Welcome to my newest series: history-related film, television, and musical reviews! I’ve noticed that we as the viewing public tend to believe what we’re shown, which is a fair way to learn, but sometimes motion pictures and productions don’t cover the whole or even correct story. I hope this will be fun and interesting content matter – connecting the entertainment of today to that of times long since passed. Lets begin!
Mel Gibson’s 1995 classic Braveheart, while an Oscar-winning cinematic master-piece, is considered one of the most inaccurate historical epics to date. I watched this film a while ago now, and while I found it entertaining and enjoyed it for its artfully cinematography, its historical mistakes were obvious. There are some minor anachronisms, like costuming and some character timelines, and complete fictions, like the practice of primae noctis and some character interactions, but I’d like to focus on the two nonfictional battles that were inaccurately portrayed in the film.
Firstly, the Battle of Stirling. In the film, the battle takes place on a grassy plain. The geography is entirely wrong, which makes for most of the events of the battle being entirely fictitious. The real Battle of Stirling took place at a bridge that was so narrow and structurally unsound that only a couple English cavalrymen could cross it at a time. The English troops outnumbered the Scots like in the movie, but instead of the Scots defeating the English via cleverly placed pikes, the Scots won by waiting for the English to slowly cross the bridge and then ambushing them. After defeating the English that had crossed the bridge, the Scots charged the remaining troops on the other side, who were at a disadvantage because the Scots were attacking from higher ground. English reinforcements around Stirling Castles soon retreated, leaving the Lowlands in the hands of the Scots. True to both history and the film, this battle was a major win for the Scots is accredited to the leadership of Andrew Moray and William Wallace.
Next up, the Battle of Falkirk. Just like in the film, the loss of this battle took a huge toll on Scottish rebellion. However, the details of the battle differ in three major ways. In the movie, the start of Wallace’s failure occurs as his allies abandon him, but in reality desertion was by his own cavalrymen as they were overwhelmed by the size of the English cavalry. Secondly, archery indeed dominated this battle, but unlike the nonstrategic firing of the film, the superior technology and accuracy of the long bow by conscripted Welsh archers was what ultimately defeated the slingshot attacks of the Scots. Finally, the betrayal of Wallace by ally Robert the Bruce during the battle is also wrong; Robert initially criticized Wallace for rebelling against the English and then strongly supported his military campaign, but didn’t actually directly have anything to do with the Battle of Falkirk. Following the battle in real life, Wallace managed to flee to a nearby forest for a short period of time before being captured, and then, as likewise in the movie, he was tried and executed.
To conclude, the general message of William Wallace as a notable military leader during the Scottish fight for independence from England in the thirteenth century is present in the film Braveheart, but the means by which the story is told and the details involved are extremely flawed. Nearly every detail is a dramatization or complete fiction, filling the film with inaccuracies. In my opinion, Braveheart should solely be viewed for entertainment purpose, as there exists little historical fact to be drawn from it, especially in regards to specific battle.
Thanks, and be heard!