The year is 1297.
In a Scottish town, the villagers are celebrating the wedding of Sir John de Mentieth and his bride Dee, when the feared treasurer of the English King Edward I, Hugh de Cressingham, turns up unexpectedly. He demands that Sir John de Mentieth pay the taxes due and finally swear an oath of allegiance to the English king. As Mentieth will not comply, Cressingham demands that he spend the night with de Mentieth’s bride. A fight ensues between the opponents. At this moment, William Wallace appears on the scene, rushes to Mentieth’s side and drives the english off. The village community cheers the saviour, but the village council worries about the future of Scotland. Wallace convinces them that it is time to fight back against the English oppressors. He would rather die fighting for freedom than continue to live under foreign bondage.
Meanwhile, the English King Edward I is facing financial problems. His wish for higher tax revenues is not granted by the nobles, the clergy and the citizens of the country begin to revolt and England is on the brink of civil war. Ignoring all these problems, he goes to battle on the continent with a small army and places the leadership of his empire in the hands of Thomas Lancaster. He allowes him to set an example of the rebellious Scots.
On 11th September 1297 the battle of Stirling takes place. An overpowering English army under the leadership of Cressingham is crushed by the Scots,
led by William Wallace and Andrew de Morray. Wallace becomes the leader and idol of the oppressed Scots.
When Edward returns unsuccessfully from the war with France, he is furious to learn that Cressingham has suffered a defeat at Stirling. He now faces a two-front war. The scheming wife of Lancaster has the saving idea: the widowed Edward should marry the half-sister of the French king in order to reach a peace agreement.
But Wallace also wants to ally with France against England and so a small Scottish delegation sets off across the Channel. At the French court, Wallace meets Margaret, the aforementioned half-sister of the French king.
Both are fascinated by each other and fall in love. The Scottish mission is successful, France allies with them and even the Pope supports the Scottish efforts for independence. Back in Scotland, William Wallace is appointed „Guardian of the Scots“ and a boisterous feast is celebrated.
The next morning, the Scots are awakened by a surprise attack by the English.
This time the army is led by Edward himself, and thanks to their new longbows the English, from a safe distance, are able to destroy the Scottish army.
Edward, in the thrill of victory, now decides to marry Margaret in order to humiliate Wallace once and for all and to reach a peace treaty with France.
Margaret has to travel to England for her wedding with the unknown king, while she is secretly in love with his archenemy. Her confidante Jeanne de Saint-Martin consoles her, advises her to forget Wallace and submit to fate.
Meanwhile, William Wallace roams restlessly through the Scottish Highlands. He searches for allies to join his guerrilla war against the English. But even his closest friends advise him to give up and bow to the English crown. He is not to be converted, however, and when he learns that Margaret is to marry Edward I, he feels even more betrayed and emboldened in his fight for Scotland.
A glamorous wedding is celebrated in Canterbury, marred only by the fact that Wallace is still rebelling. Margaret learns that scouts have been sent to Scotland to finally track him down. Desperate, she turns to her confidante.
Most of the Scottish nobles and clan leaders gather in Glasgow to swear an oath of allegiance to Edward I, the English king. Wallace’s closest friends have the idea that only Margaret can persuade him to take this oath as well, and they hope to use a ruse to let the queen in on their plan at the meeting. She allows herself to be persuaded to meet Wallace, however Mentieth has also caught wind of this plan. He decides to betray Wallace. Thus, disaster strikes: While Margaret and Wallace finally come together in the latter’s hiding place, English soldiers advance and arrest the Scottish hero.
In the dungeon, he gets one last chance to submit, but he is not willing to deny his ideals.
Even Margaret, who secretly sneaks into the dungeon, cannot change his mind. On August 23 1305, William Wallace is publicly executed.
The Guardian of the Scots is dead – the legend is born.