Braveheart Shmaveheart



The film, Braveheart, is an essential weapon in the arsenal of unionist derision. Massively popular worldwide, Braveheart won five Academy Awards and is shown on television regularly. The film arrived in time to coincide with a growing confidence in Scotland’s political ambitions. It is therefore a prime target for Scotland-baters. They take Wallace’s legacy apart – second death sentence – hung, drawn, quartered and defiled.

The only thing the ignorant miss is Wallace sported a full beard. Mel Gibson plays Wallace as the only man in Scotland who owns a razor.

A common, utterly spurious criticism is, it contains factual errors. Good. Drama is not documentary. No one condemns Shakespeare’s version of MacBeth as historically insane though it is. Historians recount MacBeth was one of Scotland’s most popular kings.


Sir Francis, not Charlie!

Who heaps ridicule on Sir Francis Drake’s accomplishments, or the Duke of Wellington, to name two obvious heroes of England’s empire? Who cares if Sir Francis Drake did not really play one last round of bowls unhurried by the approach of Spain’s mighty Armada? Maybe he was in his local quaffing mead. If he was playing bowls perhaps he panicked, fell to the ground in fear chewing the grass, and then, embarrassed said, “Tell people I carried on playing.”

His stoicism perpetuates the myth of the Englishman’s phlegmatic attitude in the face of intimidating forces. I would rather know he froze in shock. That’s human.

Does it matter if Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, (a native of Ireland, but let’s gloss over that uncomfortable fact) did not invent the Wellington boot at all merely instruct Hoby’s, his shoemaker in London, to make his hessian boots watertight? It was Hoby who dubbed them the Wellington, a smart selling ploy.

And on the subject of mythologizing national heroes …


Scott of Epic Screw-up

Robert Falcon Scott, “Scott of the Antarctic,” is celebrated as an iconic “British” hero. There have been any number of filmed dramas made of his life and exploits. Unlike his Norwegian counterparts led by Roald Amundsen, skilled at polar exploration, Scott’s plans and arrangements were lethally incompetent: the wrong date to start his trek to the South Pole, the wrong provisions, the wrong clothing, using horses instead of dogs, man-hauling the preferred way to lug heavy tents and provisions on sledges, tractors whose engine froze solid in an instant.

Only one companion had medical skills. The expedition was a monumental failure. Scott was architect of it. In fact, he was heavily criticised in his day for his plans and for the death of his companions. That was then.

Today Scott is celebrated a hero in the English mould, not an all-time loser of his own hubris. What of Amundsen and his team? Well, he wasn’t English, therefore we have nothing to learn from his undoubted superior skills and tenacity. Forget him.


A wink is as good as a nod

No Scottish historian draws attention to the risible myth of Lord Nelson’s final words, the apocryphal, “Kiss me, Hardy.” Oil paintings depicting his death are given a beatific treatment, part and parcel of a nation’s embellishment of great achievement in extremis. Of course, not much is said of how badly Nelson treated his wife while having that affair with Lady Hamilton. Some things should not be spoken of.

There is plenty of scepticism suggesting one man alone could not have generated naval exactness to the extent that it disciplined England’s navy so precisely it won the battle of Trafalgar without setback or difficulty. Many other brave officers and sailors played their part, plus a few ill-chosen French vessels and Villeneuve’s tactical decisions. (Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, the French Admiral.)

Five of the ships under Nelson’s command were captained by Scots but it’s depicted as an English victory, not a Scottish-British one. The flags that exhorted every man to do his duty did not spell out “for the United Kingdom,” or for Great Britain: “England expects.”

England has a right to its heroes and to their elevation to mythical status but not at the cost of Scotland’s achievers. England is not entitled to demote Scotland.


Aussies playing Brits – never!

An Australian played Elizabeth I twice – Cate Blanchett. The films are so devoid of historical accuracy and filled with crappy dialogue as to reduce them to soap.

An Australian, Russell Crowe, played an English sea-captain in the excellent Master and Commander. The film has him running down a dastardly French warship. In actual fact, and in the novel on which the film is based, it was an American ship. England was at war with America at that period in its history, but as it was a film financed by Hollywood, the poor French became the fall guys. It’s called commercial necessity.

There’s no one to beat Crowe’s brooding intensity when it comes to swashbuckling epics. He went on to play Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, with an iffy north of England accent.

In fact, a previous Australian played Robin Hood to success many years earlier, Errol Flynn. In one scene he rides in a hurry passed 20th century pine aforestation. And in another all-American financed epic, Kevin Costner took on the role, the film mustering a great flub when he sits astride Hadrian’s Wall that, according to the film’s plotting, passes alongside the white cliffs of Dover.


Welsh have their day 

English movie history is littered with wild creative licence. That fine military epic, Zulu, chose to depict the regiment stationed at Rorke’s Drift as Welsh infantry, a rather neat way of concentrating attention on Welsh military culture. It is a spirited interpretation. In reality it was the Warwickshire regiment, a company with more English than Welsh. They did not sing “Men of Harlech.” They sang, “A Warwickshire Lad.”

The Zulu “hoards” are shown as noble savages, ooggy-boogy black fellas, as if blood thirsty American Indians of the kind seen in silent films, without individual character. Those creative flaws did not stop it becoming a milestone in British-American film co-operation. But the film is riddled with historical liberties.

Remember, no one objected to Gibson the Aussie playing Hamlet in a filmed version set outside Edinburgh. That was Shakespeare, after all.

“I cannot bring myself to think of that awful film,” uttered some half-dead earl in the House of Lords. Unlike William Wallace, no one can recall his name. And if that isn’t enough to have colonial  fools choke on their cream teas, a film is planned on King Robert the Bruce. And there’s another on Mary Queen of Scots.

If only the enemies of democracy were honest. It is not what Braveheart does wrong that is objectionable. It is what it stands for that is the real threat.

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9 Responses to Braveheart Shmaveheart

  1. Braveheart is loved on all the continents of the earth especially by the suppressed/persecuted only in UK has it been subjected to the ridicule of lickspittle historians with an agenda to wipe out any wellspring of Scottish culture abetted by half wit journalists and unionist traitors.

  2. “It is not what Braveheart does wrong that is objectionable. It is what it stands for that is the real threat.”

    Yes, but what does it stand for? What does it say about us as a people?

    While I appreciate the point that you are making about English history, you are quite dismissive when it comes to some of our finest historians. I would hardly call Professor Ted Cowan, or Dr Fiona Watson – for example – “obscure academics, funded by unnamed institutions”.

    The issue is not whether ‘the Wallace Myth’ bares any resemblance to the historical fact – in essence the problem is that Wallace represents so much of what we are not – barbaric, bloodthirsty, brutal, viciously Anglophobic and vengeful beyond measure. Blind Harry’s Wallace – the basis of the screenplay- feeds the basest instincts. It extols the ‘virtues’ of violence and hatred. In short, it plays right into the hands of anti-Scottish propagandists – and we know where most of them are, don’t we.

    There are many men – and women – who are far more deserving of the role that the Wallace has held since the 1470s. People of honour, humanity and enlightenment. People who would better represent our cultural sophistication, enlightened thinking and innate humanity. Many of whom have been denigrated and vilified by English ‘historians’ specifically because they represented a far greater threat to the status quo. God forfend that we might be seen as something more than blue-faced, bare-arsed, ignorant teuchters.

    “Braveheart” was – prior to Mr Gibson’s revisionist re-writing of history – always the Bruce, never the Wallace.

    I would hate to be divisive by suggesting one replacement for the Wallace, however, we could do far worse than start with a few like John Napier, Adam Smith (both books mind), David Hume, Adam Ferguson, Thomas Muir, James Clerk Maxwell, John Reid, Elsie Inglis…

    It matters little that the Braveheart film is laughably inaccurate. It dilutes the Declaration of Arbroath – a remarkable document of enlightenment – into little more than a Whitmanesque barbaric yawp.

    We deserve better and should be demanding it loudly – and eloquently!

  3. Grouse Beater says:

    I am dismissive of those who waste time dissecting a piece of fiction for historical accuracy as if historical documentary. A pleasant pastime, but you miss the point, it was exploited to demean a nation. And there were, what you might call pop-up historians, who had not written on a Scottish theme before pontificating at every opportunity. Scottish historians that pointed out flaws were exploited by opponents, used as a stick to beat us. How naïve were they?

    How careful must we be to avoid reactionary anger?

    Are we to subdue all attempts at allegory and symbolism in drama in case we offend the neighbours?

    In an effort to denigrate anything historically sympathetic, even John Prebble was subjected to revisionist history as if out-of-date and irrelevant.

    I await reams of analysis and publications on Wolf Hall, and questions in the House about its authenticity, and endless boredom.

    You mention the Declaration of Arbroath. Getting hung, drawn and quartered means what, exactly, when related to the Magna Carta, of which only two clauses are extant in English law. The rest are ‘ held in respect.?

    Yes, there are other Scottish figures to represent our cultural sophistication, but how can we remedy things when we do not own the means to promote them and their ideas? The work of Adam Smith, for example, has been hijacked and deformed by neo-cons and neo-liberals for decades now, to suit their agenda, until his essential tenets are almost unrecognisable.

    As for characters in ‘Braveheart playing right into the hands of the anti-Scottish;’ opponents show no mercy even when it’s Robert Burns we quote. Their animosity has little to do with William Wallace the warrior as subject matter, everything to do with success being Scottish and applauded. We might get too uppity and need slapped down again.

  4. yesguy says:

    Bravo Grousebeater.

    Braveheart….. 🙂

    What an entertaining read and great repost. Loved the film. Noticed the bridge was missing but humour and script were magic.

    Scots heroes are aplenty. Sadly our kids know little of what this small country has contributed to the world. Even Winston Churchill was supposed to comment that only the ancient Greeks surpassed the Scots contribution. We have every right to be proud of our history. Schools should concentrate on telling our kids .

    The grand old Duke being an Irishman was a hoot. I served a few years with the Dukes of Wellingtons Regiment. Great folk and they knew he was Irish.

    I was told of Scott’s poler expeditions as a school kid many moons ago, but remember Amundson efforts and he won the race. That was taught too.

    Thanks for another cracking read. GB .

  5. yesguy says:

    Oh boy misses the point ….. It’s a Hollywood film that was used against by unionists during the ref.

    But a man fighting for the enemy to leave his lands is a brute or thug. Edward was hardly an angel. Doctors and academics ok fighters.. bad.

    Most folk who want to know the truth can find it easy. You sound like you need a read..

  6. Eilidh says:

    Went to Amundson’s museum in Norway. Really interesting. So enjoyed it.
    enjoyed your post GB.

  7. Grouse Beater says:

    Looked up Amundson’s Fram museum – wonderful purpose built museum. Missed a visit when in Oslo – d’oh!

  8. donald says:

    Braveheart for me is really a means to illustrate an ideal all men and women who are oppressed can relate too. Its how things should be more than how they may have been . People often ask what gives a bankable actor star quality and my reply would be ‘the answer is in the question’.
    They resonate and connect because there is within them a heroic legendary quality . But it often only gets captured on screen when they are in the role . Off camera , they resume human proportions and who can blame them for shying away from the attention.
    We all long for that sense of purpose that raises us up but we dont have the long memory to haunt our voice and eye’s and features .
    Its this connection between the soul of an actor and the story that lends real credibility to the part they play . Connery had it , Russel Crowe has it . They know their part . The question is How ?

    For me that question was answered after long inquiry and the evidence provided was an eye opener to say the least . Cometh the hour ,cometh the man. Again.
    Every face is etched with the memories of the man or woman who carries it. Every mannerism and the unique timbre of their voice . Highlander. Man of destiny.

    Birth certificate’s are no proof of nationality ,they are just bonds that give authority to tax . There is a much deeper source that animates courage and loyalty . The high ground is sought after birth , not before . Longing for what was lost drives the authentic hero , not glory . No matter how far he or she may roam.

    That’s what haunts people who watch Braveheart . Memory.

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