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Detail of the Wallace sword on display inside William Wallace monument. Source: Public Domain

Was the Wallace Sword Truly Wielded by the Famous Scottish ‘Braveheart’?

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Many times, evidence of fantastic finds vanishes, leaving behind only legends (think the Tulli Papyrus or Robin Hood’s Hideout). However, sometimes, fabulous artifacts from history manage to survive intact across the millennia. Currently, controversy swirls around the authenticity of one such artifact, the sword of the Scottish revolutionary William Wallace. The Wallace Sword would have been in use at least until the Battle of Falkirk in 1298, possibly until Wallace’s death in 1305. Over the next 700 years, the sword changed many hands before coming to rest in the Hall of Heroes gallery of the National Wallace Memorial. It’s a fascinating tale – if it is the real sword.

The History of the Wallace Sword 

Today, William Wallace (1270-1305) is probably most familiar to people as the man portrayed by Mel Gibson in  Braveheart. A Scottish knight, Wallace was instrumental in the Wars of Scottish Independence, initially as a military leader and then as a symbolic figure. The two wars lasted from 1296 to 1357. At the end of both wars, the Kingdom of Scotland maintained its independence from the Kingdom of England. (Though the two kingdoms would become increasingly intertwined due to royal marriages until they merged to form the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707.)

A depiction of Wallace from H E Marshall's 'Scotland's Story', published in 1906. (Public Domain)

A depiction of Wallace from H E Marshall's 'Scotland's Story', published in 1906. (Public Domain)

The Wallace Sword currently on display in Stirling, Scotland weighs 5.95 pounds (2.7 kg). The blade is 4 feet 4 inches (132 cm) long; with the hilt, the sword is 5 feet 4 inches (163 cm) long. At the base, the sword is 2.25 inches (5.7 cm) wide; at the point, the sword is 0.75 inches (1.9 cm) long.

The Wallace Sword. (Glenn J. Mason/CC BY 2.0)

The Wallace Sword. (Glenn J. Mason/CC BY 2.0)

The Enigmatic Fate of Wallace's Sword

In 1305, Wallace was captured and turned over to the British by the sheriff (later governor) of Dumbarton, John de Menteith (sometimes called  Fause Menteith for this treachery). Here, the legend of the sword becomes murky. It is believed that de Menteith kept the sword or possibly received it back as a token of appreciation from the English.

The Trial of William Wallace at Westminster by Daniel Maclise. (Public Domain)

The Trial of William Wallace at Westminster by Daniel Maclise. (Public Domain)

For the next 200 years, there is no record or mention of the sword. Then, in 1505, records show that King James IV of Scotland paid 26 shillings to an armorer for “the bind of Wallace’s sword with cords of silk” and for the provision of “a new hilt and plummet” as well as for “a new scabbard and a new belt” (Caldwell, 2014). The King’s requests were undoubtedly made because Wallace’s scabbard, hilt, and belt were said to have been made from the dried skin of Sir Hugh Cressingham, the treasurer of the English administration in Scotland. If this is true, the scabbard, hilt, and belt were probably in terrible condition by 1505; even if it is not true, it is still an unsettling thought, especially for an Englishman.

After this, the legend becomes murky once again. In 1644, a sword bearing the description of the Wallace Sword turns up in Wallace Tower at Dumbarton Castle. Erected in 1617, it is not entirely clear why the tower was named after the Scottish folk hero but, at least as late as 1808, the sword was advertised as Wallace’s Sword, as evinced by William Wordsworth notes from his visit to the castle.

Dumbarton rock, castle, lime kiln and the clyde in 1800. (Public Domain)

Dumbarton rock, castle, lime kiln and the clyde in 1800. (Public Domain)

The sword does not reappear until 1825, when it was allegedly sent to the Tower of London to be repaired. At this time, Duke of Wellington (the Master-General of the Ordnance) submitted it to Sir Samuel Meyrick (an authority on ancient swords) for examination. Given the technology at the time, Sir Meyrick could only accurately date the sword’s mountings. So it is not surprising that he concluded “The two-handed sword, shown at Dumbarton Castle as that of Wallace, is of this period, as will be evident to anyone who compares it with that of the earldom of Chester, in the British Museum” – the Chester Sword was used by Edward IV, Prince of Wales, to storm Chester Castle in 1475 (Caldwell, 2014). This dating is accurate so far as the sword’s mountings go, however, historical evidence shows that those were replaced in 1505.

Disturbances Surrounding the Wallace Sword

In 1888, after 19 years of requests, the sword was transferred to the National Wallace Monument. There it has been on display ever since, though not without some disturbances. In 1912, “suffragette Ethel Moorhead smashed the sword case in the National Wallace Monument to draw attention to the women’s cause for the freedom of political expression” (The National Wallace Monument, 2017).

The Wallace Monument near Stirling, Scotland. (Finlay McWalter/CC BY SA 3.0)

The Wallace Monument near Stirling, Scotland. (Finlay McWalter/CC BY SA 3.0)

And in 1936 the Wallace Sword was stolen “by Scottish Nationalists at Glasgow University, who later returned the sword after realizing the distress the theft had caused” (ibid). Finally, “the Sword was stolen again in May 1972 and returned in October of that same year” (ibid). The Sword has also traveled around the world to participate in museum displays, for instance, it went to New York City in 2005 to be the centerpiece for a Tartan Day celebration (BBC, 2017).

Controversy Surrounding the Authenticity of Wallace's Sword

Yet controversy swirls around the sword’s authenticity. Most notably, the sword is so big it could not have been wielded while on horseback. Moreover, even to be wielded on foot, “historians think that because of its massive size, Wallace must have been at least 6 foot 5 [1.96m]; the average height at the time was around five foot seven [1.7m]” (Lawton, 2011).

Was Wallace a towering 6 ft. 5 inches (1.96 meters) tall? William Wallace statue by D. W. Stevenson, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh. (Kim Traynor/CC BY SA 3.0)

Was Wallace a towering 6 ft. 5 inches (1.96 meters) tall? William Wallace statue by D. W. Stevenson, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh. (Kim Traynor/CC BY SA 3.0)

However, as historian David Caldwell points out, “remarkably, the blade, as we now have it, seems to have been welded together from at least three separate pieces” (Caldwell, 2014). In addition, the blade shows heavy use and mistreatment. The repairs needed for the blade itself would be in keeping with the historical evidence we have showing repairs were needed for the sword mountings. In his examination of the blade, Caldwell writes,

“at least two of the pieces do not seem to match up well. The bottom 87.7 centimeters [34.5in] has for the most part a flattened diamond section, unlike the flattened profile of the upper portion, and seems to belong to a relatively narrower weapon… Possibly this amounts to a single-handed blade that has been deliberately enlarged to give it the appearance of a two-handed one. A close date could not be put on such a single-handed blade, but it might well be of thirteenth-century date.” (Caldwell, 2014)

Caldwell continues that the mismatch could have happened accidentally or deliberately to enhance Wallace’s renown.

Symbolic Value Amid Skepticism

David Caldwell, also dismissed the William Wallace sword at the National Wallace Monument, Stirling, as having "nothing to do" with the First War of Independence leader (1270-1305), as expressed in a news report in the Scotsman. During a lecture on Scottish identity, Dr Caldwell also exposed the sword's dubious origins. He said: “As a curator I am used to seeing objects acquire an association that are not necessarily true. “When the Wallace Monument was being built in the 19th Century, there was a great desire to find appropriate relics to go with the great man and they were very hard to find.” He went on to say that, Rev. Charles Rogers, who proposed the monument, linked the William Wallace sword to Dumbarton Castle, despite experts discrediting it as a poor 16th Century example. Caldwell reveals, “It had absolutely nothing to do with Wallace himself but Rogers was desperate. He badly needed some symbol and eventually he managed to persuade himself that this could have been associated with the great man.”

The sword's association with Wallace only dates to 1803 when William Wordsworth was told by a soldier at Dumbarton Castle that it was the warrior’s sword.  The National Wallace Monument's claim of a link from 1305 is disputed by Dr Caldwell.

Despite skepticism, the sword gained respect during the surge of Scottish patriotism in the 1800s. While authenticity remains in question, Ken Thomson of Stirling District Tourism emphasizes its symbolic value, representing Wallace's fight for freedom.

History may never know for certain. Regardless, “Wallace's sword has been of great symbolical importance to people down the centuries. It is on public display in the National Wallace Monument, and every Scot should look at it, study it, and think of what it means in the history of Scotland.” (Elspeth King, quoted in BBC, 2017)

Wallace Monument, Stirling, Scotland - stained glass window, William Wallace. (Otter/CC BY SA 3.0)

Wallace Monument, Stirling, Scotland - stained glass window, William Wallace. (Otter/CC BY SA 3.0)

Following the Sword's Trail

In October, 2017, a new investigation was launched – this time, historians were on the lookout for the last sword used by William Wallace, which is believed to have been presented to him by the King of France.  The weapon was known to have been kept in the parish of Loudoun in Ayrshire, Scotland, for many centuries, before being sold at a private auction in Glasgow in 1930. After that, all traces of the sword disappeared.  Historians had been trying to trace its steps, in the hope that a deal maybe struck and the sword could one day return to its homeland. 

In March 2023, activists from the group This Is Rigged vandalized the William Wallace sword display at the National Wallace Monument during an oil protest, using hammers to inflict damage. As a result, authorities promptly removed the sword from the renowned tourist attraction to ensure its safety. Fortunately, the sword itself remained undamaged; however, specialized designers had to create a new display case, incurring a cost of £10,000. The newly crafted showcase incorporates anti-reflective, nearly invisible glass, allowing visitors an unobstructed view of the legendary sword and its intricate surface.

Top Image: Detail of the Wallace sword on display inside William Wallace monument. Source: Public Domain

By Kerry Sullivan


Around Scotland, Wallace and Bruce. 2017.   Scottish Wars of Independence. Available at:

Caldwell, David H. 2014. The Wallace Sword. The Wallace Book. Ed. Edward J. Cowan. Edinburgh: John Donald, 2014. N. page. Print.

Lawton, Daniel. 2011. William Wallace. The Cutting Edge. Available at:

Stirling Council. 2023. Historic sword returns to National Wallace Monument. Available at:,where%20it%20belongs%20in%20Stirling.&text=Pictured%20holding%20the%20legendary%20sword,Manager%20at%20the%20Smith%20Museum.

Stirling Tourist Board. 2017. The Wallace Sword. Wallace Monument. Available at:

The National Wallace Monument. 2023 . Historic sword returns to National Wallace Monument. Available at:



DanTaylor1's picture

William Wallace wasn't handed over to the 'British’.  He was handed over to the English.  'British’ refers to all of the nations in the U.K., and is not another term for England.

William Wallace was never called "Braveheart" that was Robert the Bruce

Enjoyed this arrival. Would like to see more.

Frequently Asked Questions

William Wallace is remembered for leading the Scottish resistance forces during the struggle to free Scotland from English rule.

William Wallace, the hero and freedom warrior of Scotland is said to have battled for his people with the Wallace Sword and paved the path for Robert the Bruce to bring independence to Scotland after his death in 1305. It is also said to have been used in both the Battle of Stirling Bridge (1297) and Falkirk (1298).

The fabled Wallace Sword, one of Scotland's greatest treasures, is back in Stirling, returned to the National Wallace Monument in May 2023.

Kerry Sullivan's picture

Kerry Sullivan

Kerry Sullivan has a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts and is currently a freelance writer, completing assignments on historical, religious, and political topics.

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