"They may take away our lives but they'll never take our freedom." William Wallace (Mel Gibson) may as well have added "freedom to fib" at the end of the famous quote in 1995's award-winning film Braveheart. Truth is, the film is full of falsehoods.
The good news is, William Wallace was an actual Scottish rebel who became a symbol of resistance against the English during the reign of King William I until his execution in 1305. The bad news is, pretty much everything else in Braveheart is wrong. The inaccuracies are everywhere, from the general timeline to the characters themselves.
Whether they were cinematic choices or somebody skipped out on researching, the movie is basically made up. Despite Braveheart's false pretenses, it is undeniably a lovable movie. There are lots of great battles, bagpipes, men in kilts, and epic speeches given by Mel Gibson with a questionable Scottish accent. But, with all respect to the magic of cinema in the '90s, here are all of the insane historical inaccuracies in one of the most plaid-filled movie ever made, even if it is arguably Mel Gibson's best movie ever.
It's a cool name, and it fits the story pretty well, but William Wallace never earned the moniker "Braveheart." It was the name given to Robert the Bruce, a Scottish hero who is portrayed as a traitor in the film.
He was given the name posthumously when, according to his wishes, his heart was removed and taken to be buried in Scotland.
From the very beginning, nothing about the film's timing and its sequence of events makes any historical sense. The film opens in 1276, at which point in reality King Alexander III of Scotland was still alive and the English weren't yet making much of a fuss over Scotland. The rebellion began in 1296.
Additionally, in reality King Edward I did not die at the same time as William Wallace as the film suggests, he died several years later. King Edward II did not marry Isabella until after Wallace's death, at which time she was 13, considerably younger than the 29-year-old Sophie Marceau who played her in the film.
The cruelest irony of Braveheart is that it completely slanders the man that actually bore the film's title name. Robert the Bruce was a conflicted nobleman, but he highly favored the Scottish side and did not fight against Wallace at Falkirk, nor did he or his father have anything to do with the betrayal of Wallace and his subsequent execution.
Bruce is considered a national hero in Scotland, not a villain as the movie makes him out to be.
Isabella of France was 13 at the time of Wallace's death and not yet even married to Edward II. So while the film uses her as a love interest, she didn't know William Wallace and he did not father the future king of England, Edward III.
Interestingly, Isabella did actually eventually lead a rebellion against her husband with her lover, but that was much later and was to ensure that her son would take the throne.