“Guardian of Scotland and Leader of its Armies”
The first to have his head adorn the ramparts of London Bridge as a warning to other wrongdoers was William Wallace. Despite some reports that he was a petty criminal, nothing is known for certain about Wallace before 1297.
In May of that year he killed William Heselrig, the Sheriff of Lanark. Six months later, on 11 September, his army beat the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Wallace was afterwards named “Guardian of Scotland and Leader of its Armies”. Wallace was defeated at the Battle of Falkirk on 22 July 1298 and fled to France, returning in 1303. On 5 August 1305 he was captured after Scot, John de Menteith, handed him over. On 22 August 1305, William Wallace was brought to London.
Monday 23 August 1305
Early the next morning he was taken to Westminster Hall where, to fulfil his boast that one day he would wear a crown in Westminster, a laurel crown was mockingly placed on his head. As an outlawed thief, the law allowed him no defence; his trial and judgement were mere formalities and the sentence was carried out immediately. He was stripped naked then drawn on a hurdle by two horses to the gallows at Smoothfield (today King Street in Smithfield).
Along the way he was pelted with offal, garbage and dung and struck with whips and cudgels by the bloodthirsty Londoners. Still naked, he mounted the scaffold and was hanged by a halter but let down still alive. Next his genitals were cut off and then a deep gash made in his belly; the executioner then ripped out his intestines, liver, and lungs, holding each aloft for the crowd to see before consigning them to the fire before Wallace’s eyes. Then the executioner reached into the chest cavity to tear out Wallace’s still beating heart.
Finally, mercifully, his head was cut off and his trunk cut into four pieces. His head was dipped in pitch to delay putrefaction then spiked and placed upon the ramparts of London Bridge. His quarters were later displayed at various towns: his right arm above the bridge at Newcastle-upon-Tyne; his left arm at Stirling; his right leg at Berwick and his left leg at Perth. The total cost of the butchery was 61 shillings and ten pence.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Ironically Wallace, the name of Scotland’s greatest patriot, originally meant “Welshman”