If you've seen the movie Braveheart, then you'll remember well that the start of the film featured the emotive love story of Marion Braidfute and William Wallace. The cinematic sequence of events is as follows (SPOILER ALERT):
After a secret courtship, William and Marion wed in secret (to avoid King Edward's prima nocta decree.) In a terrible twist of fate, the lovers are discovered and Marion is killed on the spot by the English. It was William's grief that drove him in the Battle of Lanark where over 200 English (including the Sheriff who murdered Marion) were killed. You can watch a beautiful fan video here but please be warned that it does contain violence:
Watching this love story got me wondering - is the Marion and William love story real? Here's what I found out:
The Braveheart screenplay was written by Randall Wallace and it draws inspiration from the tale originally told by Blind Harry. Blind Harry was a revered Scottish poet in the 1400's who was very much influenced by the tradition of courtly love. His account of the life of William Wallace was written 172 years after his death and is considered by some academics to be fictionalised.
In fact, there is very little historical evidence to prove that Marion exists let alone that she married William. Also, the part about King Edward giving his lords prima nocta (where the lord of an estate is entitled to take the virginity of the women who live there) was made up to vilify the English King. If Marion did live and loved William Wallace, the following events seem to be more realistic (though perhaps more time consuming on the big screen!)
'She was eighteen years old when Wallace first met her in Lanark, where she chose to live after her father's death. Since their first meeting in the Church of St. Kentigern near Lanark, Marion had known to have encouraged Wallace on his verge of liberating his country. As their meetings were discreet, she helped him get in and out of the city unnoticed though secret alleyways. However, it didn't take long for the Sheriff of Clydesdale to hear about the secret visits of the infamous outlaw.
The Sheriff himself was eyeing Marion to wed her to his son. So he plotted against the affair and provoked Wallace by humiliating him in public. Wallace who eventually lost his patience struck the English and began a fight. He took refuge at Marion's house and later escaped to the countryside unnoticed. Knowing Marion's assistance in Wallace's escape, the Sheriff took out his anger by seizing her and putting her to death.
Wallace avenged Marion's death during the same night by breaking into the town and killing the Sheriff and his son at their own residence. It's said that the Scots were on rampage that night in May 1297 which became Wallace's first ever independent assault.'
(Quote courtesy of http://notes.ceneus.com/marion_braidfute)
Wallace biographer, Ed Archer, dispels the Marion and Wallace story believing it to be invented some 200 years after the fact by an acrostic family wanting to gain favour with Mary Queen of Scots. There are many academics who seem to share this oppinion.
But what's your view?
The information and evidence we have at hand today does not conclusively prove the nature of Marion's and William's relationship - one way or the other. Personally, I would love to believe it's true (and a big part of me does!) but I also know this is one mystery that will remain unsolved. If William and Marion were indeed lovers, then it was a secret affair of the heart and history has ensured it will remain that way. That doesn't mean that novelists won't use their imagination though!
PS Marion's name was changed to Murran in the Braveheart movies to avoid confusion with Maid Marion.