Osprey’s World Tour – Scotland

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Osprey’s World Tour sees us delving into our extensive backlist of books as we explore the globe through military history.

Today we are heading to Scotland with an illustration taken from Campaign 117: Stirling Bridge and Falkirk 1297-98. This piece of artwork shows the legendary William Wallace rejecting the English terms of submission

 


William Wallace and Andrew Murray on the Abbey Craig

Extract from Campaign 117: Stirling Bridge and Falkirk 1297-98 by Peter Armstrong

High on the Abbey Craig, William Wallace delivers his famous rejection of the English terms of submission delivered by the Dominicans sent by John de Warenne as envoys to the Scots. There would have been many such clerks and non-combatants employed in the earl’s extensive household. Wallace, as befits his status as joint commander of the army of Scotland, is armed conventionally. His armour and weapons are products of the finest continental craftsmanship. At his side his young squires carry his shield and helm. Behind the apprehensive friars stands Sir Andrew Murray, flanked by his banner and that of St Andrew, the ancient national flag of Scotland. The saint’s cross is worn as a badge on the padded akheton of the well-equipped spearman in the foreground and by the fighting men of the schiltrons assembled on the plain below.

In the distance, beyond the loops of the River Forth the mighty fortress of Stirling stands guard over the bridge where English troops are assembling. The arms of Andrew Murray are known from a seal attached to a document of 1296. William Wallace’s arms are unknown though he is generally attributed with ‘gules a lion rampant argent’. The seal attached to the so-called ‘Lubeck letter’, which was sent by Wallace and Murray to the citizens of that town after their victory at Stirling Bridge, survives – one of the few artefacts that have come down to us that can be connected with Wallace. It displays the Royal Arms of Scotland on the front but the reverse, which is of most interest to us, shows a hand drawing an arrow on a bow. Had this seal been Murray’s it must have displayed the stars used as charges by his family. He was, by the time the letter was sent to Lubeck either dead or dying of wounds sustained in the battle, so logically this must be the seal used by Wallace. The bow and arrow device is not displayed on a shield as would be usual with a heraldic charge, so it doesn’t really amount to a coat of arms as such. The faint inscription surrounding the image of the bow and arrow reads: [wilelm]vs filivs alani walais, that is ‘William Son of Alan Wallace’, which throws new light on the name of William’s father. An Alan Wallace, a crown tenant of Ayrshire, sealed the Ragman Roll in 1296 when he submitted to Edward I. There are several Ayrshire Wallace seals attached to the Ragman Roll but none of them display a lion. The devices used are a fleur de Lys, a curlew with foliage behind, and a cross paty. The attribution of a rampant lion to Wallace is probably simply due to the notion that, as Scotland herself is symbolised by the king of beasts, what could be more fitting for Scotland’s National Hero?

 

Further Reading

Here are a selection of other Osprey books looking at Scottish military history.

Elite 167: Scottish Renaissance Armies 1513-1550
Warrior 143: Galloglass 1250-1600
Essential Histories 72: The Jacobite Rebellion 1745-46
Fortress 46: Castles and Tower Houses of the Scottish Clans 1450–1650
Men-at-Arms 442: Queen Victoria’s Highlanders

What areas of Scottish military history are you interested in? Let us know in the comments section.