What Will You Do Without Freedom?

What is freedom? When you imagine it, what do you see? Hear? Feel inside? Scotland knew what it was to live without freedom. Wallace in Braveheart inspired a vision of what life could be like if they were free of the tyrannical yoke of Longshanks.

In my last post, I wrote about how Wallace challenges the status quo in Braveheart.


And challenging the world to be better is fine, but if you don’t offer a solution to the problem, if you don’t share a vision of how the world can be better, all you are really doing is whining. I doubt we would be making movies about William Wallace if all he had done was sat on his keister in a tavern and spouted about how “Back in my day we didn’t have Longshanks as king. We had Alexander III, and he couldn’t ride a horse but he was a swell king! Oh how I long for those days when kings were real men!”

This portrait of Alexander III whose death precipitated the whole mess was painted roughly 400 years later. I have no idea if this is how he looked. He outlived his three children, and was rushing through a storm to marry a new queen when he fell and broke his neck. His granddaughter was the rightful heir, but she perished a few years later while in route to Scotland. She was only seven.

There were three ways in which Wallace shared his vision.

  • 1) Wallace gave an inspiring speech that rallied the Scots to fight, not for the nobles, but for their own freedom.
  • 2) In the film, Wallace sets his sights on the man he believes to be the legitimate king of Scotland, and urges this man, Robert the Bruce, to unite the clans against Edward I
  • 3) Again in the film, Wallace takes the fight to his foe, invading and taking York, demonstrating to the Scots that they needn’t believe they were helpless against the English.

Let’s discuss these methods of influence.

The girl who would be Queen. Here we have a stained glass image of Maid Margaret, Alexander III’s granddaughter who would have been Queen of Scotland and married Longshank’s grandson had she lived. This stained glass is from Lerwick Town Hall, built in 1883. Again….no real idea what she looked like.

At the Battle of Stirling Bridge (sans bridge), Mel Gibson as William Wallace gives one of the most inspiring short speeches I can recall in cinematic history. He reminds the people that they are not fighting for the nobles, but for their own liberty. The right to marry without being forced to allow your wife to be raped. The right to safety from the oppressive occupying English soldiers. The right to be ruled by a legitimate Scottish monarch ruling from Edinburgh rather than a distant English tyrant ruling in London.

“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!”

Earliest known image of the Battle of Bannockburn. The battle was in 1314. The image is from the Holkham Bible, scribed no later than 1350. This victory led eventually to the end of the war, and the independence of Scotland until a Scottish king (King James) took the throne of England in 24 March 1603.

In the movie William Wallace is the seasoned veteran, and Robert the Bruce is a young man just beginning to find his way in the crazy world of Scottish politics ca 1300. He looks up to Wallace, and wants to believe the same way he does. Who can forget this scene between the two, right after Wallace has been knighted?

Robert the Bruce:
Wait! I respect what you said, but remember that these men have lands and castles. It’s much to risk.

And the common man who bleeds on the battlefield, does he risk less?

Robert the Bruce:
No. But from top to bottom this country has no sense of itself. Its nobles share allegiance with England. Its clans war with each other. If you make enemies on both sides of the border, you’ll end up dead.

We all end up dead; it’s just a question of how and why.

Robert the Bruce:
I’m not a coward. I want what you want, but we need the nobles.

We need them?

Robert the Bruce:

Now tell me, what does that mean to be noble? Your title gives you claim to the throne of our country, but men don’t follow titles, they follow courage. Now, our people know you. Noble and common, they respect you. And if you would just lead them to freedom they’d follow you. And so would I.”

How we want history to look. Wallace and the Bruce banded as brothers to fight for Scottish independence.

We all know actions speak louder than words. Wallace could talk all day long, while Longshanks sent thousands of troops to slaughter the Scots. So in reality and in the film, he took the battle to the English. The movie is more based on Blind Harry’s poem than history. Since in the poem Wallace invaded York, so too in the movie he does. With great difficulty and courage, the Scots under Wallace storm the castle, behead the governor and send the head to Longshanks as a message. Ya gotta hand it to ol’ Longshanks. A lesser man would have been cowed. Instead, Longshanks plans a brilliant invasion that in both the movie and in real life, he won. Still, the message has been made. “We are not your slaves. We are to be feared. Harass us to your peril.

On Wednesday I intend to post how Wallace in the movie led by example.

President Theodore Roosevelt, one of the masters of leading by example, was quoted as saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
I don’t belong to you and you don’t belong to me

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