The Unionist View of William Wallace





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Published on Sep 11, 2013

Alistair McConnachie, from aForceForGood.org.uk, on the Unionist view of William Wallace as a key figure in our evolution towards ever closer UK union.

My name's Alistair McConnachie, it's the 11 of September 2013 and we're here today in Stirling.

And it was on this day in 1297, when William Wallace fought the army of Edward 1, and won the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

What we're going to do in this video is to introduce you to the Unionist view of Wallace, which was taught in schools in the 19th and much of the 20th century.

It's a view which sees Wallace as a key figure in our evolution towards a United Kingdom.

Someone who is part of the Great British Pantheon of Heroes placed firmly within a British, not just a Scottish context.

One who embodies the Great British Spirit of Liberty.

The Wallace Monument was built by Unionists who saw Wallace as such a man.

And it was a view held by the English too.

For example, Richard Lodge, Professor of History at Glasgow University, who was from Staffordshire, said in 1894: "English boys are taught both in prose and in poetry to regard Wallace and Bruce as the heroic champions of a just cause" and he added "and to attribute to them perhaps greater purity of motive than they can justly claim."

The "Just Cause" was to fight against what was regarded as an alien French and Norman Plantagenet monarchy.

The poet and dramatist Joanna Baillie said, for example, in 1851: "England as well as Scotland, under Divine Providence, may owe its liberty to [Wallace]; for, had the English crown, at so early a period, acquired such an accession of power, it would probably, like the other great crowns of Europe, have established for itself a despotism which could not have been shaken."

Wallace had saved not only Scotland but also England from dictatorship.

This was Wallace not only as a champion of liberty. But also as an early British Constitutionalist.

The Unionists who built this monument also believed that Wallace was one of the key figures who had helped to secure Scotland, in its own right.

This meant that when it came time for Union, Scotland was able to enter into it, not as a conquered and subservient place, but as a nation able to stand on its own feet.

In this way, Wallace is seen as having helped to create the Scotland, which created the Union, which created the Greatest Empire on earth.

For Unionists, his Legacy can be seen as profoundly British.

Something which is reflected in the design of this Monument itself.

For example, the academic James Coleman has written:

"The rock-faced rubble construction of the superstructure of the tower was intended to represent the history of Scotland and its culture, as modern construction methods drew on precedents from the past.

"At the same time the 'imperial crown' forming the apex of the monument symbolised the power of the British Empire. In other words, the past supports the present; the legacy of Scottish history is crowned with the achievements of the nineteenth century, all combined into a sturdy and harmonious whole -- that whole being both the Wallace Monument and the British Empire.

"Such a sentiment was explicit in the intentions of those who chose the design and were responsible for raising the funds for the monument's construction."

This view of Wallace as a Hero of the British value of Liberty, as an early British Constitutionalist and as a Founder of a Scotland which would go on to do Great Things as part of Britain, is still very relevant.

Rather than seeing Wallace as a divisive figure of separation, we can see him as how the Unionists of the past saw him, which is as a key figure in our evolution towards ever closer, ever more successful, ever more peaceful union.

REFERENCES for Quotes:
1. Richard Lodge from - Colin Kidd, "The English Cult of Wallace and the Blending of Nineteenth-Century Britain", in Edward J. Cowan (ed), The Wallace Book, (Edinburgh: John Donald, 2007), 136-150 at 149.
2. Joanna Baillie from - Colin Kidd, Union and Unionisms: Political Thought in Scotland, 1500-2000, (Cambridge University Press, 2008), at 140.
3. James Coleman, "Unionist-Nationalism in Stone? The National Wallace Monument and the Hazards of Commemoration in Victorian Scotland", in Edward J. Cowan (ed), op.cit., 151-168 at 164.

Graeme Morton, Unionist Nationalism: Governing Urban Scotland 1830-1860, (East Linton, East Lothian: Tuckwell Press Ltd, 1999), Chapter 7.

Old Stirling Bridge, Wallace Monument, Stirling Castle.
You can read more about these Themes at our website http://www.aForceForGood.org.uk
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