done injury to the houses or ministers of religion, I repent me of my sin; but it is not of Edward of England I shall ask pardon.
– William Wallace, Statement at his trial, rejecting the assertion he was a traitor to Edward I of England (23 August 1305), as quoted in Lives of Scottish Worthies (1831) by Patrick Fraser Tytler, p. 279
Sometimes I look at the Scottish Cringe, and wonder how it could be so widespread. What other country is so gripped by a reluctance to commemorate, respect, or even acknowledge their past? What other people has so many of their members so eager to sneer and troll and disrespect their own history? What other nation has journalists prepared to vilify the recognition of a national hero as if it was some sort of demonic cult?
On this day in 1305, William Wallace was killed. It was called execution, because the King of England claimed dominion over Scotland, thus rendering Wallace’s rebellion an act of high treason. Even to this day, the Anglocentric view of events bleeds through, as countless “On this day” sites, wikis, blog posts, tweets, and facebook status updates talk about the execution of William Wallace for treason.
Yet by any reasonable estimation, this is a distortion of what happened. William Wallace was murdered by a foreign king, for leading his people against an invading power intent on conquest. That he continues to be called a traitor, that his death is still given the legal justification “execution,” exemplifies why I consider that word to be not a grave insult, but an honour. For the establishment, the nobility, the monarchy, those that lord above us, to call someone a traitor, is to call anyone who seeks to usurp their divine right to rule a traitor. I don’t have a problem with that.
We come here with no peaceful intent, but ready for battle, determined to avenge our wrongs and set our country free. Let your masters come and attack us: we are ready to meet them beard to beard.
– William Wallace, Statement before the Battle of Stirling Bridge (11 September 1297), as quoted in History of Scotland (1841) by Patrick Fraser Tytler, p. 121
Yet the Cringe is insidious indeed to reduce one of the great symbols of freedom to a joke. Our history is rendered parochial, narrow-minded, petty, small. Braveheart, a film which garnered ten Academy Award nominations (of which it won five), four Golden Globe nominations, seven BAFTA nominations (of which it won three), and is beloved worldwide, is ridiculed and laughed at nonstop – to the point where even pro-independence Scots are anxious to dissociate themselves from what they view as a cheesy, historically-inaccurate piece of shortbread-tin Pop Scot.
What’s even worse is treating a hero of Scottish nationhood, without whom there wouldn’t be a United Kingdom so much as a Greater England, as merely “a cover for hating the English.”
@MhairiHunter Not sure commemorating a young soldier is the same as celebrating the guy who give people a cover for hating the English.
— Stephen Daisley (@JournoStephen) August 22, 2015
Presumably the Americans celebrate George Washington’s birthday for the same reasons? And the Indians with Gandhi? Is that it? Or does it not count because America and India are independent, which makes celebration of historical icons ok? What about Churchill, is he a cover for hating the Germans? Is Nelson a cover for Francophobia?
As ever, making this an English vs Scottish thing is facile and disrespectful. The Scottish people’s greatest foes have always been themselves: be it the Scottish clans who aided and abetted Edward’s conquest in return for land and priveleges, the Parcel o’ Rogues who sold a nation to pay their personal debts, or the Lairds who turfed their own people out to make room for sheep and grouse moors, Scotland’s troubles have always taken root at home.
And it is only at home that Scotland can deal with their troubles at last. At least now, nobody has to die for this cause anymore.
I hae brocht ye to the ring, now see gif ye can dance.
– Statement before the Battle of Falkirk (21 July 1298); as quoted in The Story of England (1909) by Samuel B. Harding