Documented historical evidence of the line of Wallace is confusingly split. Some say he is descended from Richard the Welshman, dating back to the times of William the Conqueror - others have him traced back to the traditional Scots line of the Cragies. For reasons of simplicity and to keep with the theme of these pages, which focus manly on William Wallace and the reasons and situations that made him 'Scotland's greatest hero', we'll keep to the facts that are well known and true as much as is possible.
William Wallace, second of three sons of Sir Malcolm Wallace was born on January 1272, (although many will debate the year to fall somewhere between 1270 and 1276 - 1272 seems to be the most precise in my research), in Scotland in the town of Elerslie (known now as Elderslie - see "Wallace Family").
His father, Sir Malcolm Wallace, although endowed with the title of a knight held little rank in the world of politics and the nobility of Scotland. He owned a certain amount of land under his title and lived a relatively peaceful life.
The Scotland that William Wallace was raised in during the late 1200's was a wealthy country far removed from the beggarly picture of a nation which English propagandists were to paint. It is plain to see from the Great Cathedrals which still stand from Glasgow in the south to as far north as Dornoch. The magnificent abbeys and monasteries in Arbroath, Scone, Dunfermline and Cambuskenneth as well as the great palaces and house in Paisley, Kilwinning, Crossraguel, New Abbey, Dundrennan, Holyrood, Kelso, Jedburgh, Dryburgh and Melrose.
It is clear that these marvelous buildings could only have been erected in a country possessed of considerable wealth and resources. Studded with hundreds of Castles, regal, baronial and knightly, the fortified homes of the landed classes: it was an age in which emerged a prosperous bourgeoisie.
The powerful King Alexander II was on the throne and had not only the ability but the standing to fend off possible invaders. Around the time of Wallace's birth the then king of England, King Henry III died and was succeeded by the man who would one day become William's deadliest adversary - Edward I (Longshanks). On August 18th 1274 Edward was crowned at Westminster. He was 35 years old, tall, well proportioned and considerably above average height, he certainly deserved his nickname of Longshanks.
William Wallace also grew up to become a powerful and sturdy young man, with a height of 6 foot 7 inches and a physique to match, he too was a giant of a man. It is often debated that it would have been impossible for such a man to exist in a time when the average height of a man was little over 5 feet. However, to judge by the clothing and armour of the time it is clear to see that not only was Longshanks a towering figure, even by today's standards, but so was William Wallace.
It is also clear to see that in a time when to be considered 'middle aged', one would only have to be somewhere in the region of 20-25 years of age. In order for a man to become a leader and be successful in battle he either had to have been born into the rank, or like Wallace, earn the rank by feats of battle. In an era where strength, stamina, endurance, courage and, above all, skill in handling the sword and dagger were of paramount importance in the emergence of leaders - when warlike renown depended so essentially on a personal deeds of daring it would be impossible for him to be anything less than what he was.
Had Wallace not been a man of considerable strength by what other means could the second son of an obscure knight, a mere youth just out of his teens, without the support or patronage of a single noble, have maintained himself, attracted followers, stuck fear into the enemy during face-to-face combat, secured the hatred of Edward Plantagenet I of England, and become the hero of a nation if he did not possess quite exceptional physical strength and prowess?
However, it is not only his physical attributes which made William Wallace such a hero, his mental faculties were considerable. Where, and when, exactly William Wallace gained his education is a long and in-depth story which involves the telling of a rather long tale. In order to keep things simple we'll reflect on the disruptions which were in place before the crowning of John Balliol. Sir Malcolm Wallace was called to bear arms in a revolt know as 'the revolt of the Turnberry Band'.
The idea was to issue a levie which would gather a force together in support of the House of Bruce. William now at the age of fourteen would surely have been page or esquire to his father, and possibly his elder brother, also called Malcolm. This would have been his first taste of military action, but the revolt - if it can be called that - fizzled out before it really started, peace and tranquillity reigned but that meeting on September 1286 had an important part to play in future events. For around 3 years there was an uneasy peace within Scotland - the calm before the storm if you like - and it is during this time of secret meetings and coming and going that William would have spent some time at Dunipace in east Stirlingshire where he lodged with an uncle, a younger brother of his father, who was the cleric there, at a chapelry of Cambuskenneth Abbey.
William was showing his intellect that he could easily make a career in the Church, which was the traditional role for landless younger sons. Now at the age of 16 his education was taking a more mature direction. His uncle instilled in him moral maxims compactly framed in Latin, and referred frequently to the great classic authors. William's passion and love of liberty which would become his basis for his glorious career can also be credited to his uncle-priest who inculcated the very values and essence of freedom and liberty with in his mind. This was a precept which remained firmly implanted in William's mind till the end of his days.