As much as many of us loved watching Mel Gibson portray William Wallace in the movie, “Braveheart” (Mel Gibson in a kilt. Just saying) the historical aspect wasn’t entirely accurate. Wallace was an actual Scottish rebel who became a symbol of resistance against the English during the reign of King William I until his execution in 1305, and he did own a dog. But as to the rest of the movie?
As romantic as the following scene was in the movie, it never happened:
Wallace was unmarried, and is not known to have fathered any children. We don’t even know if he bore the remotest resemblance to Mel Gibson as there is no portrait of him and no contemporary description of his appearance. It’s been suggested that many of the stories surrounding him have been traced to a late 15th-century romance ascribed to Harry the Minstrel, or “Blind Harry,” but what that proves is the hold that Wallace had on the imagination of his people. The film did include men in kilts, bagpipes (be still our heart), epic battles, men in kilts, great speeches given by Gibson with a quasi Scottish accent, and did we mention men in kilts? And the worst error of all? The movie completely slandered the man that actually was “Braveheart,” Robert the Bruce.
It was Robert the Bruce who ultimately humbled England and secured Scotland’s independence. Though he was a dreaded nobleman, Robert favored the Scottish side and didn’t fight against Wallace at Falkirk. In fact, neither he nor his father had anything to do with the betrayal of Wallace and his subsequent execution.
We wouldn’t be National Purebred Dog Day, however, if we didn’t focus on The Dog.
Because Robert was advocating for Scottish independence, Edward I of England tried to bring him down in 1306. The scoundrel used Robert’s own dog, “Donnchadh,” to find him (can we say “special ring of hell for this guy?”). The dog, described as a Talbot Hound, aka a predecessor to the Bloodhound, did lead the bad guys to his master, but once he got there, the dog whipped around to face the black hats, and defended his master. This was a good thing. Robert lived to become King of Scotland for twenty years, and historian buffs know that he had a daughter who married into the Stuart family.
As an aside, Donnchadh is an old Gaelic name, consisting of words meaning ‘brown’ and “’noble.’ If we had to find a more contemporary version of the same name, it would be “Duncan.”
Robert died in 1329, and the movie, Braveheart, aside, historians know that Robert was one of the most famous warriors of his generation. It probably wouldn’t have happened had his dog not defended him.