"Braveheart" is a piece of true historical fiction
Debate Rounds (5)
I'll accept that debate and agree with Pro that making this argument stick should prove difficult. After all, the film is frequently cited for its historical innacuracies and was named the second most historically innaccurate movie ever by the Sunday Times 
I look forward to Pro's argument.
Strangely, Pro's arguments are not quite in line with his thesis. I get the sense Pro might have done better with a thesis like, "Edward I was a really bad guy." Nevertheless, the challenge is "Braveheart is accurate," which I intend to refute. Most historical filmaking takes liberties with history in favor of dramatic storytelling. Many of the innacuracies in "Braveheart," however, are hard to forgive. To quote author John O'Farrell in An Utterly Impartial History of Britain: "Braveheart could not have been more historically inaccurate, even if a "Plasticine dog" had been inserted in the film and the title changed to William Wallace and Gromit."
1) Pro has already conceded the fallacy of Primae Noctis. Most historians agree that the practice is not documented in Medieval Europe, although myths about Primae Noctis were popular.  Rape in feudal Europe was commonplace. I see no evidence to suggest that the Scots were any less given to rape than the English.
 William Wallace was not "Braveheart." That attribution belongs to Robert the Bruce, who in the movie is falsely depicted as betraying Wallace. Better known and loved by the Scots than Wallace, and a more longstanding threat to the English than Wallace, Bruce's reputation is badly abused by the movie and which adds insult by stealing his name.
 Wallace is inaccurately depicted as a highland commoner. This is far from the truth. Wallace was a lowland landowner and a knight sworn in fealty to the High Steward of Scotland. As such, he was a Norman descendant who inherited his plantations from the Norman Conquests much like Edward I. Like Edward, Wallace spoke and wrote in French and would have shared with Edward a mutual contempt for the native inhabitants who served them and worked their lands. Pro has argued that Edward Longshanks was the first Anglo-Saxon King after the Norman Conquest, but as the oldest grandson of King John he was a direct descendant of William the Conqueror. Although "Norman" may have lost much distinction after generations of marrying outside of Norman bloodlines, Edward and Wallace both almost certainly thought of themselves as part of a superior French caste ruling by right over savage natives, Saxon in the South, Scots and Picts in the North. If Pro wishes to consider Edward I as viscous or cruel, I would not argue except to say that Wallace was likewise cruel. When forcing conscripts to join his armies, even pacifist monks, he would hang those who refused to join. Wallace was also known to wear the scalp of Hugh de Cressingham, Edward's treasurer, from his belt.
 Isabella of France is incurably depicted as serving as ambassador between Edward and Wallace. In the movie, she has a brief dalliance with Wallace and becomes pregnant by him. Scandalously, the movie suggests that Edward III is the son of Wallace. This is false, since Isabella was 3 years old at the time of the Battle of Falkirk and Edward III was born 7 years after Wallace's execution.
 The Battle of Stirling Bridge is renamed the Battle of Stirling and no bridge is depicted. Unfortunately for history, Stirling Bridge was the single most important geographic artifact of the battle. Since the bridge was narrow, only two calvary could cross side by side. Wallace's army waited until a manageable number of soldiers had crossed and then attacked, blocking the bridge and slaughtering the forces on the North side. The bridge either collapsed or was destroyed by the Earl of Surrey to protect his retreat. Historically, Wallace's principle victory had more to do with the haste and ineptitude of the English, then by any remarkable feat of arms or strategy on the part of Wallace.
 Conversely, it was Wallace's turn to be hasty and inept at the Battle of Falkirk. The Welsh longbowmen had a much longer range than the Scottish, and cut them down at a distance. No records suggest that the Irish and Welsh came over to the Scottish side as is depicted in the movie. After defeat, the movie depicts Wallace as conducting a guerrilla war after Falkirk. In fact, Wallace fled to France for four or five years while the English rolled over Scotland.
 Kilts were not worn until 500 years after the Scottish Wars for Independence and then not by lowland gentry. Costuming Mel Gibson in a kilt, then, is roughly as accurate as Christopher Columbus sporting Abercrombie & Fitch.
http://en.wikipedia.org...). It wasn't about Longshanks, but that England was indeed brutal with the Scots. The opposition argument that some would have stated, was that Normans were to blame, not the English, but the English were the ones who behind the invasion, since Longshanks was the first Anglo-Saxon king after the Normans. Battle of Falkirk did indeed happen too (http://en.wikipedia.org...). Now mind you, Robert the Bruce wasn't the traitor as portrayed in the film. That part of the movie was indeed wrong, but the point is that "Braveheart" is true historical fiction, whether Anglo-Saxons like it or not. Even the execution of "Braveheart" was true (http://en.wikipedia.org...). Whether it happened exactly the way that it happened in movie or not, historians agree that a Scottish noble handed Wallace over to the English lords and he was tried for treason in front of an audience. The more graphic parts of his execution were tamed down in the movie but England was brutal with Scotland, make no mistake of it. And I gave you links to show the proof.
Con it's your turn, friend.
This is not to say that "Braveheart" was based on a true story. Never said that. But historically a lot of it is accurate.
I am arguing the opposite: "Braveheart" was based on a true story, in as much as William Wallace did exist, fought the English, and was executed by the English for treason. The movie, however, is inaccurate in many important historical details, some of which I defined in Round 2. I note that Pro has not yet disputed any these inaccuracies, but offers instead that "a lot is accurate." Well, okay, but that's a pretty low bar to qualify as "true historical fiction." The movie can't help but get a lot of details right: the grass was probably green and Wallace was probably a man, etc. There are standards, however, for historical accuracy. Do the customs and locales resemble the those of the historical period? Are the characters accurately portrayed? Are the events in keeping with the historical record? By these standards, "Braveheart" is a weak effort and unreliable as a work of history.
The Battle of Stirling Bridge did indeed happen.
Yes, it did, and therefore filmmakers have some responsibility to at least try to get some of the details right. See Argument 5 in Round 2: "Braveheart" removes the centerpiece of the battle: Stirling Bridge and renames the event "The Battle of Stirling." (which leads to confusion, since there was another, less renown engagement known as the Battle of Stirling). At Stirling Bridge, Wallace was fortunate. The English assumed that all real resistance was defeated and that Wallace's army would not engage. In spite of cautions from more experienced leaders, Surrey crossed the bridge in view of the enemy. The Scottish force waited until a sufficiently large but achievable number of knights crossed the bridge and then pounced. History is not certain whether the lopsided victory can be credited entirely to Wallace's charge. It is possible that Stirling Bridge collapsed during the battle and drowned or mired some part of Surrey's force. We do know that Wallace did not enter into combat himself, but commanded from high ground nearby. The movie makes no effort to depict any of this. Gibson admits that he modeled his tactics on the Battle of Bannockburn.
It wasn't about Longshanks, but that England was indeed brutal with the Scots.
And the Scots were indeed brutal with the English. These were brutal times.
The opposition argument that some would have stated, was that Normans were to blame, not the English, but the English were the ones who behind the invasion, since Longshanks was the first Anglo-Saxon king after the Normans.
As I stated in round 2, the landed aristocracy on both sides of the conflict were french-speaking descendants of the Norman Conquest. Both Wallace and Edward were Normans. In fact, Edward is a direct decedent of William the Conqueror. Pro may be confused by the name Edward, which is an Anglo-Saxon name given in veneration of Edward the Confessor. Nevertheless, to have called Edward Anglo-Saxon would have been insulting, the equivalent of calling him a conquered peasant.
Battle of Falkirk did indeed happen too.
And again, is totally inaccurate. Wallace and his thousand calvary were arrayed behind 5,000 infantry formed into hedgehogs, thick circles of spears. As Edward's knights approached both the left and right flanks of the army, Wallace and his calvary left the field without engaging. The English knights quickly eliminated the remaining bowmen and then withdrew while the English archers slaughtered the spearmen from a distance. Wallace essentially ran away and so was forced to resign from his position as Guardian of Scotland in disgrace. The movie gets none of this right, choosing instead to show Wallace as a valiant swordsman hacking and slashing against superior numbers. The movie suggests that the Scots would have won except for the betrayal of two lieutenants and the ruthless Edward firing on his own men. False. Of the two commanders at Falkirk, Wallace was undoubtedly the less noble and more cruel, running away and leaving most of his peasants behind for slaughter.
Now mind you, Robert the Bruce wasn't the traitor as portrayed in the film.
Agreed. He switch sides a few times but that was normal behaviour for the era.
That part of the movie was indeed wrong, but the point is that "Braveheart" is true historical fiction, whether Anglo-Saxons like it or not.
In what respects? By what standard? Why wouldn't Anglo-Saxons prefer historical accuracy as much as the next guy?
Even the execution of "Braveheart" was true. Whether it happened exactly the way that it happened in movie or not, historians agree that a Scottish noble handed Wallace over to the English lords and he was tried for treason in front of an audience. The more graphic parts of his execution were tamed down in the movie but England was brutal with Scotland, make no mistake of it.
On this much we can Agree. By all accounts, English execution for treason is about as horrible as it gets. Any accurate depiction would be deemed unpresentable by Hollywood Studios.
http://en.wikipedia.org...). Based on some sources, we can say Longshanks was Anglo-Saxon. "Edward, being an Anglo-Saxon name, was not a common name among the aristocracy of England after the Norman Conquest. Henry III was devoted to the veneration of Edward the Confessor, and for this reason decided to name his firstborn son after the saint. Other Anglo-Saxon kings had included Edward the Elder and Edward the Martyr, and numerals were still not commonly used in Edward's time; as the first post-Conquest king to carry that name, he was referred to simply as "King Edward", "King Edward, son of King Henry", or "King Edward, the first by that name after the Conquest". It was only after the succession of first his son and then his grandson"both of whom bore the same name"that "Edward I" came into common usage." (http://en.wikipedia.org...). So yes he probably was Scandinavian. You're right about French influence in both, and Scotland definitely being Norman, which is why I don't find the idea of France helping Scotland against England to be that far-fetched. "Edward advanced into central Scotland and Wallace's army shadowed the English, intending to avoid battle until shortages of supplies and money forced Edward to withdraw, at which point the Scots would harass his retreat. Edward's own supply fleet was delayed by bad weather, and when the army reached central Scotland it was both tired and hungry. The Welsh infantry in particular were badly demoralised. While the army was encamped at Temple Liston, near Edinburgh, they erupted in a drunken riot that was broken up by the English cavalry, who killed 80 Welshmen. Edward faced the prospect of the kind of ignominious retreat that became a regular feature of his son's campaigns in the succeeding reign. As he was on the point of falling back on Edinburgh he received intelligence that Wallace had taken up position in the wood of Callendar near Falkirk, only thirteen miles away, ready to pursue the retreating English. Edward was delighted: As God lives... they need not pursue me, for I will meet them this day." (http://en.wikipedia.org...). You can say this is almost similar to the film. Edward did indeed show up at the battle. Whether this was because of what was shown in the movie -- Wallace challenging Longshanks to face him like a man -- and whether the Irish and Welsh did fight with the Scottish as shown in the picture is a mystery. "Casualties among the Scottish leaders were not particularly heavy, but did include Wallace's second-in-command Sir John de Graham, Sir John Stewart of Bonkill, and Macduff of Fife." (also in http://en.wikipedia.org...). While the betrayal shown in the movie is probably not true, the casualties for the Scottish were definitely pretty big. "The First War of Scottish Independence can be loosely divided into four phases: the initial English invasion and success in 1296; the campaigns led by William Wallace, Andrew de Moray and various Scottish Guardians from 1297 until John Comyn negotiated for the general Scottish submission in February 1304; the renewed campaigns led by Robert the Bruce following his killing of The Red Comyn in Dumfries in 1306 to his and the Scottish victory at Bannockburn in 1314; and a final phase of Scottish diplomatic initiatives and military campaigns in Scotland, Ireland and Northern England from 1314 until the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton in 1328.
The war began in earnest with Edward I's brutal sacking of Berwick in March 1296, followed by the Scottish defeat at the Battle of Dunbar and the abdication of John Balliol in July. The English invasion campaign had subdued most of the country by August and, after removing the Stone of Destiny from Scone Abbey and transporting it to Westminster Abbey, Edward convened a parliament at Berwick, where the Scottish nobles paid homage to him as King of England. Scotland had been all but conquered.
The revolts which broke out in early 1297, led by William Wallace, Andrew de Moray and other Scottish nobles, forced Edward to send more forces to deal with the Scots, and although they managed to force the nobles to capitulate at Irvine, Wallace and de Moray's continuing campaigns eventually led to the first key Scottish victory, at Stirling Bridge. Moray was fatally wounded in the fighting at Stirling, and died soon after the battle. This was followed by Scottish raids into northern England and the appointment of Wallace as Guardian of Scotland in March 1298. But in July, Edward invaded again, intending to crush Wallace and his followers, and defeated the Scots at Falkirk. Edward failed to subdue Scotland completely before returning to England." (http://en.wikipedia.org...) Scotland may have been brutal, but it wasn't unprovoked. England did indeed intrude on their land.
As I said before, Pro seems much more interested in making some unstated generalization about the nature of English people than in discussing the facts of William Wallace's biography and how inaccurately those biographic details are transmitted by the movie "Braveheart." My suspicions are increased by Pro's recent submission of a new debate discussing Cromwell in Ireland. If Pro is less interested in Wallace than in some thesis about English people, then Pro should concede this debate in favor of some more direct approach.
What I was trying to say in regards of Longshanks being the first truly English king was that the Norman aristocracy finally ended by that time.
Historians may have stopped calling the aristocracy Norman by Edward's time because Normandy was no longer a part of the same feudal kingdom as England. Nevertheless, Edward and his peers were descendants of the Norman conquest. It would be false to suggest that Edward was not a Norman descendant or that a tiny minority of French-speaking aristocrats still ruled over an Anglo-Saxon serfdom.
Based on some sources, we can say Longshanks was Anglo-Saxon. "Edward, being an Anglo-Saxon name, was not a common name..." So yes he probably was Scandinavian.
Neither Wikipedia nor any other source states or even implies that Edward was Scandinavian. Being named after an Anglo-Saxon saint is not the same thing as being Anglo-Saxon nor are Anglo-Saxons Scandinavian (they are Germanic), any more than naming my bulldog Pierre would cause him to become a poodle. If Pro has some evidence that Edward was Scandinavian or Anglo-Saxon, he has yet to present it. Nor has Pro explained how Edward's heritage reflects on the inaccurate biography of William Wallace presented by "Braveheart."
You can say this is almost similar to the film. (Regarding the rebellion of 80 Welshmen the week before the battle of Falkirk).
In as much as a few Welshmen rebelled, yes, that is almost similar to the film. If Pro contends that he need only find a few anecdotes that are not entirely dissimilar to the truth in order to establish that "Braveheart" is a piece of true historical fiction, he is mistaken.
Edward did indeed show up at the battle. Whether this was because of what was shown in the movie -- Wallace challenging Longshanks to face him like a man -- and whether the Irish and Welsh did fight with the Scottish as shown in the picture is a mystery.
Nope. No mystery. There is no evidence that Wallace challenged Edward before the battle (since he was trying to hide from Edward and scampered as soon as Edward's army approached, such a challenge would probably have been noted.) Colin McArthur notes that Wallace made "overtures to Edward I seeking less severe treatment after his defeat at Falkirk"  So he did beg for mercy after running away.
There were few if any Irishmen documented at the Battle of Falkirk. Since Welsh bowmen are credited with the destruction of the Scottish pike formations, we know that the Welsh fought with the British.
Scotland may have been brutal, but it wasn't unprovoked. England did indeed intrude on their land.
As Scotland intruded on British lands. After Stirling, Wallace led a large-scale raid into Northern England, sacking towns and landholdings throughout Cumberland and Northumbria.
One last chance, Pro. I have demonstrated that Braveheart is a generally inaccurate biography of William Wallace. At best, Pro has so far only argued that Braveheart did not get every single fact wrong. This is clearly not a standard that approaches "true historical fiction." Indeed, Pro has made no effort to define that standard. Pro seems to prefer to focus on the portrayal of the English and Edward as cruel. By any modern standard, both the English and Scottish of Feudal Britain were undeniably cruel. This in no way promotes Braveheart as a serious work of biography or an accurate depiction of Wallace's character.
Unless you can provide proof that I've slandered the English, I'll hold you personally responsible for slander. I suggest you concede.
Well, "slander" is Pro's word. My words were "unstated generalization." The statements that have me wondering about Pro's agenda include:
"The English have a history of racism"
"England's history and role in creating racism"
"The English did rape Scottish ladies"
"England was indeed brutal with the Scots"
"England did indeed intrude on their land"
"Braveheart is true whether Anglo-Saxons like it or not"
Further, Pro characterized Edward I as the "first true Englishman" and the first "truly English king." He then labeled that first true Englishman as a "diabolical bigot," "power hungry womanizer" and "the quintessential Klansman."
I have countered by saying that the English were neither better nor worse than the Scottish. In truth, English and Scottish as national identities had yet to emerge in the late 13th century. Both Wallace and Edward were descendants of the Norman conquest and considered themselves French by custom, language, and heritage. Wallace would have been insulted to be called Scottish, that appellation belonging to the native underclass who he held in serfdom and contempt. Likewise, Edward would have been insulted to be called English for the same reasons except that his serfs were Anglo-Saxon.
Pro has ignored these facts in favor of continued generalizations about the English, while never denying that the Scottish and English were essentially the same people. Pro has tried to make Edward somehow distinct from his generation of aristocrats by stating that Edward was Anglo-Saxon (false) and then Scandinavian (also false, except that Normans were themselves descended from Vikings). I get the impression that Pro is not aware that the Angles and Saxons were Germanic tribes distinct from the Vikings and older in origin.
In short, the Scottish Wars for Independence were fought between two warlike aristocracies who shared almost identical backgrounds, motives, and propensities for rape, pillage, and invasion. Whatever distinction Pro is attempting to make between the two sides is hard to credit.
We can let the voters decide whether Pro stayed on the topic of "Braveheart" or wandered off on some tangential agenda.
Anyhow let's see the personal stuff of William Wallace that is true. "The first act definitely known to have been carried out by Wallace was his assassination of William de Heselrig, the English High Sheriff of Lanark" (those this ring any similarities to the movie). Now most likely, he didn't do it because his girl was killed, but we don't know for sure.
Grey's Scalacronica tells us that Wallace was attending Heselrig's court in Lanark at the time of the assassination. How likely would it have been for Wallace to be Heselrig's guest if Heselrig had in fact murdered Wallace's wife? So no, Marion Braidfute was almost certainly not murdered by Heselrig.
[Long cut & paste from Wikipedia entry on the Battle of Stirling Bridge], followed by: Almost all of this happened in the movie.
I wonder if Pro has even read his own cut & paste.... Wikipedia notes that Stirling Bridge was central to the battle. But "Braveheart" has no bridge. Wikipedia has Wallace holding back until half of Surrey's men crossed, then one of his captains charged the disorganized English. Braveheart has the full English calvary charging Wallace's line with Wallace in the lead. Wikipedia notes that "many English soldiers drowned." No soldiers drowned in Braveheart, because there was no river. Wikipedia notes that the Scottish flayed the skins of English and that Wallace wore Cressingham's scalp as a trophy. How different a movie might "Braveheart" have been if it had stayed true to details like this rather than engaging in heroic fantasy?
[Another long cut & paste from Wikipedia entry on the Battle of Falkirk] followed by: All of this is fact.
Yes, the Wikipedia entry is generally factual. Why then does the movie get these facts so wrong? The movie has Edward trying to bribe Wallace into peace when in fact, Edward wanted a battle. The movie has Isabella warning Wallace of an English attack against which he musters, when in fact Wallace was trying to hide and got caught with his pants down.
I asked Pro a couple of times to define the standard by which he could promote the statement "Braveheart" is a piece of true historical fiction. Pro made no attempt to define any standard- probably because "Braveheart" fails any rational test for historical accuracy.
At best, Pro offered a few examples wherein history was "almost similar to the film." Obviously, the same could be said of almost attempt at historical film making and does not set much of a bar. There are many ways in which "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" was almost similar to 10th Century England, but nobody would propose that "Holy Grail" a particularly accurate depiction. In fact, an argument can be made that in spite of 3-headed giants and murderous bunnies, "Holy Grail"'s depiction of legend was more carefully researched and interested in detail than was "Braveheart's".
In the absence of any standard to refute, I offered seven particularly egregious re-writes of history which I consider unforgivable:
1) Primae Noctis was a myth. (Pro has already conceded this point.)
2) Scotland's favorite hero from this time, Robert the Bruce, is portrayed as a traitor in the film. The movie even steals Bruce's name "Braveheart." (Pro conceded.)
3) Wallace is depicted a highland commoner who seeks revenge on the English after they murdered his Dad and raped his wife. In fact, Wallace was just another Norman landholder squabbling with other Norman landholders over who had the right to to take more land and labour from the conquered native inhabitants. (Pro ignored this point)
4) Isabella of France acts as ambassador and falls for Wallace, giving birth to his son as Edward III. In fact, Isabella was a baby in Wallace's time and the suggestion that Wallace is the patriarch of English monarchs is one flight of fantasy that pushes Braveheart out of any serious contention for historical accuracy. (Pro ignored)
5) The Battle of Stirling Bridge is so inaccurately depicted that there is not even a bridge: the movie renames the battle and makes Wallace out to be a stout defender against the mighty English, rather than the lucky exploiter of English stupidity. (Pro ignores the differences, but concludes "Almost all of this happened in the movie".)
6) The Battle of Falkirk is likewise shown to be a stout defense, only overcome by treason and barbarism. The truth is Wallace and his knights scampered as soon as the English approached, leaving the bulk of his army to die undefended by calvary. For this, Wallace was stripped of his title as Guardian of Scotland and lost much of the reputation he earned at Stirling Bridge. (Pro seems to suggest that the movie and the Wikipedia article he cut & pastes from are both factual, ignoring the many contradictions between the two).
7) Showing Wallace and his men wearing kilts is a particularly egregious wardrobe error. Plaid and kilts were worn by highlanders five hundred years after Wallace's time. The suggestion that Wallace was a highlander or belonged to a clan is flat wrong. Besides which, no right-minded knight would wear a kilt on horseback or into a feudal battle, leaving his legs exposed. Details like this demonstrate that the Braveheart is more interested in projecting Hollywood cliché for American audiences than in capturing any authentic details of time or place or biography. (Pro ignored this point).
Braveheart is a great heroic fantasy, but Braveheart is not history. A student wishing to learn about 13th Century Scotland would learn almost no useful facts from Braveheart. A student watching Braveheart would come away with all kinds of falsehoods about Wallace and class and warfare and Scottish nationalism and English treachery. I would argue that this kind of fantasy, clothed as it is with real names and places and events, but without respect for the truth about those places and people, is worse than just making it up.
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Vote Placed by wrichcirw 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: My prior RFD was found wanting as it was under 20 characters in length, so I will explain in more detail my objections to this particular resolution. PRO has burden to prove an impossibility - that something that is fiction (i.e., something that is not true) can be true - this is a priori false, it's akin to saying that 1 =/= 1. PRO's opening and his subsequent argumentation does not resolve this contradiction, meaning that PRO fails to uphold burden on the resolution, no matter what CON argued. For this, I will give arguments and S&G to CON. Please be more careful with the wording of the resolution. Apologies for not explaining this more clearly in my prior RFD.
Vote Placed by ioannesmartinus 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I knew nothing of the historical accuracy of the film prior to this debate, not having given the film much mind at all, but Con was by far the more convincing across the board. Pro's arguments were fairly vague, didn't stick to any real standards to affirm his initial claims, were difficult to read (mostly due to formatting and a bit of rambling), and resorted to accusing Con of slander at one point, despite no such slander occurring. Con, on the other hand, organized well, provided much neater formatting and organization, and simply put forward reasonable arguments.
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