Controversial Hero:  Sir William Wallace

By | December 1, 2019

[December 1, 2019]  Unlike many heroes that I’ve highlighted here at my leadership blog, Sir William Wallace continues to be a highly controversial hero.The popular film, Braveheart (1995) starring actor Mel Gibson, helped alert us to the exploits of Wallace.  Sir William Wallace was a Scottish knight who became one of the main leaders during the First War of Scottish Independence.

For those loyal to Scotland, to the many students of Scottish history, and modern citizens worldwide, William Wallace is remembered as a patriot and national hero.  Born in the 1270s in Eldersile, Scotland, Wallace served as a military leader in the Wars of Scottish Independence before being captured, tortured, and executed.

“I’m William Wallace, and the rest of you will be spared. Go back to England and tell them… Scotland is free!” – William Wallace, after the Battle of Stirling Bridge

In 1296, King Edward I of England took advantage of a succession crisis in Scotland.  He imposed himself as ruler with an English administration and within months, Scottish unrest was widespread.  Acting as the vanguard of the revolt against England, Wallace assassinated the infamous William de Heselrig, the English High Sheriff of Lanark in May 1297.

In September 1297, an army led by Wallace and Andrew Moray won the Battle of Stirling Bridge.  Although vastly outnumbered, the Scottish army routed Edward I’s English army.  Wallace showed great leadership and tactical acumen during the battle.  This led many Scots to rally around Wallace.  In 1298, Edward I again invaded Scotland but this time defeated the Scottish armies.

Wallace’s efforts to spearhead his country’s long charge against English rule and his martyrdom paved the way for Scotland’s eventual success.  This is, in part, why William Wallace was then and is now such a controversial hero.  One thing we can say without controversy is that Wallace was an effective leader for his people.


  1. The question always seems to arise, “What is a Hero?” I answered that question a few years ago in an article with that title.  But let us not forget that Sir William Wallace acted in the best interests of his Scottish brethren and for that reason he can be considered a real hero.  Here is a link to the article:
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “Controversial Hero:  Sir William Wallace

  1. Doc Blackshear

    The ancient idea of expanding your power was based on military force then enslavement. Now it’s enslavement by ideas.

  2. Eric Coda

    When you experience the jackboot of fascism or socialism, you will quickly get the picture that it’s no fun being crushed. Freedom is not happiness and freedom is hard. But freedom is better than enslavement. Just ask our university students and they will tell you the opposite. I only hope their enslavement is recognized by them so they can get WOKE.

  3. Len Jakosky

    I watched Braveheart the movie on Netflix the other day and enjoyed it. Tragic ending for William Wallace.

    1. Jerome Smith

      I thought crazy Mel Gibson did a great job portraying Wm Wallace too.

  4. old warrior

    Another excellent article from General Satterfield on his leadership blog. It matters not, in the case of Wallace, how he is viewed today so much as how he was seen at the time of his death and shortly after. His death energized the Scots to fight hard for their independence.

    1. Deplorable John

      Thank ya! Georgie, appreciate the link to books on Wallace.

  5. JT Patterson

    Wallace was knighted in a ceremony, at the ‘Kirk o’ the Forest’.

  6. Nick Lighthouse

    Gen. Satterfield, interesting history lesson. Thanks for it. What I don’t really see is that Sir Wm Wallace was, in fact, seen as a hero. Period. In Scotland, he is loved and his actions clearly set them on a path that ensured their independence. Good or bad, independence is what they got.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      After his betrayal and capture, Wallace was taken to London, where he was tried. He was found guilty, hanged, disembowelled, beheaded, and quartered on 23rd August 1305. Wallace’ death did not end Scotland’s Wars of Independence. Robert the Bruce continued the fight and achieved victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

  7. Army Captain

    I think most of us today would now allow the controversy to slide off our backs and not worry about it. Would like to know from some Brits their perspective.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Going back a few generations, he was not what we would call a hero in the sense that we liked him. Today, however, our young lads don’t have much perspective on history anyway so Wallace is mostly just a mythical figure.

      1. Joe the Aussie

        I agree. Schools don’t really teach history any more just a few facts and figures and PC nonsense. Cheers to all.

    2. Max Foster

      This is the state of education across most Western nations. They are no longer interested in what makes their country great because it’s just a patriarchal prison any how. A bit of sarcasm there, by the way. Such crazy stuff is being taught from the time they are in primary school and up throughout the university. Sad, that indoctrination is often done by teachers and professors who are non thinkers.

      1. Willie Shrumburger

        Good comment, Max. Sadly, I must agree with you. We’ve all seen the decline of formal education in the West. That is why there are so many being home-schooled.

  8. Tom Bushmaster

    “Controversial?” I guess that means a hero is only those in the eye of the beholder. Where have I heard that before, anyway? For the Scots, he was a hero. For the English he was a terrorist. Hummm, have heard that somewhere else …. oh, from Iranian and ISIS-inspired terrorists.

    1. Dead Pool Guy

      Not so sure this is what Gen. Satterfield is saying but I get your point.

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