The Trial of William Wallace at Westminster

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Author:  Colleen

If you’re moving to London and interested in brief, digestible bits of British history, you came to the right place—it’s Weekend Warrior Sunday! Last week we saw Edward I (“Longshanks”) ascend to the throne and bring some order back to the monarchy. Today, I’ll finally reveal who the mysterious “W.W.” is (I’m sure that one left you in pants-wetting suspense)…

To enforce British domination of the isles, Edward invades Wales in 1277. In 1282, the Welsh ruler Llewelyn ap Gruffydd is killed and his brother executed, establishing England’s legal hold on what had hoped to be an independent state. (In fact, Edward’s son is named the first Prince of Wales in 1301…which, as we all surely know, has remained a tradition of the monarchy).

Edward likewise gets involved in Scotland, where he arbitrates a dispute over the Scottish king’s succession. His choice, John Balliol, allies himself with Edward, but Edward gets a little more demanding than the Scots would like, so they form an alliance with France. Edward is provoked to invade and defeats the Scots; Balliol abdicates his throne under force, but another Scotsman comes to the forefront as a leader of opposition…you know who?

Nice work. Yes, William Wallace. (If it helps for you to picture him as Mel Gibson in Braveheart, well, you go right ahead.) Wallace defeats the British in 1297, but it’s tit-for-tat as he’s defeated the next year. The Scots continue to stir up a ruckus until Wallace is captured, tried in Westminster Hall (which still exists as part of the Parliament building we see today in London), and executed across the city in 1305.

Robert Bruce champions the Scots’ cause the following year, and it is in 1307 when Edward I is on his way to battle against him that our Longshanks dies.

Related London sightseeing:  Westminster Hall and the William Wallace memorial at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital (near Smithfield Market).

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