Wallace’s Wife Marion Braidfute Was Invented?

Marion Braidfute, wife of William Wallace, was a fictional character concocted by medieval biographers, a leading historian has claimed. Braidfute, who was supposedly murdered by the Sheriff of Lanark, triggering Wallace’s rebellion against the English, was created more than 200 years after his death to heighten the political standing of a noble family, according to new research.

In Mel Gibson’s 1995 film Braveheart, the brutal murder of Wallace’s wife (whose name was changed to Murron MacClannough, and was played by the actress Catherine McCormack) is portrayed as a pivotal moment in his transformation into a revolutionary hero. However, Ed Archer, an authority on Wallace, has found no mention of her in the earliest accounts of his life Blind Harry’s “The Wallace,” an epic poem written in about 1508, refers to a woman called Innes, who is credited with helping Wallace escape from the clutches of English troops. There is no suggestion that she was his lover or his wife. Braidfute does not appear until 1570, in a revised edition of Blind Harry’s poem, possibly commissioned by the Baillies of Lamington, a wealthy family from Lanark who hoped to ingratiate themselves with Mary, Queen of Scots by claiming to be Wallace’s descendants. In the revised text, Braidfute, from Lamington, Lanarkshire, is described as Wallace’s lover and the mother of his daughter, from whom the Baillies of Lamington claim to be descended.

However, a study by Archer of contemporary historical records found no mention of any Braidfutes living in the area at the end of the 13th century. “Dispelling the myth of Marion is important because we should try to get at the truth beyond the romance that surrounds Wallace,” said Archer. “What lies at the heart of this is the political aspiration of a local, minor aristocratic family who wanted to gain favour at the court of Mary Queen of Scots by claiming to be descended from William Wallace. “There is still mileage in Wallace and there are still things to be discovered about him. People have avoided Blind Harry’s 1508 version of the Wallace story because it is not an easy read.”

Ian Scott, Chairman of The Saltire Society, said he was surprised by Archer’s discovery. “The story of Wallace’s wife and what happened to her is thought of as a trigger event in his life and is key to the story of the man himself,” he said. “New discoveries will continue to be made about Wallace’s life because so little of the hard historical fact is known.” John Murtagh, who played the turncoat nobleman Lochlan in Braveheart, said he had always believed that Wallace’s wife was a symbolic figure. “To me his wife has always been a metaphor for Scotland itself,” he said. “And so when the English try to rape, and then murder her, it is symbolic of the way Scotland was treated.”

Little is known about Wallace’s life before 1297, when he killed Sir William Heselrig, the English-appointed Sheriff of Lanark, and then led a popular uprising. His greatest victory took place at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, at which he routed the English army and was later proclaimed Guardian of Scotland. Archer presented his findings last year, at a conference on Wallace’s life hosted by the Lanark Archaeological Trust, part of a series of events commemorating the 700th anniversary of Wallace’s death.

As originally published in the Guardian, Spring 2006

“The Tribute” : A poem by Garry T. Garland

“The Tribute” : A poem by Garry T. Garland

Of all the men in Scotland’s past
The memory of one will forever last
He so loved by kin and kind
A more loyal man one couldn’t find

A man of pride and great height
There is no doubt he put many to flight
Northumberland Percy was shown no mercy
In the midst of the fray at Bell “o“ the Brae

At Stirling Bridge he won the fight
Perhaps he deemed it a Scotsman’s right
Face to face with Plantagenet
Edward trembled even to imagine it

Along the path of destiny he did stride
His dear friend Kerlie by his side
Sadly betrayed by one of his own
This once Guardian of our throne

In his enemy’s captivity he died
His death in no way dignified
Leal Scots would pray he found solace
These words a tribute to William Wallace

As originally published in The Guardian, Autumn 2005

William Ross Wallace 1819-1891

Though his works are largely forgotten today, William Ross Wallace’s poetry and verse were popular and well-respected in the middle of the nineteenth century. He was a close friend of Edgar Allan Poe, and Poe praised Wallace’s poetry. The well-known poet William Cullen Bryant also thought highly of Wallace’s work.

Wallace was born in Paris, Kentucky, in 1819. Between 1833 and 1835, he attended Hanover College (Indiana), and after graduation returned to his native Kentucky, settling in Lexington. While at law school and until 1839, he was the editor of ‘The Louisville Literary Register’. In 1841, he passed the bar, and established his practice in New York City, where he seems to have been more occupied with literature than with legal affairs. His poems were intensely patriotic, and he had an almost mythical reverence for the American Revolution and for George Washington. Numerous catalogs of American literature describe Wallace as a very popular poet, which suggests that his thoughts on the Revolution were in tune with the beliefs of many contemporary Americans.

In Wallace’s poetry of the 1850’s, he treated the Revolution in symbolic and grandiose terms. In ‘The Liberty Bell’ he
describes the ringing of the Liberty Bell, which had been rung on 04 July 1776, as a reverberation of a unanimous belief
among Americans that their time for freedom had arrived. He even goes so far as to say that the revolution was an ‘era sublime’. He clearly idealizes the Revolution in his work; he almost never mentions the bloody, distasteful aspects of war. In fact, he barely sees the Revolution as a war at all; he seems to think of it as a pure, blessed period in America’s history. In the ‘Last Words of Washington’, Wallace explicitly calls Washington a ‘savior’ of his country. Even though the scene Wallace
describes in this poem is Washington’s death, Wallace does not seem to describe him as an ordinary man bowing to death. Washington appears in this poem as a transcendent being that is being welcomed into an elite legion of timeless, scarcely mortal ‘heroes’. Wallace’s poems portray the American Revolution as an unblemished age when true greatness graced American soil.

After the outbreak of the Civil War, Wallace continued to write patriotic poetry in support of the Union. Some of these works were well-known and well-liked by
Union soldiers. As the war intensified, his melodious verses enjoyed an extraordinary popularity. They were sung by many regiments that marched out from
New York, for they were not only rhythmical and adaptable to musical setting, but were filled with a sentiment of patriotism, especially in those uncertain times, had a tremendous popular appeal in the North. Among these songs was the well known “Keep Step to the Music of the Union.” His “God of the Free” was intended to be a national anthem, but was not met with popular acceptance. Wallace also attempted fiction, but his one story “Albin, the Pirate” did not sell well, and has long been out of print. He was a popular lecturer and possessed extraordinary oratorical gifts. For nearly twenty years he was a regular contributor to the “New York Ledger,” “Godey’s Lady’s Book,” “Harpers’ Magazine” and “Harpers’ Weekly,” the “Celtic Monthly,” and other publications.

According to Edgar Allen Poe biographer Kenneth Silverman, in June 1842 Poe visited New York City and while there drank himself into an alcoholic amnesia. Poe explained that others had induced or forced him to drink. He said that William Ross Wallace would ‘insist upon the juleps, and I knew not what I was either doing or saying’. In the autumn of 1844 Poe completed his poem ‘The Raven’ and recited it to William at Stryker’s Bay Tavern, located on the Hudson River near where 96th Street now ends. William’s expressions of appreciation, it appears, were not thought by the poet to be adequate to the occasion. Poe, on his part, assured his listener that he had just heard the greatest poem in the language.

Though largely forgotten today, William Ross Wallace was a literary giant of his time. After all, it was William Ross Wallace who wrote:

‘But a mightier power and stronger, Man from his throne has hurled, For the hand that rocks the cradle, Is the hand that rules the world

 

Originally published in the Guardian, Vol 37 No. 1