When the cinematic masterpiece “Braveheart” hit the screens in 1995, it captured hearts with its epic battles, soaring bagpipes, and a stirring call for freedom. However, beneath the surface of this beloved film lies a sea of historical inaccuracies that can make even the most passionate fans cringe. Join us as we dive into the world of William Wallace and unravel the truth from the tapestry of fiction.
William Wallace: The Misnamed Hero
“They may take away our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom.” The iconic quote resonates through history, but the movie itself plays fast and loose with accuracy. William Wallace, portrayed by Mel Gibson, was indeed a real Scottish rebel who stood against English oppression during King William I’s reign. But the famous moniker “Braveheart” wasn’t his; it belonged to Robert the Bruce, a Scottish hero wrongly portrayed as a traitor in the film.
The Topsy-Turvy Timeline
The film’s timeline is a maze of confusion. Opening in 1276, while King Alexander III still reigned, it sets a stage far from historical reality. The rebellion didn’t begin until 1296, and King Edward I didn’t pass away simultaneously with Wallace, as the movie suggests. These inaccuracies set the stage for a tale that’s more fictional than factual.
Robert the Bruce: Hero or Villain?
The irony of “Braveheart” lies in its treatment of Robert the Bruce, a character whose significance is tainted. The movie depicts him as betraying Wallace, but history paints a different picture. Bruce was a national hero who fought for Scotland, not against it. His portrayal as a villain is a distortion of his actual noble intentions.
Love and Romance: Fictionalized Relationships
The romantic subplot between Isabella of France and William Wallace adds a layer of drama to the film, but it’s steeped in inaccuracy. Isabella was just 13 when Wallace died, and their love story is a fabrication. Isabella did lead a rebellion later in life, but it was for the throne, not Wallace’s affection.
William Wallace: Not Your Average Commoner
“Braveheart” depicts Wallace as a humble commoner, but this portrayal crumbles under historical scrutiny. The Wallaces were a noble family, and William’s father was a knight. He hailed from the Lowlands, not the Highlands, as the film suggests, and his education and military training were far from humble.
The Gruesome Reality of Wallace’s Death
The film’s portrayal of Wallace’s execution, while brutal, doesn’t capture the full horror. In reality, he was drawn, quartered, and castrated after being hanged and disemboweled. His true last words remain unknown, but the film’s focus on his defiant cry for freedom simplifies the gruesome reality.
Anachronistic Kilts and Highland Flair
The iconic Scottish kilt is a symbol inseparable from Scotland today, but in Wallace’s time, it was far from reality. Kilts didn’t come into fashion until centuries later, casting a shadow over the film’s portrayal of Highlanders in their tartan glory.
Missteps in Fashion and Tradition
“Braveheart” goes further astray with the portrayal of Scottish Highlanders’ appearance. Blue face paint, elaborate hair adornments, and unique hairstyles are all products of creative license. The reality of 13th-century Scottish attire and grooming is a far cry from the movie’s rustic aesthetic.
Bagpipes: Banned or Not?
Amidst the sea of inaccuracies, the film introduces the idea of bagpipes being banned. While bagpipes did face bans in Scottish history, they were not prohibited in the 13th century. This unnecessary falsehood adds to the film’s misleading tapestry.
Unraveling Wallace’s Background
The film falsely claims that Wallace’s father died in his childhood, motivating his hatred of violence and the English. In truth, his father died when he was already an adult rebel. The film’s distortion of his background further blurs fact and fiction.
The Bridgeless Battle of Stirling
One of the most glaring inaccuracies lies in the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Despite its name, the movie features the battle without the bridge, a disregard for historical accuracy that baffles military historians.
When Facts Blur in the Heat of Battle
“Braveheart” portrays Wallace and his forces sacking York, but history tells a different story – they actually looted and destroyed Carlisle. While a minor detail in the context of the movie, it’s a reminder of the film’s liberties with the past.
Edward I: More Than a Pagan
The film paints Edward I as a coldhearted “pagan,” but this characterization doesn’t align with reality. Edward was a Christian king who embarked on Crusades and revered Saint Edward the Confessor. The portrayal adds unnecessary distortion to his character.
Marion or Murron: What’s in a Name?
Even the names aren’t spared from the film’s creative liberties. William Wallace’s wife, believed to be named Marion, is called Murron in the movie. This minor change further blurs the line between fact and fiction.
Unlikely Alliances at Falkirk
The Battle of Falkirk scene features Irish soldiers switching allegiances, a departure from historical accuracy. The Irish did not participate in this battle, highlighting the film’s tendency to fabricate alliances for dramatic effect.
Shattered Glass: Edward II’s Lover
Edward II’s portrayal as gay and his lover’s dramatic window fall are events without historical foundation. The real nature of Edward’s relationships remains unclear, and the window incident is pure fiction.
Fictional Uncles and Fake Summits
Uncle Argyle, portrayed as William Wallace’s mentor, is a fictional creation. The film also introduces a treacherous Scottish summit, an event for which no historical evidence exists. These fabrications further entangle the movie’s web of inaccuracy.
Unifying the Unmatched: English Uniforms
The film’s depiction of English soldiers in matching uniforms is another departure from history. Soldiers wore a mix of tunics, not unified “English Army” colors as the film suggests. This inaccuracy mirrors a common mistake in medieval movies.
In conclusion, “Braveheart” might be a cinematic masterpiece with its breathtaking battles and stirring speeches, but it’s also rife with historical inaccuracies that challenge its credibility as a true representation of history. As we watch Mel Gibson’s portrayal of William Wallace, it’s essential to remember that while the movie captures our imagination, it strays far from the pages of history.