“Braveheart” Historical Background and The True Story

This movie is my absolute favorite. Everything about it, from the visuals and music to the scenes, themes, and actors, can be described as perfect! Let me digress for a moment. As mentioned at the beginning of the film, history is constantly shaped by certain individuals. It's somewhat ironic that Hollywood directors often explore these themes. For those well-versed in history, it's clear that this movie narrates the tale of the renowned Plantagenet era in England.

This dynasty not only boasted a line of warrior kings such as King Richard the Lionheart and Edward Longshanks but also the notable figure, "Father of the Common Law," Henry II. What's more, starting from the "Magna Carta" in 1215, followed by the "Provisions of Oxford" in 1258, and culminating in the "Model Parliament" of 1295, along with a series of forward-thinking legislations in the 12th and 13th centuries, Britain took an irreversible step towards democratic constitutionalism that has lasted for a thousand years. The inaugural monarch of the Plantagenet dynasty was Henry II, the great-grandfather of Edward I, also known as Henry Plantagenet.

Returning to the topic, the story of William Wallace is indeed based on true events.

William Wallace hailed from a family of knights. Many of the tales about him are rooted in legends and epics. Initially, he led a band of knights to dismantle English tax collection stations in Scotland and attacked the English nobles there. Over time, his group grew larger. During this period, King Edward I of England was occupied with a conflict in France, leaving Scotland relatively unattended. Wallace's influence expanded to the point where he briefly ruled Scotland. He even ventured into northern England, seizing control of Yorkshire. In response, King Edward I was compelled to abandon his campaign in France and return to England. He took charge of the army against Wallace. Wallace was renowned for his bravery in battle, always leading from the front lines, and displaying notable military acumen. However, his forces, though courageous, could not match King Edward I's regular legions. Consequently, in 1299, they suffered defeat and went into hiding for several years. Eventually, they were captured by the English and subjected to be hanged, drawn, and quartered in 1305.

Indeed, "Braveheart" does not primarily focus on William Wallace but instead centers around the King of Scots, Robert the Bruce, who is portrayed as betraying Wallace multiple times in the film, a purely fictional plot element. Historically, Robert the Bruce emerged as a genuine national hero of Scotland during the reign of King Edward I. Scotland was at risk of assimilation and annexation by England at that time. Bruce took up the mantle of leadership, guiding the Scots in persistent small-scale conflicts against the English forces. His significant triumph came in the Battle of Bannockburn, a crucial victory that was pivotal in driving the English out of Scotland.

Robert the Bruce was indeed incredibly brave in battle, often engaging in duels with enemies on horseback. During the Battle of Bannockburn, he fearlessly led the charge, personally rushing to the front lines and killing the enemy general with an axe. A legendary tale also exists, claiming that after Robert the Bruce's death, a loyal knight who had followed him for many years intended to take the king's heart to the Holy Land for burial in Jerusalem. While in Spain, the knight found himself amidst a battle between local Catholics and foreign invaders. Inspired by the brave heart of Robert Bruce, he fearlessly joined the fight, leading the charge to drive away the infidels. He fought valiantly at the forefront of the battle and, even as victory seemed imminent, fell with the king's heart still held close to his own. This legend inspired poets, and the tale came to be known as "Brave Heart." If Robert the Bruce were aware of this story, it might have astonished him, considering its fantastical nature.

Hollywood has a way of transforming heroes into unlikely characters, and they've also managed to turn a controversial figure into a saintly one. Most people remember the French princess Isabella as a beautiful, kind, and angelic woman, the ideal lover for many. In historical records, Isabella, the daughter of King Philip IV of France, was known as the "She-Wolf of France." Considering this nickname, can you guess what kind of woman she was?

Edward II's marriage to the French princess Isabella in 1308, as depicted in the movie, was indeed a political alliance, a common practice among royalty during that era. Despite his marriage to a noble French princess, Edward II's true interests lay with men, not women. Consequently, he paid little attention to his queen. However, he underestimated Isabella. This French princess proved to be a force to be reckoned with and was not someone to be taken lightly.

Edward II and his father, Edward I, were vastly different individuals both in their approaches to ruling and their personal lives. While externally, they faced defeats by Robert I, the real figure in Braveheart; internally, they and were known for their lavish lifestyles and favouritism toward their male companions. In 1325, Isabella used her diplomatic mission to France as an opportunity to flee back to her homeland. There, she became romantically involved with Roger Mortimer, a British nobleman who was in exile in France, ultimately becoming his mistress. Together, they conspired against Edward II, marking a significant turning point in the political landscape of that time.

In September 1326, Isabella and Mortimer led French soldiers back to London. By then, King Edward II's relationships with the nobles had deteriorated significantly. Isabella's return was met with a warm welcome from the people of London. Edward II resisted, even rebelling against his relatives and supporters. Isabella took charge and executed both Despensers. In 1327, under pressure from Parliament, Edward II was coerced into abdicating the throne. Their son, Edward the Younger, ascended to power as King Edward III, reigning over England from 1327 to 1377.

Isabella imprisoned Edward II in Berkeley Castle, subjecting him to freezing temperatures and starvation within its dark confines. In September of that year, acting on the orders of the so-called "She-Wolf of France," a brutal assassin approached Edward II. Shockingly, the killer inserted a red-hot iron rod into Edward II's anus, causing him to scream in agonizing pain, his cries echoing for miles. This gruesome event marked the conclusion of the reign of the misguided and ill-fated king.

Can you still trust Hollywood directors?

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