Historical figures

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A clan parade in Edinburgh.
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  • Mary Queen of Scots' deathmask on display at Lennoxlove House, East Lothian
    Mary Queen of Scots' deathmask on display at Lennoxlove House, East Lothian
  • The Robert the Bruce statue at Bannockburn
    The Robert the Bruce statue at Bannockburn
  • Statue of Rob Roy MacGregor
    Statue of Rob Roy MacGregor
  • Statue of William Wallace, Aberdeen
    Statue of William Wallace, Aberdeen

Scotland’s ancient and often turbulent past has thrown up some fascinating historical figures that have lived incredible lives. Today there are a wide range of visitor centres and attractions across the country recounting these captivating stories about romantic troubles, the early struggle against England and the execution a queen.

William Wallace c.1270 - 1305

Born in Elderslie, near Paisley, William Wallace would become the leader of the Scots' resistance against the English occupation at the beginning of the Wars of Independence. He defeated the army of Edward I at the battle of Stirling Bridge. He was eventually betrayed and executed in London. There is a monument to him in Stirling which tells the story of his life and you can climb the 246 steps of the tower for spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

Bonnie Prince Charlie 1720 - 1788

Prince Charles Edward Stuart also known as ‘The Young Pretender’ or ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ was born in Italy. He was the grandson of James VII of Scotland and II of England and led the ill-fated Jacobite rebellion of 1745 which, despite being a much smaller army than expected, managed to reach Derby. The rebellion was effectively crushed at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. He was a fugitive in the Highlands before returning to France. As he lay dying in Rome, a piper played Lochaber no More in the court yard outside.

Robert the Bruce 1274 - 1329

Born in Turnberry Castle, he was a key figure in the Wars of Independence against English occupation. Bruce was crowned in 1306 and reigned until his death in 1329. The Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 was one of the main turning points of the war and there is a National Trust visitor centre at the site near Stirling.

Mary Queen of Scots 1542 - 1587

One of the most enduring figures in Scottish history, Mary Queen of Scots was born in Linlithgow Palace, but brought up in France as a Catholic. She returned to Scotland on the death of her first husband King Francis II of France to reign in what would become a turbulent period in Scottish history. After two marriages which were political disasters and the appointment of an Italian First Minister, she fled to England where she was imprisoned by her cousin Elizabeth I. Mary was executed at Fotheringay Castle in 1587.

Rob Roy Macgregor 1671 - 1734

This famous freebooter from the Trossachs area also participated in the 1715 Jacobite uprising. Sir Walter Scott immortalised him in the book of the same name. There is a visitor centre in Callander, which tells the story of his life, and his grave is situated in nearby Balquhidder.

Flora MacDonald 1722 - 1790

Born on South Uist, she was made famous for her part in sheltering Bonnie Prince Charlie on his escape through Scotland. She disguised him as her Irish maid Betty Burke, when he had a price on his head of £30,000. Later in life she emigrated to the United States but she returned to Scotland in 1779.