Braveheart

New this month Factual error: For much of ‘Braveheart' Robert the Bruce is torn between the choice of following his conscience by helping William Wallace or submitting to the English as a puppet ruler of Scotland. Thus he serves with the English army at the Battle of Falkirk, but helps Wallace to safety after the Scots are defeated. At the end of the film he is about to finally submit, when he has a change of heart, calls his followers to fight, and defeats the English. This is nonsense. Robert the Bruce was among the first Scottish noblemen to resist English control of Scotland. Edward I's Scottish wars lasted for more than ten years, and, at times, when it seemed that Edward had crushed all opposition, Robert the Bruce (like most Scots) made a half-hearted submission, but he soon took up arms again. There is no record that he was at the Battle of Falkirk (on either side). In 1306, seven months after Wallace's execution, he had himself crowned King of Scotland, provocatively rejecting English authority. For the rest of his life he waged uncompromising war against the English, culminating in his great victory at Bannockburn.

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Rob Halliday
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New this month Suggested correction: This movie is historical fiction, real life events dramatized for a better film. That it's not completely historically accurate is not a mistake.

Greg Dwyer

New this month Factual error: Some more errors about Princess Isabella: at the height of William Wallaces' rebellion Edward I sends her as an ambassador to negotiate with Wallace (and spy on the Scots) instead she falls in love with Wallace. Princess Isabella was born in 1292: Wallace's rebellion was at its height during 1297-8, so she could have been no more than 6 at the time. (Somebody else has already observed that she was only 13 at the time of Wallace's execution.) Isabella's first language would (obviously) have been French, a 13th century Scotsman would speak either a heavily accented Scottish version of English, or Scots Gaelic, but Isabella has no communication difficulties in Scotland. The Wallace-Isabella affair is also absurd, since it is implausible that, at the height of a war, an unaccompanied young woman, let alone a princess engaged to the heir to the throne of England, would be sent into the heart of a war zone as an envoy and a spy.

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Rob Halliday
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New this month Suggested correction: Her age has already been marked as an error. As someone well traveled, Wallace knew several languages and as an educated princess, Isabella would have likely known several (and this could all simply be a translation convention). And the king admits that he knew of the danger, and hoped that if Wallace or his men killed her, her father the King of France would help him defeat the Scottish rebellion.

Greg Dwyer

I concede most of your points, and, as you observe, if Isabella and Wallace can converse, this is 'translation convention'. Another error in the film that has already been marked: while the historical Wallace was a minor nobleman, Braveheart shows him as a common man, with no aristocratic or upper class traits, so the Isabella-Wallace romance forms a stock element of many romantic stories, a princess or prince defying social convention to fall in love with a lower class man or woman, entertaining as a story, but implausible in reality. And I think we agree that Isabella was only 6 at the time of Wallace's rebellion, so, in reality, she would have been far too young to have been involved in events.

Rob Halliday

First, both historical inaccuracies and things that you consider unlikely are not mistakes. Second, history is riddled with accounts of nobles having affairs with commoners and slaves.

Greg Dwyer

Factual error: Princess Isabella was a 13-year-old girl living in France when William Wallace was executed in 1305. She didn't marry Prince Edward until 1308, and the marriage took place in Boulogne, not London.

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Krista

Factual error: The reason why it is called the Battle of Stirling is because it was fought on Stirling Bridge, in mud. The English had to file down into small ranks so they could cross the bridge, while William Wallace came in with full plate armour, not kilts, and butchered them with the rest of the Scots.

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New this month Suggested correction: Yes, the Battle of Stirling (Bridge) is shown inaccurately in the film: the English and Scots line up on a battlefield and proceed to set about each other, with the Scots winning. As you observe, what happened in historical fact was the English were crossing a bridge over the River Forth. The bridge was narrow, so they had to file down into small ranks. Wallace and the Scots waited at the top of a hill until half the army had crossed, then, before the English had time to regroup and form battle lines, the Scots charged down the hill and massacred the unprepared English. The amusing thing about the scene is that the Battle Of Stirling Bridge is filmed without the bridge.

Rob Halliday

Factual error: The film hints that Wallace is the father of Isabella's child (and the ancestor of all future kings and queens of England) but Isabella's baby (the future Edward III) was born in 1312, seven years after Wallace's execution in 1305.

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Factual error: The voice-over at the beginning of the film tells us that Malcolm Wallace was a commoner with his own lands and constant references are made through-out the film to William being a commoner. However this is a common historical myth. Malcolm Wallace was in fact born as a minor noble and became a knight, as was William. They were poor as noble families went but were still infinitely more privileged than the commoners of the day.

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Factual error: Malcolm Wallace had three sons: John, William, and Malcolm. He was not killed in a minor scuffle with the English. He, in fact, fought for several years with the English in order to free John de Baliol from the tower of London. At the time, Baliol was the rightful heir to the Scottish crown, and that was actually William's reason for fighting the English. Robert the Bruce was the one who actually liberated Scotland, right?

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Factual error: In the opening scene of the film a caption at the bottom of the screen tells us it is Scotland 1280 AD and the voice-over tells us the King of Scotland had died without an heir etc. But Alexander III of Scotland did not die until 1286 AD.

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Factual error: In the night scene after Malcolm Wallace's funeral we see the silhouette of a man playing bag pipes. Argyle tells William that they are outlawed tunes played on outlawed pipes. However, the bagpipes have only ever been banned twice in Scotland: in 1560 after the Reformation and again in 1746 after the Battle of Culloden (evidence for bans on bagpipes in the 18th century is weak at best). In the late 13th Century the bagpipe enjoyed similar popularity in England, although Scottish bagpipes were particular to the region, and had an established cultural importance. Whether these early bagpipes were as strongly associated with highland culture as later forms of the instrument is unclear; lowland and border musical tradition is more closely linked with small pipes.

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Factual error: Prince Edward was not a mincing homosexual stereotype. His homosexuality did not become obvious until after he became king and started taking male 'favourites'. Before then he was regarded as the perfect prince.

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Factual error: At the battle of Falkirk, the Irish soldiers fighting for Edward change sides at the last moment and go over to fight with the Scots. In reality, there were no Irish troops present at the battle. The only troublemakers amongst the English army were the contingent of Welsh bowmen who showed a reluctance to fight Wallace but this was more out of fear rather than sympathy for the Scots.

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Factual error: Scots did not wear the kilt until the 17th century. They wore the saffron shirt prior to that (in Braveheart's time).

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Factual error: Throughout the film, Wallace is portrayed as a Highland clansman in traditional highland garb. This was done by Gibson to emphasise the Scottish/English conflict, but it is not historically accurate. In fact, Wallace was a Lowland knight from exactly the same ethnic background as the Anglo-Normans he was fighting and would have worn the same style of armour as they did.

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Necrothesp

Factual error: The title of the Duke of York did not yet exist in the 13th century - it was instituted only later and was normally used only by a younger son of the King.

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Factual error: In the movie the Scots sack the English city of York. Actually they sacked the city of Carlisle.

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Quotes

Princess Isabelle: I understand you have recently been given the rank of knight.
William Wallace: I have been given nothing. God makes men what they are.

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Mistakes

In a major fight scene two soldiers on opposite sides are jumping and spinning and tapping each other on the head with their swords.

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Trivia

Perhaps you're wondering what William Wallace shouts after delivering his speech just prior to the Battle of Stirling. It's "Alba gu brath," which means "Scotland forever."

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