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Unit 3: William Wallace, Guardian of the Realm, 1297-1298

Image shows a drawing depicting William Wallace

In May 1297, armed resistance to English occupation broke out in Scotland. William Wallace killed William Heselrig, the English sheriff of Lanark, while Andrew Murray attacked Urquhart Castle in the north. On 11 September 1297, Wallace and Murray defeated the English army at the battle of Stirling Bridge and took over the reins of government.

As military leaders of the Scottish cause, they needed to secure political allies and re-open Scottish ports to business with Europe. On 11 October 1297, they wrote to Lübeck and Hamburg encouraging German merchants to resume trading with Scotland.

Image shows a drawing depicting the Battle of Stirling Bridge

Andrew Murray died in November 1297 from wounds received at the battle of Stirling Bridge. In March 1298, William Wallace remained sole Guardian of Scotland with the support of the community of the Scottish realm, which included barons and leading clergy.

On 29 March 1298, Wallace issued a charter in favour of Alexander Scrymgeour granting him the constabulary of Dundee as a reward for carrying the royal standard in battle. In it Wallace addresses himself as Guardian of the kingdom of Scotland and leader of its army in King John Balliol’s name. Wallace saw himself as holding the nation in trust for its rightful monarch, Balliol who, despite his enforced abdication, was still regarded by many Scots as their rightful king. Wallace used Balliol’s seal at the foot of the document.

View the timeline of events in the Scottish Wars of Independence

Source 1: The Lübeck Letter, 1297

Source 2: The Scrymgeour Charter, 1298




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