Designed by Scottish architect J.T. Rochead in 1859, The National Wallace Monument stands 220 feet above Abbey Craig in Stirling, Scotland. The inspiration for the Monument was based on one of Scotland's most famous sons, William Wallace. The foundation stone was placed on June 24th, 1861, and the work was completed with the Monument opened officially in 1869.
Stirling is known as the lowest point to cross the River Forth, fortified by a collection of strongholds, including Sterling Castle and hillforts for protection - one of which sat on Abbey Craig. Portions of this hillfort can still be seen behind the Wallace Monument, which some speculate may have been used by Wallace himself prior to the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
More than 700 years ago, King Edward I of England established himself as a cruel tyrant as he imposed his rule over Scotland. His obsession with ruling Scotland dated back to at least 1286 when Alexander III, King of Scotland, died after falling from his horse. The most likely heir to the Scottish throne was Alexander's granddaughter, Margaret, who was the daughter of the King of Norway. The problem, however, was that she was an infant. The Scottish nobles, fearful of an English takeover, came to a consensus that Margaret should be queen. With a succession crisis at hand, six men were originally appointed as the Guardians of Scotland to help rule after swearing loyalty to Margaret. Unfortunately, Margaret passed away en route to Scotland.
Resulting from this crisis, the Guardians reached out to Edward to help select a king. In exchange for assistance, Edward demanded recognition as Overlord, meaning that he would rule over all people inhabiting Scotland, including the selected king. This presented a challenge to the independence of Scotland as well as an opportunity for Edward. Thirteen Scottish Nobles petitioned to prove their legitimate claim to the throne but only two contenders succeeded - John Balliol and Robert Bruce.
Balliol was crowned in 1292 and subsequently removed from power by Edward in 1296 after he surrendered, blamed for multiple challenges Edward faced from numerous actions taken by the Scottish Nobles. In that same year, English forces took control of several Scottish cities, including Edinburgh and Stirling.
In 1297, the rival countries met at The Battle of Stirling Bridge, and Scotland won the day, under the leadership of William Wallace. Wallace, with a strong determination that Scotland should be free and at peace, worked to unite the nation's clans, and acquired the commitment of its individuals to this cause. This united them in opposition of the ruthless invading King Edward I.
In September of 1297, John de Warenne, the Earl of Surrey, under order of Edward I, marched north to quell the rebellion. Warenne had a formidable force comprised of heavy horse, anticipating a Scottish defeat.
Stirling was the primary entrance point to the north of Scotland and it was here that Wallace and his army were waiting for the English invaders. The bridge, located upstream from the 15th century stone bridge which still stands today, was relatively narrow, only passable for two horsemen side by side.
On the 11th of September, the English had to cross the bridge to move north. As they crossed, Wallace waited until over half the English had crossed before springing their trap. The Scots, equipped with spears, charged down the embankment. Wallace's right flank forced their way along the river to the northern end of the bridge, blocking the English from retreat. The remainder of the English army who made it through the battle, Warenne included, pulled back to Berwick.
For many years more elements were added to the Monument, most notably, the remarkable two-handed Wallace Sword. The sword is said to have been left undisturbed for over a century in Dumbarton Castle, where Wallace was captured in 1305. It is said that King James IV ordered the handle to be repaired at some point during his reign between 1473 and 1513.
In 1888, the Wallace Sword was relocated to its new residence, The National Wallace Monument. Over time, the sword has been symbolic for representing liberty and freedom, virtually as much as the man who inspired the Monument.