Gude Wallace [Child 157]

DESCRIPTION: Wallace meets a woman washing at a well. She says 15 Englishmen who seek him are at the inn. He says he'd go there if he had any money; she gives him some. He goes, disguised, vanquishes the 15, calls for food, is set upon by 15 more and defeats them too.
AUTHOR: unknown
KEYWORDS: fight outlaw money food disguise
1286 - Death of Alexander III of Scotland
1290 - Death of his granddaughter Margaret "Maid of Norway"
1292 - Edward I of England declares John Balliol king of Scotland
1296 - Edward deposes John Balliol
1297 - William Wallace, the Guardian of Scotland, defeats the English at Stirling Bridge
1298 - Edward defeats Wallace at Falkirk. Wallace forced into hiding
1305 - Capture and execution of Wallace (August 23)
1306 - Robert Bruce declares himself king of Scotland
1307 - Death of Edward I
1314 - Battle of Bannockburn. Robert Bruce defeats Edward II of England and regains Scottish independence
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland)
REFERENCES (10 citations):
Child 157, "Gude Wallace" (9 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #2}
Bronson 157, "Gude Wallace" (2 versions)
BronsonSinging 157, "Gude Wallace" (2 versions: #1, #2)
Lyle-Crawfurd2 96, "A Sang o Gude Wallace" (1 text)
ChambersBallads, pp. 8-12, "The Gude Wallace" (1 text)
BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 465-466, "Gude Wallace" (notes plus part of Child G and a fragment of Child A)
Flanders-Ancient3, pp. 133-134, "Gude Wallace" (1 fragment, which mentions Wallace but otherwise has little resemblance to the Child ballad; it may be unrelated)
Leach, pp. 433-435, "Gude Wallace" (1 text)
Whitelaw-Ballads, pp. 233-237, "The Gude Wallace" (2 texts)

Roud #75
NOTES: Chambers, a composite of Buchan's "Ballads of the North of Scotland" and "Gleanings of Scarce Old Ballads" and a text in Johnson's Museum is the source for Whitelaw-Ballads [Robert Chambers, The Scottish Ballads (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1829 ("Digitized by Microsoft")), footnote p. 12]. The first half of Chambers/Whitelaw-Ballads is the Buchan text at Child 157H. - BS
William Wallace is one of the most famous figures in Scottish history, but surprisingly little is known of him. Prior to the reign of John Balliol, he was invisible; we don't even know his birth date, though many think he was born around 1272 (Magnusson, p. 133). And, ironically for a man known for being a Scottish patriot, his name means "William the Welshman," and being from Lanark, he probably was of Welsh descent (CraigieEtAl, p. 103).
As Keen puts it on pp. 66-67, "Considering the impact which his career made on the imagination of his countrymen, we know remarkably little historical detail of the life of William Wallace. The date of his birth is unknown. He came of a family of small landowners whose estates were in Ayrshire, and who seem to have been of Welsh origin. Nothing certain is known of him until after the outbreak of war between England and Scotland in 1296. In 1297... he slew the sheriff of Lanark, according to tradition to avenge the death of his beloved, Marion Bradfute, the heiress of Lamington, who had been executed by the English for sheltering her outlawed lover. This deed made him immediately a hero in the eyes of the common people.... He soon found himself at the head of a powerful irregular force. It was his genius that converted this undisciplined horde into an army of foot soldiers."
King Alexander III of Scotland had died in 1286, with his only heir being his granddaughter, Margaret Maid of Norway. But she in turn died in 1290 -- without heirs, not surprisingly, since she was only eight years old. (For background on this, see the notes to "Sir Patrick Spens" [Child 58]). There was no other obvious heir -- not only had Alexander III had no other children, but his father Alexander II had no other descendants, nor his grandfather William the Lion. Thus the heir would presumably have to be sought among the descendants of William's younger brother David Earl of Huntington, or among William's and David's sisters, meaning that, if they were in the same generation as Alexander III, they would be third cousins of the dead king. (There is a convenient genealogy of this on page 301 of Oram, although it has an error in the genealogy of William the Lion's older brother Malcolm the Maiden.)
Alexander had been on good terms with Edward I, the King of England at the time, and Edward had already been interfering in Scottish affairs even before Margaret died (Prestwich, pp. 359-364). With her dead, Scotland faced a real succession crisis as perhaps as many as sixteen claimants came forward (Oram, p. 113). Most of them could be set aside, but the claims of John Balliol and Robert Bruce the Competitor (the grandfather of King Robert I Bruce) were strong -- Balliol was the grandson of David of Huntington's eldest daughter, and Bruce the son of the second daughter.
Edward was given the right to determine the heir to the Scottish throne. He conducted a long investigation and decided (correctly, by modern reckoning) that Balliol deserved the throne (Prestwich, pp. 366-368). But Edward also decided that Balliol was his vassal, and answered to Edward, and would do just what Edward told him. From the moment Balliol took the crown, Edward insisted on hearing legal cases over his head (Prestwich, pp. 370-371).
Prestwich notes on p. 371 that Balliol -- his father's fourth son -- had not expected to be a great magnate, let alone a king; he had no training for the role he had entered into. He probably wasn't as ineffective as he came to be portrayed (Oram, p. 112); Scots chroniclers portrayed him in the worst possible light because they wanted to glorify Robert Bruce, and English looked down on him because he failed to defeat Edward I. But he certainly wasn't imperious enough to face Edward I in a contest of self-importance.
There is a genuine debate over just how much homage the King of Scots owed the King of England. Warren, pp. 177-179, studied what records there are and suggests that the most reasonable opinion is that the Scottish kings owed homage for Lothian (plus their lands in England), but nothing else in Scotland. Of course, this was before Henry II took forced homage from William the Lion -- and then Richard I sold back the claim. For a ridiculously low price, too -- 10,000 marks, or 6,667 pounds (McLynn, p. 122). Scotland was poor, but that still was only a year or so of Scottish revenue. Only a monomaniac would have sold Scotland so cheaply. But Richard did it. Richard's sale, it seems to me (as to most Scots) should have freed Scotland from any obligation at all (although Prestwich, p. 374, thinks Edward had a claim). But even Prestwich agrees that Edward's demands were too extreme.
The Scots called Balliol the "Toom Tabard" (empty coat) because he wouldn't stand up to Edward -- but even Balliol eventually suffered more abuse than he could take and went into what Edward regarded as rebellion (this came when Edward demanded that Balliol perform feudal service in France; Prestwich, p. 372). The Scots, unwilling to comply and needing help. concluded what would come to be known as the "Auld Alliance" with France. Edward deposed Balliol and declared himself in charge (Oram, pp. 114-115). This was typical Edward; Balliol reportedly had been willing to turn over his kingship to Edward in return for an English earldom, but Edward the Inflexible turned that down flat (Prestwich, p. 473), and even went so far as to publicly tear the coat of arms from Balliol's clothes (Prestwich, pp. 473-474 -- another reason for the "Toom Tabard" name).
Balliol ended up living on his estates in France, hoping for French help which never came (Oram, p. 115) -- although his son would later claim the Scottish throne, ironically with the support of the English King Edward III. It's not even absolutely sure when Balliol died; it was probably 1313.
Edward's attempt at a takeover was so complete, he even set up a new administration in Berwick, abandoning Edinburgh (Prestwich, p. 474). He gave control of the country to Earl Warrene, who as it turned out did not want to do the job (Prestwich, p. 477).
It was in 1296 that Balliol was deposed. A sort of conspiracy by the nobility of Scotland collapsed instantly as Edward overran the country. Edward thought he had won (Prestwich, p. 476). It didn't take long to prove him wrong. In a sort of People's Revolt, Wallace rose to defend Scotland from Edward's attempts to take over the country. His rebellion apparently started quietly enough: He got into a brawl with some of Edward's soldiers who were at Lanark, and had to flee. A women (possibly his wife) who helped him escape was tortured and killed; Wallace responded by killing a local English officer (Fry/Fry; p. 78; MacLean, p. 37).
In other times, Wallace might have been called simply an outlaw. But with Scotland an occupied nation, he could call himself a freedom fighter. He declared himself a supporter of John Balliol and raised a rebellion.
The higher nobility of Scotland was almost universally indifferent. They weren't happy with Edward I, but they had made terms with him, even if at sword point, and weren't willing to risk more fighting. (The fact that a lot of them had estates in England was a major factor in this.) But Wallace was able to gather a band of small landowners and minor knights. And he picked a good time: The French had recently declared that Edward I's province of Gascony was forfeited to them, so Edward was spending his time in Flanders and other places trying to get Gascony back. He wasn't paying attention to Scotland -- except to try to extract money from it, which obviously made him even less popular (Prestwich, p. 476).
In 1297, Wallace's troops met an English army at Stirling Bridge, the last place it was possible to cross the Forth without boats. The English under the Earl of Surrey started to cross the bridge in the presence of Wallace's army (Magnusson, pp. 135-138), and of course he destroyed the portion across the bridge and won a major victory -- Cook, p. 91, says the bridge broke under the fleeing English, though Magnusson, p. 139, makes the more reasonable suggestion that Surrey ordered it destroyed to protect his remaining troops.
It was not a complete victory for the Scots; Wallace's chief lieutenant Andrew de Moray was mortally wounded in the battle (Magnusson, p. 139), and many English garrisons held out. But the Scots had shown they could still fight -- an immense pschological boost. As a result, Wallace became a Guardian of Scotland, and obviously respectable (Mitchison, p. 43). People even called him "William the Conqueror" (McNamee, p. 22).
But Stirling Bridge had been fought while Edward I was away campaigning against France. He came rushing back, assembled an army, and himself led it -- the first time he had actually led an army in battle in more than thirty years (Prestwich, p. 479).
Edward's campaign was not really very well-organized; he had supply problems (Prestwich, pp. 480-481). But he had by far the better-equipped army. And Wallace, the guerilla, tried to fight a set-piece battle at Falkirk in 1298, and was disastrously beaten by Edward (MacLean, p. 38). Edward, no fool, assembled an army of bowmen, cavalry, and infantry, while Wallace had little but spearmen, arranged in schiltrons. Fifteen years later, at Bannockburn, it would be demonstrated that the schiltrons could beat off infantry or cavalry. But Edward I was not the military incompetent his son was. He had, and used, his longbowmen -- the first real use of the weapon that would later bring the English to the brink of victory in the Hundred Years' War. The bowmen broke up the schiltrons, then the cavalry swept up the scattered remnants (Magnusson, pp. 143-144). The Scottish army had ceased to exist. Wallace survived, but from Guardian of Scotland he fell to being a fugitive outlaw; he soon resigned his guardianship and went into hiding (Magnusson, p. 147).
Wallace supposedly went on to try to negotiate with France and the Papacy on behalf of Balliol (Magnusson, pp. 148-149). Edward was distracted by continental affairs and couldn't concentrate fully on Scotland; there were even truces between the sides during this period. A certain amount of governmental work was done by the Scots, and they did send embassies all over the place (Prestwich, pp. 490-496). But if Wallace was part of this, he was largely ineffective -- indeed, it's hard to imagine them dealing with a man who hadn't even been a knight until so created, perhaps unofficially, after he became a guerilla.
When the French armies were defeated at Courtrai in 1302, the respite for Scotland was over. Edward was able to devote all his energies to Scotland (Prestwich, p. 497). Edward had pretty well pacified Scotland by 1303. Wallace spent the rest of his life on the run, with a price on his head (a hundred pounds, according to Magnusson, p. 152). Prestwich, pp. 499.500, reports Wallace fighting the English again in the winter of 1303-1304, but their force was routed and Wallace, although he again escaped, once again found himself without any soldiers.
Wallace betrayed and captured in 1305 (by Scots, no less; Prestwich, p. 503), subjected to a kangaroo trial in England (the charge was treason, even though he had never taken an oath to Edward I, and the trial, according to Magnusson, p. 155, consisted simply of a recitation of the charges followed by conviction and sentence; Edward I, that alleged paragon of justice, did not so much as allow a statement by the defence), and executed with torture (Fry/Fry, p. 79). Edward's justification for drawing and quartering Wallace was that the Scot hadn't fought according to the rules of chivalry (Prestwich, p. 503). Portions of his body were gibbeted at various sites around England (Keen, p, 68).
Wallace's brother John Wallace was apparently captured the next year (Prestwich, p. 510).
That much is (probably) fact -- and it's about all the fact we have. Edward I had used black propaganda about Wallace, circulating horror stories about his behavior (Prestwich, p. 512). Once he was in custody, Edward tried to blot out Wallace's memory and leave no relics (hence the treason indictment and the destruction of Wallace's body, according to Magnusson, pp. 157-158), and even the histories sponsored by the Bruces and the Stuarts tried to ignore him (Magnusson, pp. 162-163), just as they tried to blacken John Balliol (Oram, p. 112). Wallace, after all, made Robert Bruce look inconsistent; Bruce's ancestors had competed against John Balliol, and Bruce himself had worked with the English as recently as 1301 (Prestwich, p. 496) -- as Earl of Huntingdon, he was one of those guys with estates on both sides of the border.
It was only later that Wallace became a true national hero, meaning that his legend was created after the facts were almost completely lost -- e.g. it is believed that Blind Harry wrote his "Wallace" in the reign of James IV, almost two centuries after Wallace's death (Keen, p. 69).
Kunitz/Haycraft, pp. 259-260, hint that Blind Harry didn't even write "Wallace," since it contains Latin allusions a blind man would be unlikely to know. They suggest that John Ramsey, who copied the only manuscript in 1488, may have had a hand in the composition. They declare that it contains "no attempt to picture the historic Wallace."
Blind Harry's poem (of which Keen says on p. 69, "Its literary merit is slight, and its historical accuracy is even slighter," while noting that it is very long) is largely hagiographic, giving Wallace a bunch of Robin Hood-like adventures (Keen, p. 74, who notes the utter improbability of it all -- since Robin was a genuine outlaw but Wallace was a royal servant). The most that can be said is that the fictional Wallace described by Blind Harry is the sort of person who would have adventures such as are found in this ballad.
Blind Harry also makes Wallace larger than life -- literally; Harry says that he was two and a quarter ells tall, or 83 inches=6'11" or 2.1 meters (Magnusson, p. 133). The other late Scottish sources are little better. Scotland's National Wallace Museum has an artifact called (almost certainly falsely) Wallace's Sword; it is 1.7 meters long, or 5'7" (Magunsson, p. 126). Magnusson, pp. 146-147 also notes how many alleged Wallace relics there are around Scotland -- most notably a Wallace Oak, but just as Robin Hood in England gathered wells and churches and trees named after him, so did Wallace in Scotland. This ballad seems to be another example of that; Child notes that the incident is found in Blind Harry, though I suspect the ultimate inspiration was the tale of Wallace's wife and how her treatment caused him to become an outlaw.
Wallace's influence is still being felt today; Magnusson, p. 159, notes that when a referendum was held to re-create a Scottish parliament in the late twentieth century, the date chosen for hte referendum was September 11, 1997 -- the seven hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Stirling Bridge. - RBW
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File: C157

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