Thursday, July 26, 2012

Historical Inaccuracies in Braveheart (The Sad Scottish Truth)


This post is somewhat of an aside, deviating from my regular format of diary-like entries about my travels.  This post is a bit of a rant, a rant about Hollywood and its penchant for historically inaccurate films.  This post is about the time my visit to Scotland opened my eyes to the mirage that is "Braveheart".

 One of my all-time favorite movies... fictionalized.

In preparation for our trip to Scotland, my husband and I watched the classic and exciting film “Braveheart”, about the Scottish hero William Wallace (see my last post about the Wallace Monument).  I love that movie, especially the line, “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”  I love Mel Gibson’s portrayal, I love the blue face paint, I love the romance between Wallace and the French princess Isabella, and I really love when that one guy gets an arrow in the butt cheek because he mooned the English for too long.  

Gotta love the face-paint.

But then I read up on Wallace, both online and at the National Wallace Monument, and became very upset.  According to Wikipedia and a few other movie review sites, the film was nearly all fictionalized, rife with historical inaccuracies! Here is a list of just some of the major errors:

Historical Inaccuracy #1
First and foremost, Wallace was never nicknamed “the brave heart”.  That title was reserved for his peer, Robert the Bruce, whom Wallace is credited with influencing.  So, technically, the movie title infers that it is really all about Robert the Bruce, not Wallace.  Frustrating.

Robert the Bruce - the real "brave heart"?

Historical Inaccuracy #2
The romance aspect of the movie is totally shot.  Wallace, in the film, has an affair with Isabella of France, who is married to Edward the Longshanks’ son, Edward II.  I thought the romance was poignant and just a little steamy.  In reality, if it had actually happened, it would have been totally sick, because Isabella was only 2 at the time of Wallace’s rebellion.  Yuck.  And if she'd really had Wallace's child, as is hinted at in the film, she would win the world record for longest gestation followed by live birth, as her son was born 7 years after Wallace was tortured and killed.

 
No such love story ever existed.

Historical Inaccuracy #3
When Robert the Bruce heartbreakingly betrays Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk, I thought to myself, “How dare you, Robert the Bruce!  How dare you?”  And then it took me a very long time to like him again in the movie.  In fact, I don’t think I ever truly forgave fictional Robert the Bruce.  However, in not-Mel Gibson’s-world, Robert the Bruce wasn’t even present at Falkirk, and never directly betrayed Wallace, although he was very sneaky at playing the political field and working both sides.

Angus Macfayden as Robert the Bruce

Historical Inaccuracy #4
The costumes weren’t even right, for goodness sake!  The Scottish warriors in the movie wore kilts with chunky belts and sashes - a design not introduced to the Scottish highlands until the 16th century.  

Great costumes, just a little before their time.

I love this quote from Wikipedia.  Sharon Krossa, a historian specializing in Scottish heritage, claims that “The events aren't accurate, the dates aren't accurate, the characters aren't accurate, the names aren't accurate, the clothes aren't accurate—in short, just about nothing is accurate.” (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braveheart).  Oh, Mel Gibson, how you fooled us all! 

However, the movie is still really great, and it is inspirational and fun.  It did bolster Scottish nationalism, and got me pumped up about my trip.  I still love it, and nothing beats an arrow to the butt cheek. Too bad hardly any of it was right!

18 comments:

  1. Well well, an historical movie that was inaccurate! It has long been known that movies are rarely accurate, and I think most filmgoers don't expect them to be. The other great success of the time was 'Kingdom of Heaven'. Even less true to fact I would expect.
    True life is usually dull, and is rarely good film material, especially if the film has a long, complex plot, but, as you implied, it was stunningly good entertainment!

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    1. As I said, "Braveheart" is one of my favorite movies, but it wasn't until I visited Scotland and started learning about Scottish history at all the castles we visited, that I realized how off the mark it was. At least Mel Gibson fully admitted he'd used 'creative license' - and yes, with fantastic results!!

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    2. Exactly! He was right to use 'creative license' because if he hadnt the film would be BORING!!

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    3. Agreed - but it IS interesting to see how much is "Hollywood" and how much is fact.

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    4. Did you happen to visit Glamis Castle by chance? Its owned by my family, which is today the family of the queen mother. I've never been there but plan to one day.

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    5. We did not see that one. We did visit Stirling, Edinburgh, Dirleton, Crichton, Tantallon, and Urquhart castles though. Scotland is so full of them, it would take a lifetime to see them all properly! :)

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  2. OMG! I absolutely love the film braveheart, but it really upsets me too if it's not even hardly right! but I have also done some researc and Mel Gibson has said that he changed the truth of Braveheart to make it appealing for the film, otherwise it would just be boring! I agree, i mean, imagine it without the love story and the betrayal! it would be so plain.

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    1. The love story is one of my favorite sub-plots. Icky to think Isabella was only 2 years old when Wallace was actually alive!

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  3. the battle of stirling bridge was completely incorrect, um like ther was no bridge in the movie,,, hte scots ambushed the brits after part of their army crossed the bridge, a river cut the rest of the brit army off...
    and wallace wasnt a peasant living in a sod hut.
    the sherriff killed his girlfriend after wallace stabbed the sheriffs son to death
    wallace wasnt peace loving, he was systematically killing english soldiers he came across in the countryside long before his girlfriend was murdered.

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    1. More good points! Don't use the movie as a historical reference if writing an essay about this time period. ;)

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  4. Crap film that is totally anti English. Gibson is a total racist

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    1. Ok, 2 things here:

      1) I actually guffawed when I read your comment about Mel being a racist because the movie portrayed Longshanks and English in an accurate light! You accuse an Anglo-American of being a racist towards Anglo-Saxons. That term is already tossed about too easily but that is, by far, the most idiotic accusation of racism I've ever seen. EVER!

      2) As stated, the movie wasn't accurate in most ways but it was absolutely spot on in its portrayal of Edward I, Edward II and the English. The English were the bullies of the world for well over a thousand years, just ask the Scots, the Irish, the Welsh, the American Colonies, ask India, South Africa Africa, Australia, etc etc etc.

      My guess is you're English and that it hurts your pride when you hear the truth or see your forefathers portrayed as butchers, bullies, racists and overlords. You have two choices here though- you can either pretend history is made up and believe England is now and has forever been the kind and gentle benefactor of the world OR accept the facts as they are and move on with your life.

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    2. *"However, the movie is still really great, and it is inspirational and fun. It did bolster Scottish nationalism, and got me pumped up about my trip. I still love it, and nothing beats an arrow to the butt cheek. Too bad hardly any of it was right!"*

      THIS right here. The fact the movie opened the minds of movie goers around the world, lit a fire in their soul and gave them link to the their past, makes the mistakes and outright dishonesty acceptable. When movie theaters across Scotland were filled to capacity, and movie goers stood up during the closing credits to sing the unofficial Scottish national anthem, 'Oh Flower of Scotland' and throngs of Scots around the world began to trace and follow their roots back to Scotland, Mel Gibson's artistic liberties were not only forgiven, they should be applauded.

      Oh, and the Battles of Stirling Bridge and Falkirk were wrong as well, lol. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    3. Thanks for that, Kilted Savage! This post was never meant to be inflammatory! I just wanted to educate others, after visiting Scotland educated me! So I am glad you get what I was trying to say. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ And yes, the battle in the movie didn'f even HAVE a bridge! LOL

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  5. what about the passion of christ?

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    1. To be honest, I haven't seen that film, so I can't comment. Sorry. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

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  6. Enjoyed this post, thanks! You may have also noticed that the blue face paint in the film is supposed to suggest the Scottish flag, but the blue flag didn't appear until about the 15th century.

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    1. While this is what is done for current day sporting events, the face painting in the movie is a throw back to the Picts who painted themselves blue before fighting with the Romans.

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