Sunday, March 26, 2006

Braveheart

A quick thought. Not in any way whatever to detract from the brilliant Mel Gibson movie "Braveheart", but I came across something the other day which reminded me that the title of the movie is a teensy-weensy bit off historically.

The true "Braveheart" of Scotland was not the valiant William Wallace, but his equally bold and more able successor, King Robert the Bruce, who defeated the English at Bannockburn in 1314 and won Scotland's independence. The way the name came about, after the Bruce's death, was as follows:

When the Bruce died of natural causes after a long life of courageous leadership, as was the custom of the time, his heart was removed, embalmed, and placed in a gold casket. The Bruce had vowed to go on Crusade to the Holy Land but had never made it, and his dying wish was that his heart should rest in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The man who volunteered to fulfill this dying wish of his former commander was Sir James Douglas, also known to history as "The Black Douglas" for his ferocity in fighting the English during the wars of independence.

On the way to the Holy Land, Sir James, warrior that he was, got sidetracked into a battle against the Saracens in Spain, which was at that time still half occupied by Islam. His small party was surrounded on an open plain by a huge force of Muslims, and the Scots were pretty obviously done for.

The Black Douglas then took the gold reliquary containing the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce and hurled it as high and as far as he could, right into the massed enemy. Then he drew his sword and shouted, "Lead on, brave heart, in death as ever thou didst in life!" He charged into the Muslims and cut his way through his foes left and right until he reached the fallen relic, collapsing on top of the small box and dying of a dozen wounds.


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