IT is the romantic tale which has captivated the minds of generations, telling of the love affair between a native American princess and the young British explorer whose life she saves.

But now exactly 400 years on from the death of Pocahontas, it turns out the famous Disney film of the heroine was almost derailed by plans to make some of the English characters Scottish.

Having fallen in love and allegedly saved the life of the adventurer Captain John Smith, she later married another Englishman, John Rolfe. Her funeral was held on March 21, 1617, at Saint George’s, Gravesend, where she is buried.

The quintessential Englishness might have been central to the tale, but not as far as Disney is concerned. Mel Gibson provided the voiceover as John Smith in the 1995 cartoon version and it has now emerged that Christian Bale’s character, Thomas, was almost cast as Scottish.

Bale revealed: “When I first started, the directors played with Thomas being Irish and Scottish and younger than I am, so I had to raise my voice and do different accents. But the more we did it, the more he became like me – older and English.”

Another star of the animation, Billy Connolly, has also revealed that it was his dulcet tones in the cartoon that prompted Gibson to bring him into Braveheart to do the voice of King Robert of Scotland.

Connolly was also cast in the animation as an English sailor and settler called Ben. The comedian said: “I did the movie in my Scottish accent. “I tried him as a Londoner, but it hurt my throat so much so that I couldn’t speak. As Ben the sailor, I shout all the time anyway, at sea or in battle.” He told of the toughest part of the role: “It was the embarrassment of standing all alone with a microphone in a huge barn, with people looking at me through glass windows. There I was, by myself, yelling my lines, singing, ‘heave to, my hearties!’ I thought, ‘I’m a loony, a nutcase’.”

The most exciting part was meeting the star of the film, Gibson: “He was in the studio and heard my voice, so he hired me to do a voice-over for a part in his movie Braveheart. I do the voice of King Robert of Scotland. ‘See, Mom, I told you I’d be king someday!’ It was not lacking in grooviness.”

A series of events are planned to mark the 400th anniversary of Pocahontas’ burial in Gravesend this week.