Brave Heart (1995)




Director:    Mel Gibson.

Starring:     Mel Gibson (William Wallace),  Sophie Marceau (Princess Isabelle),  Patrick McGoohan (King Edward I),  Catherine McCormack (Murron MacClannough),  Brendan Gleeson (Hamish Campbell),  James Cosmo (Campbell),  Angus McFadyen (Robert the Bruce),  Peter Henly, (Edward Prince of Wales),  James Robinson (young Willilam Wallace),  Alun Armstrong (Mornay),  Ian Bannen  (The leper, Robert the Bruce, Sr.).

Oscars:    Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Makeup, Sound Effects Editing

Great battle scenes in this excellent story of the Scottish rebel William Wallace.


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

Scotland. 1280 A.D.  "The king of Scotland had died without a son, and the King of England, a cruel pagan known as Edward the Longshanks, claimed the throne of Scotland for himself.  Scotland's nobles fought him and fought each other over the crown.  So Longshanks invited them to talks of truce, no weapons, one page only:"  Malcolm Wallace, a commoner, but a man with his own lands, has two sons, John and William.  He is going to visit MacAndrews after the meeting.  William tags along.  His father and his brother John tell him to go back home.  They go into the small hut and find most the Scottish participants at the meeting hanging from the rafters. 

Malcolm Wallace gathers a great many locals together to fight the English.    He and John go off to fight leaving William behind.  William and his friend Hamish pretend that they see English horsemen riding through their area.  They jump up quickly and throw individual rocks at two piles or rocks on a big flat rock.  Then they starting fighting each other. 

The next day at home, William hears men approaching.  Four men are leading oxen pulling a wagon.  On the back of the wagon are the bodies of his father and brother.  At the funeral William sees a pretty young girl who keeps staring at him.  She picks a flower and gives it to him.   Tears run down his cheeks.  After the funeral Uncle Argyle rides over to him.  He will take William to live with him. 

Many years later.  The eldest son of Longshanks marries the daughter of the King of France.  Later he makes plans to conquer Scotland.  He plans to grant lands in England to Scottish nobles and to grant land in Scotland to English nobles.  He also intends to grant English lords the right of first night.  They can have the first night with any bride under his supervision as lord of the manor.  If they can't force the Scots out, then they will breed them out. 

Edinburgh.   The council of Scottish nobles gathers.  One of these men is Robert the 17th earl of Bruce, a leading contender for the crown of Scotland.  William Wallace, now grown, attends a Scottish wedding festival.  He goes over to see a woman, named Murron, but is blocked by a bigger man.  It's his old friend Hamish.  Hamish knocks William down.  They have a boulder throwing contest and of course, the bigger man wins, which means Hamish.  William then says that he bets that Hamish can't hit him with the boulder.  So he stands in front of Hamish a ways.  Hamish throws the boulder, but he overthrows it.  Now William throws a small stone at Hamish's head and hits him right between the eyes.  Hamish falls to the laughter of the crowd.  The English lord shows up to take the bride by his right of first night.  By the force of his men, the English lord takes the woman and rides away with her.

On a rainy afternoon, William asks Murron's parents if he can take her for a ride.  They think he is out of his mind.  They won't let Murron go with him, but Murron has her own mind and jumps on the back of William's horse.  They ride out.  When they stop William asks Murron how did she know him after so long?  She says she didn't.  Rather she just saw him staring at her.  He drops her off at night and gives her something in a cloth.  It is the blue flower that she gave him at the funeral of his father.  Murron is impressed.

William is re-thatching the roof of his childhood home.  Murron's father and two other men come to take William to a meeting, but he says he wants to stay out of the troubles and just raise crops.  Murron's father says to William that until he proves himself, he says no to a match between William and Murron.  That doesn't stop William.  Murron sneaks out to see him.  He asks her to marry him and she says yes. On another night she goes with William.  William has a father marry them.  They exchange vows.  

An English soldier grows suspicious that Murron might be in love with William.  The fellow takes two soldiers with him and they corner Murron.  The evil one then tries to rape her.  Murron bites his cheek and he screams in pain.  William comes to the rescue, throwing them off her.  He then puts her on a horse and smacks the horse on the rear, telling her to meet him at the grove.   When William gets away he goes to the grove, but Murron is not there.  Murron will be punished for an assault on the King's soldiers.  Saying the villagers repay his kindness with this, the Lord slits her throat.  He then says: "Let the scrapper come to me!"

William comes riding slowly into the village.  The English soldiers surround him.  He raises his hands in surrender.  When a soldier gets next to his horse, William takes a sword out and starts killing the soldiers.  Then the men of the village start killing the soldiers.  After a short fight, it's come down to only the Lord and one soldier and the soldier surrenders.  William kicks the Lord down some steps and then forces him over to two poles.  There he cuts the Lord's throat.  They hold a funeral for Murron. 

MacGregors comes to join Wallace.  They figure that the English  garrison will come and wipe them out for what happened.  Other clans join up with Wallace.  So the gang decides to take action against the garrison.  They way-lay a troop of 50 English soldiers.  William Wallace and a select group of men dress in the English uniforms and go with an English horse and wagon through the gates.  Once inside they attack the key personnel.  The soldiers do not fight.  Wallace tells them they will be spared.  He shouts:  "Go back to England and tell them there that Scotland's daughters and her sons are yours no more.  Tell them Scotland is free."  They burn down the garrison. 

Longshanks is not happy.  He tells his son and daughter-in-law that Scottish rebels have routed one of his garrisons.  They also murdered the Lord.  His son says he heard and says that this man Wallace is nothing more than a brigand.  He suggests the sheriff arrest him.  Longshanks tells everyone to go except his son and daughter-in-law and a few others.  He then slaps his son for being a simpleton.  He says that Wallace has already killed the magistrate and taken control of the town. 

The King tells his son that he is going to France, but he expects his son to quell this Scottish rebellion.  After the king leaves, the wife tries to console her young husband, but he just tells her to get away from him.  To console the wife, one of her hand maidens says in French that she hopes that the king's son does go to Scotland and does meet Wallace.  Then her mistress will surely be a widow. 

The English come burning Scottish villages.  A group of cavalry chase after five Scots.  They fall right into an ambush. 

Robert Bruce informs his father that a commoner named William Wallace has started a rebellion in Scotland.  Dad tells his son to join the rebellion.  Meanwhile, he will get English support by condemning the revolt.  Dad then tells his son to call a meeting of the nobles.  Robert says all they do is talk.  Dad says that's good, they should be cautious.  He warns his son that Edward Longshanks is the most ruthless king ever to sit on the throne of England.  He goes on to say that the Scots must be as equally ruthless. 

Faudron, a mad Irishman, comes to join up with Wallace.  He wants assurance that if he joins with him, he will be able to kill Englishmen.   Later the Irishman kills a would-be assassin, saving William's life.  Word comes that the English army is advancing toward Stirling.  Highlanders are coming down in droves of hundreds and thousands. 

Stirling.  The English approach the Scots.  The horsemen have long lances.  The Scots are outnumbered three to one.  Some men start to go home.  Wallace arrives with his men.  Their faces are partly painted in blue.  "Sons of Scotland I am William Wallace.  . . . and I see a whole army of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny.  You've come to fight as free men.  And free men you are.  What will you do with that freedom?  Will you fight?"  They say no.  There are too many Englishmen.  Wallace says:  "Fight and you may die.  Run, and you'll live, at least awhile.  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 to tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom?"    This inspires the men and they roar for Wallace. 

Cheltham for the English comes out to negotiate with the Scots.  Three Scots meet him in the middle of the field.  Wallace rides up after telling his men that he is going to start a fight.  Cheltham tries to deliver the King's terms, but Wallace delivers the Scot's terms:  "Lower your flags and march straight back to England stopping at every home you pass by to beg forgiveness for a hundred years of theft, rape and murder.  Do that and your men shall live.  Do it not, and every one of you will die today."  The negotiations are over and the fighting is to begin. 

The English bring up their archers.  The archers send up hundreds of arrows and many of the Scots are hit.  Now the horsemen come forward with their lances.  The Scots wait until the horsemen are virtually on top of them and then they put up their long poles and spear the horses and their riders.  Now the infantry charges and the Scots respond with their own charge.  From behind the English come the Scottish cavalry.  They mow down the archers.  The general calls for a retreat. Cheltham comes charging for William Wallace, but Wallace cuts down the man's horse and then when Cheltham gets up, Wallace cuts off his head.  The Scots are victorious. 

Wallace is knighted and becomes Sir William Wallace.  The two factions of Scots, Robert Bruce and John Balliol now compete to have Wallace join them.  Wallace and his men leave in disgust.  When  they ask him where he is going, he says:  "We have beaten the English, but they'll come back because you won't stand together."  Someone asks him what will he do?  Wallace answers:  "I will invade England and defeat the English on their own ground." 

Wallace now descends on an English fortified town.  He and his men use a battering ram to bust open the gates.  The Scots give a roar of approval. 

The King arrives at the castle where his son Edward awaits him.  The King comes in to the room.  He asks Edward how it goes in the North.  Edward says there is nothing new.  But dad says he heard in France the news that their entire northern army has been annihilated.  A messenger comes in with a note that Wallace has sacked York.  And the enemy has sent the King the head of his own nephew.  Longshanks now worries that if Wallace can sack York, then he can get into lower England too.  Philip, Edward's military counsel, gives the King some advise, which makes him so angry that he throws Philip out of a window to his death far below.   Edward is shocked and tries to stab his father, but the King just knocks him down. 

Wallace dreams that he sees Murron again.  She tells him to wake up.  Princess Isabelle comes in the name of her father-in-law.  She meets with Wallace.  Wallace tells her:  "You tell your king that William Wallace will not be ruled and nor will any Scot while I live." 

The Princess tells the King that Wallace will stay at York and attack nor more town or cities, as long as Longshanks will meet him in battle.  Longshanks goes back to the discussion of his battle plans.  The Welsh bowmen will be far on Wallace's flank.  The French will land to the north of Edinburgh.  Irish conscripts will approach from the southwest.  And now the King lets everyone know that he set the battle plan into motion even before he sent Princess Isabelle to see Wallace.  While Wallace waits in York they will come in from behind him.  Princess Isabelle is shocked that her father-in-law would lie to her. 

The Princess's hand maiden delivers a personal message to Wallace warning him of the coming English attack.  Wallace starts his troops moving.  He goes to speak to Bruce and Balliol and asks them for as many men as they can muster.  But the others are not so sure they can beat Longshanks because of the great number of troops he brings to Scotland.  Robert Bruce speaks to him in private saying that fighting these odds looks like rage, not courage.  Wallace begs Robert to unite the Scots and he agrees to do it.  But Robert's father tells him the nobles will not support Wallace and, therefore, the Scots cannot win.  He then tells Robert, what he must do for his country. 

Falkirk.  The Scots put down tar on the coming battle field.  Hamish tells Wallace that Bruce is not coming, but Wallace says he will come.  Mornay and Lochlan have already arrived. King Edward sends in the Irish conscripts first, saying that arrows cost money, while the dead don't cost anything.  He also sends in the infantry and cavalry.   The Irish run towards the Scots and vice-versa.  The Irish go over to the side of the Scots.  The tar set out onto the fields is now ignited by flaming arrows from the Scottish archers.  This sets horses and riders on fire. 

The infantry charges into the Scots.  The cavalry of Mornay and Lochlan retreat from the field. Now the archers fire into the battlefield, killing both English and the Scots and Irish.  Then the King sends in his reinforcements. The King leaves the battlefield thinking that he has won. Wallace goes racing after him and his escort.  A lancer turns around and is able to spear Wallace's horse, throwing Wallace onto the ground.  The man gets off his horse to check on Wallace and Wallace overpowers him.  He takes off the man's helmet and discovers it's none other than Robert Bruce.  Wallace can't believe it. 

A group of English infantry soldiers now come for Wallace.  The mad Irishman, however, comes to the rescue.  With the help of Robert Bruce, Wallace is lifted onto the horse and the mad Irishman takes off.  Hamish's father is dying, but Hamish says no, he is going to live.  The father dies.  Robert Bruce walks through the battlefield seeing so many Scottish and Irish dead. 

Robert Bruce visits his father who is happy with his performance, but the son says the look of shock and disappointment on the face of Wallace is still tearing him apart.  He tells dad:  "I will never be on the wrong side again." 

Wallace rides into the bedchamber of the traitor Mornay and smashes his face in with a heavy ball on the end of a chain.  It is all the talk of the table of Robert Bruce.  From the rafters Wallace drops the dead body of Lochlan onto the Bruce table. 

The legend of William Wallace continues to grow and is often exaggerated.  This is a threat to King Edward because men from every Scottish town rally to his cause.  So the King decides to use Princess Isabelle again to trap Wallace.  Wallace pretends to fall for the trap, but imprisons the men waiting in a Scottish hut to kill him.   The hut is then set on fire. 

Wallace sneaks in to see Princess Isabelle.  He says this is the second time she has warned him of danger and he wants to know why?  She says:  "Because of the way you are looking at me now."  They kiss and hug.  They sleep together (off camera).   In the morning Wallace rides out. 

It looks like Robert the Bruce is setting a trap for Wallace.  He asks him to come to a meeting to unite all of Scotland.  Wallace answers Hamish's fears of a trap by saying they can't do this alone.  He needs to join the nobles to save the people of Scotland.  Wallace is going alone.  Wallace walks in to greet Robert, but apparently Robert did not set the trap.  His second in command did.  The English grab Wallace and start beating him.  Robert  tries to save Wallace and gets knocked out.  Wallace is knocked out.

Robert runs in to see his father.  The father is the one who really set the trap.  He says the price of Robert being the Scottish King was to deliver Wallace.  Robert tells dad that he wishes dad would die. 

Wallace is accused of high treason.  William replies:  "Never in my whole life did I swear allegiance to him."  They want him to confess and promise him a quick death.  If not, Wallace will have to be purified by pain.  Wallace will not confess.

Princess Isabelle goes to see Wallace in prison.  She begs him to confess, so he may receive mercy.  Wallace answers:  "If I swear to him, then all that I am is dead already."  The Princess gives him a potion that will dumb his senses.  He says no, but then yes after she begs him.  They kiss.  After she leaves, Wallace spits the liquid from his mouth.  She now goes to the king to ask for mercy.  The king will not budge.  So she whispers in the king's ear that his blood dies with him.  She is pregnant of another (Wallace).  She also swears that his son will not sit long on the throne.   

Wallace is brought to the place of execution.  The mob throws garbage at him.  Wallace is lifted into the air by a rope around his neck.  Still alive, he is dropped to the ground gasping for air.  Then they rack him.  His body is pulled in four different directions by the four limbs.  He is dropped to the ground again.  He is told to beg for mercy.  But the only word Wallace shouts out is "Freedom!"  He is disemboweled.  He looks into the crowd and sees Hamish and the mad Irishman and then he sees Murron.  His head is then cut off. 

"After the beheading, William Wallace's body was torn to pieces.  His head was set on London Bridge, his arms and legs sent to the four corners of Britain as a warning.  It did not have the effect that Longshanks planned.  And I, Robert the Bruce, rode out to pay homage to the armies of the English king and accept his endorsement of my crown." 

Robert the Bruce now leads the Scots in battle against the English. 

William Wallace says:  "In the year of our Lord, 1314, patriots of Scotland, starving and outnumbered, charged the fields of Bannockburn.  They fought like warrior poets, they fought like Scotsmen and won their freedom." 


Very good movie.  Mel Gibson was terrific as the great Scottish/British hero William Wallace, who was so essential to the Scots in winning the First War of Scottish Independence against England.  The Scots fought hard and well even though they were greatly outnumbered by the English troops.  And the Scots were not professional soldiers, like many of the English troops were.  Too bad the Irish weren't as successful.  The love story between Princess Isabelle and William Wallace was a bit far-fetched. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



Historical Background:



The provoker was Edward I, 6' 2" tall and hence called Longshanks.

1272-1307 -- reign of Edward I of England. Defeated and killed Simon de Montfort and restored his father to the throne.  He tried to unite all Britain into a single kingdom. Wales revolted.

1272  --  William Wallace is born in Elderslie, county of Renfrewshire, Scotland.  At the time, King Alexander III (124986) ruled Scotland.

1258 -- prince of Gwynedd in Wales declares himself Prince of Wales and allies himself with Simon; he even marries Simon's daughter; this would prove to be unforgivable to Edward I

1276 -- Edward I invades Gwynedd; Prince of Wales surrenders

1282 -- Welsh surprise attack on English army; guerilla war in which Prince of Wales killed

1283-- Edward puts down Wales and proclaims his own infant son Prince of Wales. Welsh made second class citizens.

Edward's wife dies and he builds 12 monuments to her (crosses like Charring Cross).

The War of the Nations has so bankrupted the English that even the Jews could no longer be taxed. So Edward decided to dispense with the Jews. He has 300 heads of Jewish families hanged in the Tower. He exiles 3,000 more.

1286  --  death of Scottish King Alexander III.  The Scottish lords declare Alexander's four-year-old granddaughter, Margaret, Queen.  Edward I betroths his son Edward to Margaret. 

1290 -- Margaret of Scotland dies.  There is no clear heir to Scotland's Alexander III.  Edward agrees to mediate the dispute between two large groups of Scottish clans, one the Bruces; but Edward wants to make the winner pay homage to him; the winner.

1291 or 1292 William Wallace kills the son of an English nobleman named Selby with a dirk (i.e., a short dagger).  Earlier he had killed the son of the English governor of Dundee.

1292  --  a court decides that in the competition between the Bruces and John Balliol, the winner is Balliol; Edward humiliates Balliol

1295 -- Edward's parliament is called the "Model Parliament," because it included all classes of the kingdom, not only barons, higher clergy, knights of the shire, and burgesses, but also representatives of the lower clergy

It was the fiscal duties of Parliament that transformed it from an aristocratic assembly into a representative institution. And it was the growing scale and costs of war that created those fiscal duties. The old revenue sources were not enough. So the Kings of England in the thirteenth century turned to taxes that were national, not feudal, that fell upon all free men, not just tenants-in-chief. The most important of these was the lay subsidy, a tax assessed upon the income and movable property of all free men.

1296(March) Balliol renounces his homage to Edward.   The conflict begins when England invades Scotland. Edward wins at Dunbar.

The Scots sign a treaty with France.

1296-1328 the beginning of the First War of the Wars of Scottish Independence.

William Wallace wins at the Battle of Stirling Bridge where he set upon English forces. But later at Falkirk Wallace's people fall like apples in an orchard from the English arrows. Wallace executed publicly by being disemboweled while alive.

1297 -- while Edward was in Flanders the opposition wrested a Confirmation of Magna Carta and the Rorest Charter from the Regents. In this Confirmation of the Charters Edward bound himself never again to take subsidies, increase the customs, or seize property "except by the common assent of the realm."

1297 (May) Wallace kills William Heselrig, the English Sheriff of Lanark. Wallace is victorious in skirmishes at Loudoun Hill (near Darvel, Ayrshire) and Ayr. He also fights alongside Sir William Douglas the Hardy at Scone, routing the English justiciar, William Ormesby from cities like Aberdeen, Perth, Glasgow, Scone and Dundee.  In August Wallace leaves Selkirk Forest with his followers and combines forces with Andrew Moray at Stirling.

1297 (September 11) Wallace and Moray win the Battle of Stirling Bridge by routing the English army of 50,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry under John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey.  The English had to cross a very narrow bridge to get at the Scots. The Scots waited until half of the English were across and then they started killing them. The also killed the oncoming English as quickly as they could cross the bridge.  Wallace is knighted along with his second-in-command John de Graham named "Guardian of Scotland and Leader of its armies".

1298  --  six months after the Battle of Stirling Bridge, Wallace leads an attack on northern England. 

1298 Wallace loses the Battle of Falkirk.  John de Graham died in the battle.  In late 1298, Wallace and William Crawford travel to France to speak with King Philip IV to plead for assistance in the Scottish struggle for independence.  The English descend on the house where Wallace and his men are staying and give chase to a fleeing Wallace.

1302 Robert Bruce became reconciled with King Edward, but Wallace rejects such peace moves.

1303 Wallace and his men return to Scotland.

1304 Wallace is in skirmishes at Happrew and Earnside.

1304 -- Edward I comes back, murderously vindictive; Stirling surrenders.

1305 (August 5) the English capture Wallace. John de Menteith, a Scottish knight loyal to Edward, turned Wallace over to the English Robroyston near Glasgow.  Wallace is taken to Westminster Hall, where he was tried and found guilty.

1305 (August 23) Wallace is stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to the Elms at Smithfield. He is strangled by hanging, but is released while still alive. Wallace is emasculated, eviscerated and his bowels burnt before him. He is beheaded and then cut into four parts. His head is dipped in tar and placed on a pike atop London Bridge.

Robert the Bruce. He was Scotland's Simon de Montfore; he was even fiercer than Edward I.

1306 -- Edward kills his main rival, John Cummins. Civil War begins. Robert the Bruce makes himself King and then civil war really intensifies. He flees Scotland.

1307 -- Edward dies on an expedition to put down Scottish rebel Robert Bruce.

1308 (January 25)  --  at 24 years of age Edward II marries the 12 year old Isabella of France in Boulogne.  She is the daughter of King Philip IV of France, "Philip the Fair".

1314  --  Robert Bruce wins at the Battle Bannockburn, the decisive battle in the First War of Scottish Independence.  The loser was King Edward II. 

1328 - the First War of the Wars of Scottish Independence ends with the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton.  It was signed by Robert the Bruce.  England granted freedom to the Scots. 



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