Hordes of tourists pour through the gates at Edinburgh Castle every day. Most gaze ahead, their eyes fixed on the massive fortress looming before them as the stream of pedestrian traffic pushes forward. As they arrive at the gates, far too few stop to notice the statues positioned on either side of the main entryway.
Sir William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, two of Scotland’s most celebrated historical figures, stand guard outside the castle. Tinted a greenish-gray with age, the bronze men stare down upon the millions of tourists who enter Edinburgh’s famous attraction each year.
The statues were erected outside the castle in 1929, though the men had been celebrated for centuries before. Both were prominent leaders during the First War of Scottish Independence, which began in 1296 and lasted for roughly three decades.
Sir William Wallace (the statue on the right), famously depicted in the movie Braveheart, was among the first Scottish leaders to revolt against King Edward I of England. After winning the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, he was knighted and named a Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland. He continued fighting against the English reign until his capture and brutal execution in 1305.
Robert the Bruce declared himself King of Scots in 1306. He, like Wallace, fought valiantly during the war. However, unlike Wallace, Bruce had royal ambitions fueling his desire to free the Scots from English rule. After years of successful guerilla warfare, his battles and raids eventually led to the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh–Northampton in 1328, which recognized Scottish independence under his rule—at least, until his death a few years later.