Some of the historical mistakes in ‘Braveheart’ (1995)

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Some of the historical mistakes in ‘Braveheart’ (1995)

Mel Gibson leading the clans

Mel Gibson leading the clans

I have been asked by a tolerable number of ‘fans’ if I could list the historical errors made by Mr Gibson in his odd film Braveheart. This is a Hollywood film supposedly made as a biopic of William Wallace, who met a nasty end after challenging the English. He was certainly a patriot and Mel got that part right. I had to watch the whole dreary spectacle of crass mistakes again, but I put on a braveface and summoned a braveheart, and here are some of things I spotted:

Kilts were not worn in battle by the Scots in the thirteenth century.

Scottish tribesmen did not paint their face with woad. This was a Pictish custom certainly, but from the dark ages before the ninth century.

The 13th century kilt

The 13th century kilt

Edward I of England (a magnificent Oscar-worthy performance by Patrick MacGoohan) never threw any of his son’s lovers through an arrow slit in any castle anywhere.

Edward the Second is represented in the film as a pansy, effeminate, squeaking homosexual. He was not. He was six foot two tall, a noted athlete, a winner at the joust and a bisexual who sired the future Edward III King of England with the help of his nasty French wife, who later took a lover, Mortimer; together they planned and carried out the murder of Edward II in Berkeley Castle. The son did away with Mortimer before he was seventeen and slapped his mother up in a convent for the rest of her life.

Scottish tribesmen from the thirteenth century did not carry claymores, which had yet to be invented.

William Wallace was born Sir William Wallace by inheritance. He was not a brave early- socialist peasant knighted by a grateful king of Scotland.

In the film we are privileged to see Mr Gibson himself as Wallace. In the finale, we also see him being hanged, drawn and quartered. Mr Gibson makes a pained grimace or two for the camera, while he is half-hanged, his testicles and tripes are cut out, dangled before his eyes, and thrown on a fire, before his legs and arms are severed from his trunk. This atrocious punishment for traitors employed for three or four centuries more after the time of Wallace, was certain to extract rather more than a pained grimace from the victim.

By | 2013-10-03T16:35:52+00:00 October 3rd, 2013|History of the Cinema, World History|1 Comment

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.

One Comment

  1. viv January 18, 2022 at 10:10 am - Reply

    I think the lack of screams of pain was due to the queen giving him something to ease the pain (in the movie only), but yeah, it probably wouldn’t be enough. They were also not romantically involved, or at least I never heard about such a thing from a historical source.

    But I still wouldn’t call her nasty. A woman who managed and survived so much in the Middle Ages is a hero to me. Or, you know, the only thing I would hate more than being born in the Middle Ages is being born a woman in the Middle Ages!

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