When I started The Knowledge nobody seems to have known who William Wallace was, by 1997 Smithfield always had flowers attached to the railings of his memorial plaque.
As stirring as Braveheart was, unfortunately, it’s not an accurate depiction of the life or death of William Wallace, and his death was, in fact, a lot more gruesome than was depicted on screen.
Today 23rd August marks the day in 1305 that William Wallace’s death took place.
After his capture in Scotland, he was taken to London and put on trial at Westminster Hall. Predictably found guilty of treason he was tied to a hurdle and was dragged by horses for six miles to Smithfield.
During the journey, people threw faeces and rubbish, he was beaten with rods and whipped by the crowd as the Scottish hero passed them by.
Wallace had also been found guilty of robbery and murder meaning that he was sentenced for these crimes by hanging. Before dying he was cut down from the gibbet and had his testicles and penis cut off. Next, his intestines were removed and burned in front of him.
They were still not finished, the next step of this painful ordeal was the ripping out of Wallace’s heart from his chest, we don’t know if Wallace’s heart was still beating as it was removed from his body.
The final step was chopping Wallace’s head off and his body cut into four separate pieces and shown around the country to demonstrate what would happen to rebels and traitors of the King.
Wallace’s head was put on display upon a spike on London Bridge, his limbs were sent separately to Berwick, Stirling, Perth and Newcastle.
Edward I died two years later, and 14 years later, Scotland had its independence. William Wallace’s sacrifice was not in vain.
Curiously two years after Braveheart was released, Mel Gibson starred in Conspiracy Theory as Jerry Fletcher, a New York City taxi driver, who has the strange habit of making complicated scenarios of conspiracies and publishing them in a newsletter.