In 1286, the death of King Alexander III left the throne of Scotland vacant, which evoked intense contention amongst Scottish nobles who claimed their right to the throne and led them to ask King Edward I of England, better known as King Longshansks, for advice. Surprisingly, King Longshanks declared himself their king, and this led to a lengthy war between the two nations. Compared to early letters, films, such as Braveheart, depict King Longshanks as a devout adversary of the Scottish people instead of praising his unique characteristics.
Early English sources have depicted King Longshanks as a mighty and grateful monarch, while later ones, specifically mainstream media, have portrayed him as a ruthless tyrant. In the 1995 movie, Braveheart, the director, Mel Gibson, intends to tell the story of the Scottish Wars of Independence from the perspective of William Wallace, a Scotsman. As a result, Gibson portrays King Longshanks as a ruthless king who suppresses the rights of the Scottish people by attempting to incorporate Scotland in his kingdom.
First and foremost, Gibson implies the brutality that King Longshanks indirectly inflicts on the Scottish people when one of his soldiers kills Wallace’s wife after she refuses to sleep with him. The soldier murders Wallace’s wife because she failed to comply with a right that King Longshanks gave to his soldiers. Furthermore, Gibson cements King Longshanks’ role as the primary antagonist in the film when King Longshanks has Scottish nobles betray Wallace in a battle against the English at Falkirk and in the ultimate capture of Wallace.
Lastly, Gibson depicts a scene in which King Longshanks dies and refuses to grant the Scottish people their freedom and Wallace his release. This scene conveys the animosity that King Longshanks exhibits toward the Scottish people throughout the film. Gibson focuses on illustrating King Longshanks in this manner to strengthen the romance that occurs in this film and provide a reason as to why the Scottish people fought for their independence.
In attempting to establish the firmness and greed that King Longshanks possessed when attempting to enlarge his kingdom, Gibson displays scenes in which King Longshanks treats his English subjects unfairly and in the same manner that he treated the Scots. Gibson portrays Longshanks as being abusive towards his son, Prince Edward II, who expresses a desire in having relationships with males which would not provide King Longshanks with an heir to succeed him.
As a result, King Longshanks offers to impregnate the Princess of France in order to have a legitimate heir inherit his throne. According to history, Prince Edward II actually had four children with Princess Isabella of France (Ray 25). Consequently, this inaccuracy alters the true image of King Longshanks I and detracts from the overall reliability of the film when obtaining information that concerns the demeanor of King Longshanks during the Scottish Wars of Independence.
Moreover, Gibson continues to present a negative image of King Longshanks in the film during a scene in which King Longshanks tells one of his high ranking officers to have the archers fire their arrows into an ongoing battle between his own troops and the Scottish soldiers, which resulted in the deaths of the Scottish soldiers in addition to his own soldiers.
This scene also reveals an inaccuracy on Gibson’s behalf because King Longshanks considered his soldiers to be a part of his priorities in reality, and he made this evident when he instructed the Churches in England to lower the debts that he owed them so that he could supply each of soldiers with a sufficient amount of rations to survive (Bachrach 439).
By equipping King Longshanks with characteristics that were inconsistent with those he actually displayed in reality, Gibson strongly implies that he intends to display the Scottish soldiers as heroes who fought for rights entitled to them and to portray King Longshanks as the villainous character who desperately tried to withhold those rights from the Scots. In addition to Gibson’s intent for constructing Braveheart, Gibson’s apparent motivation for creating the film serves as the origin of his perception of Longshanks.
Gibson’s distinct representation of King Longshanks and his respective soldiers as the enemies of the Scottish people in the film implies that Gibson created this film in order to convey the belief that Scotland should be a separate country from the United Kingdom. By detailing the Scottish Wars of Independence in the film, Gibson alludes to the 18th century inclusion of Scotland in the United Kingdom and implies that Scottish people today experience oppression as a result of being under English rule.
In order to effectively establish his position, Gibson uses Longshanks to represent the English government today and how both sought to exert their rule over the land of Scotland. In a 1305 letter, James Stewart, the former Steward of Scotland, decides to surrender to King Longshanks after fighting alongside the Scottish in the Scottish Wars for Independence. As a result of the diction that Stewart uses in the letter when announcing his submission, one can assume that King Longshanks possessed an adamant and merciful demeanor.
Stewart portrays King Longshanks with the precedent mannerisms when he states, “And albeit that, moved by pity towards me, he has granted me a special grace, and beyond what I have deserved in this matter, as to my pardon of life and limb, and of release from imprisonment” (Stevenson 495). Even though Stewart implies that King Longshanks embodied those characteristics and exhibited them towards him, Stewart’s document cannot be viewed as a reliable source in constructing an image of King Longshanks because of Stewart’s motivation for writing the letter.
Since King Longshanks “granted him a special grace,” Stewart writes the letter in order to strengthen his stance among the English and most importantly, King Longshanks because of the fact that he initially fought with the Scottish in the Scottish Wars for Independence and fighting with them damaged his reputation among the English. Stewart also alludes to King Longshanks’ greatness when he constantly refers to him as his “lord. He also does this when he states, “I have submitted and do submit myself entirely to the will of my said lord and will grant that he should do to my body and whatever I have or can have, and all the lords…which were mine” (Stewart 495). Even though Stewart asserted that King Longshanks provided him with grace, his untimely death in 1309 seemed very alarming since he surrendered to King Longshanks four years prior to his death (Richardson 356).
Although Stewart’s letter conveyed imperative details about King Longshanks, his motive in writing the letter and his untimely death severely crippled the amount of information provided about King Longshanks’ character that could have been relied upon. In a 1304 letter, King Longshanks appears to be a grateful monarch and far removed from the unforgiving and ferocious image of him in Braveheart. First and foremost, in the letter, Longshanks expresses his gratitude to Robert the Bruce, a Scottish noble, when the Bruce decides to ally himself with John de Segrave, an English General, and combat the Scottish army.
Additionally, King Longshanks’ intent for writing the letter only offers a distinct portrayal of him as an appreciative individual and provides a certain image of King Longshanks, much like Braveheart. However, the letter indirectly depicts King Longshanks as ravenous for the land of Scotland when he states, “For if you complete that which you have there begun, we shall hold the war ended by your deed, and all the land of Scotland gained” (Halliwell-Phillipps 23).
Although the letter explicitly states that King Longshanks sought to gain the land of Scotland, it does not allude to nor does it state his other motives in having the war concluded. In addition to gaining Scotland from the war, King Longshanks also desired to maintain his reputation among other nations as a stalwart military leader, and King Longshanks decided that he had to defeat the Scots in order to keep that reputation (Santiuste 149).
In addition to letters from the 14th century, compositions from the 19th century, such as A Child’s History of England, advance a positive perspective of King Longshanks. Charles Dickens, the author, characterizes King Longshanks as an exceptional king who partook in the formation of Great Britain as a powerful and respected nation. Dicken’s representation of Longshanks occurs when he states, “He was, in general, a wise and great monarch, under whom the country much improved” (Dickens 80).
In addition to that, Dickens further presents King Longshank’s greatness when he says, “King Edward’s fame had been so high abroad that he had been chosen to decide a difference between France and another foreign power” (Dickens 82). Although Dickens intends to emphasize King Longshank’s greatness in his book, he still remains factual when referring to King Longshanks’ reputation overseas. During the 14th century, King Longshanks maintained a considerable prominence among European nations because of his roles as a statesman and soldier in the past (Santiuste 3).
King Longshank’s prominence led to Scottish nobles relying on him to decide whom the heir to the Scottish throne would be. Dickens mentions this in his book when he states, “King Edward being much renowned for his sagacity and justice, it seems to have been agreed to refer the dispute to him. He accepted the trust, and went, with an army” (Dickens 83). In spite of the fact that King Longshanks deceived the nobles when he declared himself the Lord of Scotland, the nobles did refer to him because of his wisdom and the friendship that he had with their deceased king (Santiuste 18).
Similar to the other letters that focus on King Longshanks’ superb qualities, Dickens’ representation of King Longshanks in A Child’s History of England highlights the greatness of King Longshanks’ reign and his affairs with other nations. By presenting King Longshanks as an exceptional king, Dickens’ book would be considered as a subjective one because it does not offer a proper description and analysis of all of King Longshanks’ actions towards those he interacted with.
Over time, accounts and perceptions of King Longshanks have changed as a result of varying agendas and positions toward him that appear in the format of letters and mainstream media. The variation among the agendas of those who sought to present him have resulted in an array of opinions formed by the respective audiences of the authors who referred to King Longshanks in their compositions. Because of alternating reports over the years that focus on certain aspects of King Longshanks’ character, two different images of him appear in several time periods. ?