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William Wallace-The Brave Heart

Part Five-Wallace Triumphant

Stirling was of extreme importance to both the Scots and the English.Stirling castle was one of the most impregnable castles in all of Europe.The city of Stirling was the gateway from the lowlands to the highlands by way of the wooden bridge which spanned the River Forth.

All of Northern Scotland beyond Stirling was in the hands of the Scots.King Edward appointed Hugh Cressingham and Earl Warenne to lead an immense army of veterans in seizing full control of Stirling and through the city retake northern Scotland.The English forces were made up of 51,000 men from all over the British Isles and another force 8,000 strong were on the way from Carlisle to assist in crushing the Scottish rebellion.Now the English soldiers had experience,advanced weapons,more discipline and the fact that they had never lost a battle they trusted their leaders and were full of confidence that this battle would be nothing for all the Scots had was their patriotism and defiance.

As was the custom in those times the English gave the Scots a chance to surrender and two Dominican friars were dispatched to present the king's terms.Usually these terms meant an offer of land or money in return for fealty to Edward but William along with his companion De Mornay turned down the offer.The friars even kept a record of what William said.

"Tell your people we have not come here to gain peace,but are prepared for battle,to avenge and deliver our country.Let them come up when they like and they will find us ready to meet them even to their beards."-William Wallace

The English discussed a strategy while the Scots waited upon a hill looking down at the English who were gathered on the other side of Stirling Bridge. 
On the English side Sir Richard Lundie who had fought for and against Edward several times developed a plan that could have worked well his plan was to flank the Scots from a shallow point down the river and rout them but his plan was turned down because the English didn't trust him.Cressingham insisted they advance as normal across the bridge thinking that the Scots would stay upon the hill.

Only two horseman could traverse the bridge side by side so a long chain of men streamed down the bridge and it took two hours for just half of the army of Northern England to make it across Wallace chose that moment for his army to attack.

The Scots charged so swiftly that many of the English had no knowledge that the battle had begun.William had his forces push the English advance into a loop in the river so that the English were trapped with a river behind them and Scots before them the horses of the heavily armed and armoured English army panicked and a stampede began as steeds threw their riders either into the river where armour dragged them to death by drowning or they were trampled to death as was Cressingham.The English wanted the offensive and were now forced to defend.Warenne on the other side of the bridge knew the battle was lost and ordered the bridge burned and the army of Northern England retreated to Berwick.Upon finding Cressingham's body the Scots in a fit of revenge for Berwick mutilated it.Cressingham who was quite obese had gone from Edward's treasurer to decorating Scottish scabbards and belts.

Wallace was a hero praised by the commoners of Scotland and feared by the magnates and soon enough there was almost nothing left of the English army in Scotland.Berwick was Wallace's next target and his men ravaged the city then Cumbria fell and Wallace had all the food his men had seized shipped back to Scotland in order to feed his starving people.Fighting against England on English soil continued until November 8th,1297 when a severe snowstorm caused the Scots to head home in anticipation of a hard winter.

When Christmas came in 1297 Wallace recieved the gift of knighthood and was appointed as the sole Guardian of Scotland commander of the entire Scottish army.He was knighted by Robert Bruce the future king.

Scotland was euphoric the English were gone and despite the fact Edward had moved his capital to York along with a massive army of 3,000 Heavy cavalry,4,000 light horsemen and 80,000 foot soldiers troubles with the church and the lack of loyalty among his aides kept him from making an attack on Scotland.Wallace meanwhile was training his armies for what he knew lay ahead all abled bodied male Scots aged 16 or older were made soldiers and Wallace created the schiltrom a tactic that was adapted all over Europe now known as the square.Wallace also exiled all English from Scotland.

Sir John Fitz-Marmaduke a English knight had made several successful raids on the Scots.Fitz-Marmaduke had a reputation for brutality and even Edward had to rebuke him for his sadism in battles previous but now Edward told Sir John to go forth and show no mercy.English propaganda began portraying Wallace as a barbarian who forced nuns to dance nude for him and that he had his men kill infants by burning them alive this way Edward could demonize the Scots and rally more troops but by summer Edward was ready to fight Wallace face to face.

 Part Six-The Decline