William Wallace hung, drawn and quartered after 'misunderstanding'

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WILLIAM WALLACE was brutally hanged, drawn and quartered because the English King Edward I - the infamous "Hammer of the Scots" - believed he wanted to be the king of Scotland, according to new research.

Historians from Glasgow University have uncovered new evidence to show that, as far as the English were concerned, the Scots patriot wanted to be king.

The accounts of King Edward I's Exchequer for the financial year 1304-5, known as the "Pipe Roll", describe Wallace as, "a robber, a public traitor, an outlaw, an enemy and rebel of the king, who throughout Scotland had falsely sought to call himself king of Scotland".

The newly discovered document also marks the earliest record of Wallace's gruesome execution.

Researcher Dr John Reuben Davies made the discovery as part of a study of cross-border society and Scottish independence during the years 1216-1314, involving researchers from the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, King's College London and Lancaster.

Dr Davies said: "In the pipe roll there is an entry which has until now gone unnoticed - it is the account for expenses incurred in the execution of William Wallace and for taking his quartered body to Scotland.

"The record shows quite vividly the extent to which English civil servants saw Wallace's trial and execution as an extraordinary event, so exciting that they broke from their usual routine to note down the details in what would normally be a dull record of income and expenditure."

Dr Davies, whose report is entitled The Breaking of Britain: Cross border society and Scottish Independence 1216-1314, said that although it may have been the English view that Wallace was a pretender to the throne, Wallace himself may not in fact have had any such aspiration.

He said: "This is a startling revelation. The view presented in Scottish histories has always been that Wallace never sought the Scottish crown, and certainly never called himself king of Scotland - a view not explicitly contradicted in English sources.

"However, we should treat this account with caution - Wallace was always scrupulous, in the very few documents issued in his name, to say he acted on behalf of King John Balliol."

Stirling historian Craig Mair said: "It's a fascinating discovery but I don't think this changes the perception of Wallace that we have in Scotland - that Wallace was a Guardian on behalf of the imprisoned Balliol.

"This claim doesn't sound like a piece of propaganda, however, as it would not have been a public document. So the English may well have misunderstood the role of Guardian."

Dr Davies, a research associate at Glasgow University, said he made the discovery during a visit to the National Archives at Kew.The reference to Wallace's death appears in a 44-page book recording payments made by the "king's wardrobe" - the largest office of the royal household, which travelled with the king, and was responsible for spending the greatest proportion of his revenues.

The previously unpublished Latin text records a payment of 15 shillings to Lord John of Seagrave, Edward's lieutenant in Scotland for taking his body back to Scotland to be displayed as a deterrent to others.