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Patriotism: Insights from Israel By Eyal Lewin

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he would suffer as much pain as possible. Such were the last moments of William Wallace before his head was chopped off and then displayed on London Bridge.

Yet as cruel and disgraceful as his death might have been, this has turned Sir William Wallace into one of the most illustrious examples for patriotism, honoring him as a knight and glorifying the remarkable loyalty to his beloved country with which he had led the resistance during the Wars of Scottish Independence (Cowan, 2007; Loudoun, 2007; Mackay, 1995; MacLean, 1997).

Two hundred years after his death, a 15th-century minstrel, Blind Harry, commemorated his bravery in a poem, laying foundations for a source of inspiration that stimulated epic tales and novels for centuries to come. Indeed, Mel Gibson’s movie Braveheart publicized once again the patriotic spirit stemming from the life story of Sir William Wallace. Little is known of how true the story of this unique Scotsman might be; however, in order to argue with cynicism, one might quote the narrator of the impressive movie (Wallace, 2007): “Historians will say I am a liar, but history is written by those who have hung heroes!” (p. 24).

William Wallace came from noble ancestry, presumably belonging to the Stuart family; his father and brothers were well-known landowners. He was born into a time of political instability when Scottish lords failed to establish an effective government, and King Edward I of England (“Longshanks”) took advantage of the local political turmoil in order to gain his sovereignty over Scotland. Plotting and contriving intrigues, exploiting his position as an arbitrator between the rivals of the Scottish internal dynastic wars, and then weakening every possible resistance from any of them, King Edward practically ruled Scotland through the Scottish lords who had been maneuvered into being nothing more than his guardians.

The Scottish aristocrats had become too weak to oppose him, yet King Edward felt they still had to be taught a lesson, so in 1296, his army stormed the southern Scottish border towns, slaughtering those who had resisted as well as those who had fled to their homes. Thousands of Scottish nobles were deprived of their property; others were jailed as prisoners of war.