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Saturday, March 25, 2023

William Wallace Sword – Legendary Sword or Replica?

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The William Wallace Sword

The William Wallace sword is currently being held in The National Wallace Monument in Stirling, Scottland.

The William Wallace Sword is a large two-handed sword, and as the name suggests, it was once wielded by William Wallace, a Scottish knight who led the resistance during the Wars of Scottish Independence.

The William Wallace sword was used by him at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and the Battle of Falkirk (1298).

william wallace sword

The blade of the sword measures 132 cm in length.

Including the hilt, it is 163 cm.

The sword weighs 2.70 kg.


Timeline of the William Wallace Sword

The Wallace Sword has sometimes been referred to as Freedom’s Sword.  Wallace, and his sword, have become emblems used by groups internationally to bring attention to their battles for justice and freedom.

  • It is said that the Wallace Sword remained at Dumbarton Castle from 1305 when Wallace was imprisoned after his capture.
  • Suspiciously, there are zero records of the Sword until 1505, when it was first mentioned when King James IV asked for its handle to be repaired.
  • The Wallace Sword moved to the National Wallace Monument in 1888, a decision that angered the town of Dumbarton.
  • In 1912, Ethel Moorhead broke the sword case in the National Wallace Monument to raise awareness for women’s freedom of speech and political expression.
  • The Sword was stolen from Monument on 8th November 1936 by Scottish Nationalists at Glasgow University. The nationalists returned the sword upon realising how much distress they had caused.
  • Unfortunately, the security at Monument seemingly did not improve, and the Sword was stolen again in 1972. It was returned in that same year.


The authenticity of the William Wallace Sword

The authenticity of the William Wallace Sword is subject to debate that can never be satisfactorily cleared.

There are records from 1505 at the time of James IV of money being set aside for the ‘upkeep of Wallace’s sword’.

When the sword was finally handed over to Dr. Rogers, who was responsible for transferring it to the Wallace Monument, the Colonel who delivered the sword  stated emotionally that by delivering this sword to Dr Rogers,

‘he had conferred on him the highest honour it was possible for the British government to bestow on any native of our northern kingdom’.

Following examinations of the Wallace Sword in the National Wallace Monument, it has been stated that the sword is of a style that was no prevalent around the time of William Wallace. Some say that the sword design is too modern for the time of Wallace.

The sword was obviously believed then to have been the sword captured with Wallace in 1305, and the changes made during the reign of James IV.

The Lord High Treasurer’s accounts for 1505, during the reign of James IV, shows that there was entry:

Item, for bynding of ane riding sword, ane rappyer, and binding of Wallas sword with cordis of silk, new hilt and plommet.

One historian, recognising the changes and the subtle details, has referred to this sword as the ‘ghost’  of Wiliam Wallace’s sword.

william wallace

Some say that the metalwork of the sword will be original, but the parts mentioned above are replacements from 1505.

The size of the sword is impressive enough when observing the sword today, never mind that the original should be even longer than the current sword.

Outgoing president of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Dr David Caldwell, does not believe that the sword on show at the National Wallace Monument is the real Wallace Sword, and has said that the sword had “nothing to do” with William Wallace.

He said that the sword was “not very good example of a two-handed 16th Century sword” and was acquired in “desperation” to link the monument to Wallace.

wallace monument

“When the Wallace Monument was being built in the 19th Century, there was a great desire to find appropriate relics to go with the great man and they were very hard to find.”

Whilst there will always be questions about the authenticity of the sword, this is not unusual and is the case with so many historical artefacts.

More importantly – the sword has come to be recognised as a powerful symbol of liberty, and a reminder of the freedom for which Wallace fought.

On the Trail of William Wallace
By David. R. Ross

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