"Braveheart"

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"Braveheart"

Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" dazzled audiences more than historians.

AP Photo/files/Paramount Pictures

When "Braveheart" came out in 1995, it was an instant success. Director and actor Mel Gibson's portrayal of Scotland's hero William Wallace mesmerized audiences and won the movie five Oscars.

The film is set in 13th-century Scotland, when Wallace returns to his homeland to find it oppressed and taken over by the brutal, pagan king of England, Edward I. After the English soldiers kill Wallace's bride, he becomes enraged and driven to lead the Scottish in a revolt to expel the English. Against all odds, Wallace commands a stunning victory against the English in the Battle of Stirling Bridge. As he continues his revolt, he also has a love affair with Isabella, Edward's daughter-in-law.

King Edward, as far as historians know, never instituted the idea of primae noctis (which allowed the British officers to be the first to deflower a new bride) [source: von Tunzelmann]. Also, the Scottish rebels wear kilts throughout the film, which, according to historians, they wouldn't have sported [source: Barta].

Historians find this conjecture about Wallace and Isabella a little hard to swallow given that, at the time the film is set, Isabella was a baby. Similarly, Edward II is featured as an adult when in reality he was merely 13. Furthermore, the dialogue exaggerates the situation between the English and Scottish in the 13th century. Contrary to what the film portrays, the two countries had enjoyed a general period of peace for about a century beforehand, and the Scottish wouldn't have claimed that the country had never been free [source: Silverblatt].

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