The motto carved in a magnificent hand seal listed for sale at myfamilysilver.com gives a clue to its historic origin. Pro Libertate – For Liberty – is the motto of one of the most romantic of all the Scottish Clans: Clan Wallace, whose legendary forebear William Wallace famously defeated the might of the English army at Stirling Bridge in 1297.
Wallace’s exploits during the Scottish War of Independence infuriated the English king Edward I who wreaked terrible revenge when his nemesis was eventually captured. Wallace was taken to London where he was hanged, drawn and quartered in 1305. His grisly execution was intended as a warning to the Scots; however, it only served to cement Wallace’s heroic status in his own country as a heroic freedom fighter: a reputation which reached international proportions in 1995 with the release of the hugely successful biopic Braveheart starring Mel Gibson as Wallace. Despite a glaring lack of historical accuracy and its perceived xenophobia towards the English, the film introduced large audiences to the internecine struggles of medieval Scotland, winning 5 Oscars including Best Picture.
In addition to its rallying and inspiring motto, the crest for Clan Wallace as depicted by the hand seal - a dexter arm vambraced, the hand brandishing a sword all Proper - is also suitably warlike and a legacy of a heroic past.
Today, the Clan Wallace extends across the world and can count many tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of extended family members. However, the seal, which dates to the mid-nineteenth century and is set with a beautifully carved Bloodstone seal, was clearly created for a very high profile member of the Clan at the time. Maybe even for the Chief of the Clan, a position occupied today by the 35th incumbent of the title: Ian Francis Wallace of that Ilk. It serves as a reminder of the historic origins of many family crests and of the many romantic and exciting stories which link them.