Mel Gibson has a lot to answer for Hero Wallace voted greatest Will in history (8th January 2008)

SCOTS legend William Wallace has been voted the “greatest Will of all time” in a new poll.

English poet William Shakespeare, often considered the best playwright in literary history, was pushed into second place in the Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) survey of 3000 people.

Nothing whatsoever in Braveheart is actually at all anything like what Wallace actually was and did; he was from a Borders noble line and would thus have been an English/French/Latin-speaking non-clansman, his family wasn’t massacred when he was a kid (which is a massive corruption made by the movie from even the hideously unreliable Blind Hary), he spent much of the period 1298-1303 in France lobbying the Pope rather than hanging out with a useless guerilla army as the movie implies (which he only did for a matter of months in 1304-05 before stupidly getting himself captured, and he wasn’t betrayed either), ordered a series of slash-and-burn raids on northern England’s villages and monasteries that would nowadays be seen as a war crime and he didn’t shag Isabella of France – and a good thing too, as she was ten at the time he died and hadn’t even met the future Edward II yet.

Worse than all the historical inaccuracies, the movie isn’t even any good; it’s clich├ęd rotten, has some awful acting (only Patrick McGoohan seems to be having any fun, hamming it up as Edward I, or “Longshanks” as the movie keeps on repeating) and is quite possibly the worst film in my lifetime to win the Oscar for Best Picture. At least the battle sequences work, and Hollywood hasn’t made a hagiography of Robert Bruce yet (although Braveheart does go some way in that direction).

Wallace is only #1 on this list because of the publicity around Braveheart making people believe that it was actually the True Story; what I’m bitter about is that this has pushed Shakespeare, a figure of infinite importance to English-speaking culture who happened also to write some bloody good plays, to #2 in favour of a minor historical figure blown up by romantic delusion, hagiography and Mel bloody Gibson.

And as for the Scotsman’s headline, one thing is definite: he was no hero. Hardly anyone actually is.


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