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Here’s What Actually Happened After The End Of ‘Braveheart’

Updated February 3, 2020 237.0k views11 items

In the final scene of Braveheart, William Wallace's personal sacrifice inspires all Scotsmen to fight for their freedom at the Battle of Bannockburn. A final voiceover states, "In the year of our Lord 1314, patriots of Scotland, starving and outnumbered, charged the fields of Bannockburn. They fought like warrior poets. They fought like Scotsmen. And won their freedom," before fading to black. Historically, the Scots at Bannockburn may have "fought like Scotsmen," but they certainly did not win their freedom. 

After the Battle of Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce continued to fight the English monarchy. The fight for independence continued on for another 14 years through famine, civil war, and political upheaval. Though the Kingdom of Scotland had eventually won its freedom in 1328, disenfranchised Scottish nobles and their English allies refused to accept their losses and began a Second War of Scottish Independence only four years later.

The Wars of Scottish Independence were only one of the many ways England mistreated Scotland for centuries, and for some, the Scottish struggle still continues to this day. No matter how heroically Mel Gibson portrayed Wallace's sacrifice, the end of Braveheart was by no means the end of Scotland's fight for independence. 

  • The Battle Of Bannockburn Was Not The Final Conflict, Nor Was William Wallace A Source Of Inspiration

    According to the movie Braveheart, Scotland won its freedom at the Battle of Bannockburn, inspired by the demise of William Wallace nearly a decade earlier. 

    But Bannockburn didn't end the Wars of Scottish Independence, and Wallace wasn't exactly an inspiring figure to the Scottish army by 1314. Although Wallace had led the Scots to victory at Stirling and became the Guardian of Scotland, he suffered a terrible defeat at Falkirk in 1298, which tarnished his reputation. 

    Wallace's schiltrons, though proved incredibly successful in melee encounters, were outnumbered and outranged by English longbowmen. The majority of his army were slain in conflict, but Wallace fled and remained on the run until his capture and execution in 1305.

    There is evidence to suggest Wallace went to France in 1299 to garner support for the Scottish cause and became an independent guerilla leader, but what Wallace did during the following six years remains a mystery. He lost his title of Guardian, however, and other leaders for Scottish independence rose during Wallace's time in hiding, including one of Scotland's new Guardians and eventual self-proclaimed king: Robert the Bruce.

  • Photo: Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Edward Bruce Led An Unsuccessful Incursion Into Ireland

    Fresh after the victory at Bannockburn, the Scots turned their eyes on another target. In 1315, Edward Bruce, the possible brother of Scotland's new king, invaded Ireland

    Historians still debate why the Scots attempted to take Ireland. The primary theory claims the Scots hoped to create an anti-English alliance. Scotland's incursion into Ireland, however, was met by heavy resistance and had long-term consequences for the country's power, particularly when the Irish retaliated by invading a Scottish island. After three years, four campaigns, and two major famines, Scotland gave up trying to create a Celtic coalition.

    Others, however, have suggested that Robert was trying to get his brother out of the picture by sending him on a poorly planned campaign designed to fail.

    Regardless of what motivated the incursion, the end result was a disaster for Scotland. After a bloody, three-year campaign in Ireland, Edward perished during a 1318 clash. The incursion left Scotland weaker as it focused its attention on Ireland, rather than its conflict against England.

  • The Scots Lost Control Of The Isle Of Man

    In 1313, Robert reclaimed Scottish control over the Isle of Man, a territory between Britain and Ireland just south of Scotland granted to the Scottish King Alexander III after a conflict with Norway. The Scots lost control, however, to the English King Edward I when he claimed possession of Scotland preceding the war of independence in 1290. So when the Scottish once again reclaimed control of the Isle of Man from the English, it was a symbolic victory for the rebelling territory.

    Yet the victory was short-lived. The Scots once again lost control of the territory due to their own overreach during their incursion into Ireland. Irish raiders plundered the Isle of Man, putting the Scottish claim to the territory in jeopardy. As Robert consolidated his power in Scotland, the English once again declared their control of the island. By 1317, King Edward II had sent ships and men to defend the island from the Scots. 

  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Edward II Released Robert’s Family From Custody

    In 1306, Robert feared for the safety of his family, so he sent his wife, daughter, and sisters to Kildrummy Castle in Northeastern Scotland under the escort of his brother Niall and the Earl of Atholl. The English, however, learned of their location, sieged the castle, and captured Robert's family, holding his wife, daughter, and sisters captive for nearly a decade. 

    Elizabeth de Burgh, Scotland's queen, was held under house arrest in England. Bruce's sister Mary was hung in an iron cage over the walls at Roxburgh Castle. The English planned to hang Marjorie Bruce, daughter of the Scottish king and only 12 years old, in a cage from the Tower of London, but she spent those years imprisoned in a nunnery instead.

    The Battle of Bannockburn changed the balance of power between Scotland and England, and after capturing multiple English noblemen, Robert successfully traded them back to England in exchange for his four family members.