William Wallace's sword isn't his sword? Here's why we shouldn't worry too much about it – Scotsman comment

The provenance of an ancient artefact is seldom entirely without dispute.

The Wallace Sword is on display at the National Wallace Monument, Stirling (Picture: Creative Commons/Buster Brown BB)
The Wallace Sword is on display at the National Wallace Monument, Stirling (Picture: Creative Commons/Buster Brown BB)

King Arthur’s round table in Winchester Castle? It has been dated to the 13th or early 14th century and was repainted in Tudor times. But then, while we do not even know whether Arthur was a real or fictional figure, that is still a historic piece of furniture.

So the suggestion that William Wallace’s sword on display at Stirling’s Wallace Monument may not actually be, er, William Wallace’s sword is not such a shocking revellation.

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William Wallace myths busted

According to Dr David Caldwell, outgoing president of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, the sword had “nothing to do” with the 13th century Wallace, but instead was a “not very good example of a two-handed 16th century sword”. He added it was acquired during the monument’s construction in 1869, even though the experts at that time viewed it as a 16th century weapon.

However, does a 500-year-old sword with a 150-year association with Wallace not deserve its own place in history, even if he never actually held it?

Apparently, the poet William Wordsworth had a part in the ‘origin myth’ of Wallace’s sword – if it is indeed not his – as when he and his sister Dorothy visited Dumbarton Castle, where it was previously kept, they told by a soldier that it once belonged to the great Scottish knight. That, in of itself, is history.

And, maybe, just maybe, the experts are wrong and a long line of soldiers passed on a sword that was, let’s say, “ahead of its time” from one to another, faithfully preserving the memory of its former owner.

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