I hate, and I mean hate, historical novels and movies that totally distort history. If one mucks about with a few details, I’ll probably whine about it a bit–no, there were no spinning wheels in 13th century England. But when it comes to totally distorting history, particularly slandering nations and their heroes, I am apt to be indignant.
Suppose someone made a movie saying that George Washington was a traitor who conspired with Cromwell against the Americans. Would that be all right? Well, it isn’t with me.
Which leads to my real pet peeve which is the movie Braveheart and a certain “gentleman” (note sarcasm) by the name of Mel Gibson. Now the English frequently complain that he insulted them and their nation with that movie. He did but that’s another post. In fact, that was nothing to what he did to the Scots. His blatant lies about both Wallace and his even worse lies about Robert the Bruce absolutely infuriate me.
No, the Bruce did not betray Wallace to his death. Neither did his father who was already dead when he supposedly did that. And the idea that at the Battle of Bannockburn, one of the major battles of the middle ages, Bruce was just standing around fiddling with a piece of cloth which convinced him with no planning to fight one of the largest armies ever raised on the island of Britain is just plain absurd and a calumny.
So I will tell you a fact or two facts about Robert the Bruce.
Robert Bruce considered himself the rightful king of the Scots. He refused to ever do anything which would compromise that right. He refused to fight for the man he considered an usurper, which some criticise him for possibly rightly.
After the Bruce was crowned king of the Scots, within a few months he lost a large battle and was pursued for most of a year. During that time three of his brothers were brutally executed. His only child, his wife and two of his sisters were captured and imprisoned in England. His brother-in-law was also executed. Many of his closest friends and associates were executed.
There followed eight years of brutal warfare in which he gradually forced the English out of Scotland. Then came that battle where he supposedly suddenly just took a whim to fight then English–a battle which he spent months planning for.
I do suggest for all of us when we are writing about real characters in the history of real nations that we take a lot of care in how we represent them. They weren’t likely to have been angels of light, and I don’t say to represent them as such. Fiction is to some degree a lie by its nature, but we should be careful in using those lies not to do harm.
End of rant. Happy New Year and good writing to you all.