Monday, June 21, 2010


This evening the History Channel aired the film Braveheart, arguably my favourite film of all time as a person of predominantly Scottish ancestry. But I have to say, the historical accuracy of this film is flawed at best. As I have researched some of the story, I am miffed at Mel for butchering the actual historical events. I happen to have the same last name as one of the noble families in the film, as my family name is one of the most common in Scotland. Though my dad once listened to Scottish born Canadian tell him that our ancestors are "just a bunch of f*@king lowlanders."

Here are my 3 biggest complaints about Braveheart:

1) William Wallace riding into the bedroom of a Scottish noble on a horse. Guaranteed that never happened. If Wallace indeed snuck into the room and killed the man as he slept, there is no way he did it on a horse. That scene is ridiculous.

2) Mel Gibson butchered the battle of Sterling Bridge. It didn't happen even close to how it was depicted in the movie. Mel thought it would be a better movie his way, but there is little to no historical accuracy to his version of that battle.

3) The biggest joke is that Edward the Longshanks lived on for 2 years after Wallace was executed. To have the Princess whisper in his ear that she was pregnant with Wallace's child was insane. Even if he lost the ability to speak, guaranteed the King knew how to read and write. He couldn't have written on a piece of paper that the future Queen was pregnant with Wallace's baby over a two year period? In fact, I am willing to bet that the entire romance with the Princess was fabricated for theatrical purposes.


  1. It was completely fabricated for theatrical purposes. Histoically impossible to have occurred. She was about 9 years old at Wallace's time and didn't marry or have kids until after Edward became king on his father's death.

    Call me a history nerd, but there are just far too many deliberate falsifications and corruptions of actual history for me to "suspend my disbelief" and enjoy the film in any great degree.

    For a good breakdown of some of the many significant historical falsifications, you could google "braveheart historical inaccuracies". This site is one of the first hits.

  2. Iceman
    I am a first generation Canadian. I have maybe 1 drop of Irish blood in me. heh. Both sides of my family are Scots. Mothers maiden name is Bruce. I have done a lot of research as I am just completing my family tree. I agree with your sentiments on Braveheart. What was true was twisted
    for Hollywoodland. Wallace did marry (I believe her name was Marion and she was murdered by the British which is what started the whole rebellion with Wallace. I watched an hour show
    before an airing of Braveheart. In real life William Wallace was from a very wealthy family while the movie showed his father being a crofter. Wallace did speak many languages. He was sent to a Monastry at a very early age, and had a marvelous education.
    There are a lot of truths in the movie, just changed a little. The biggest untruth in the movie was the fact that William Wallace & Robert the Bruce did not know each other.
    Braveheart, on the whole, is the best movie I have ever seen.

  3. Mel Gibson seems to take liberties with all his historical films. I read somewhere that the Princess was actually only 10 years old when William Wallace was executed. Bit young to be pregnant I would say.

  4. Creative licence is the term they use when they need to revise the actual facts for marketability to an audience.

    Reminds me of our media in Canada.

  5. I like Mel, and the film was good entertainment, however, as a professional Scottish genealogist, I thought it was an outrage of historical (mis)representation. Good music though :-)

  6. Just a small point Iceman,it was the Battle of Stirling Bridge, not Sterling.

  7. I think the important thing is that Braveheart was an excellent film that spurred a lot of interest in the real history of the period. As an ancient Roman historian, I found a lot of things wrong with Gladiator (Maximus never existed, Commodus died differently, Roman Republic never restored, the Romans didn't use stirrups in battle etc.) but liked it as a film, and appreciated the number of students and ordinary people who were brought to the study of my discipline as a result.

    Most of the movie was made up history, but made up in ways that generally made it entertaining (by contrast the efforts of other historical films, like Robin Hood and Alexander, to be more accurate has often made them a lot worse than they could have been). The archers and the epic cavalry charge were great footage for military history buffs, and made for more exciting viewing than the actual battle of Stirling bridge, which involved the Scots ambushing and cutting off half of a large British army after it had crossed Sterling Bridge (in all fairness, the portrayal of the battle of Falkirk was much closer to the historical record). The same goes for the adversarial relationship between Wallace and Edward I and the love interest with the Princess (although, in all fairness the portrayals of Longshanks, Edward II and Isabelle were actually fairly true to the historical record). The only unfair portrayal was of Robert the Bruce, who is seen as a goodhearted but somewhat wimpy nobleman who comes to his sense when inspired by Wallace's example. In fact he was a very canny, ruthless and often brutal local warlord (just as much so as Edward Longshanks) who was also one of the most capable military leaders of his day (Bannockburn was actually a very skillfully arranged ambush and envelopment of a vastly superior British army under the personal leadership of Edward II, not the reckless charge shown in the movie, and the Bruce began the battle by killing the British King's best knight in single combat).

  8. Great movie!
    I grew up in the Stirling area.It actually was known as Sterling donkey years ago.
    In later years Silver which was mined locally and brought to the castle where it was minted and taken to London was found to be the purest silver in the country and the name became the bench mark for Silver.So we have The pound Sterling and Sterling silver.I know that Wiki has a different story to tell but they are just guessing and I am telling what a local historian told me.The castle definately had a mint and here is for me the kicker.The mine in question is situated near a small village called Dollar