Balliol, John and Edward

The Old Library at Balliol, an Oxford college founded by the father of John Balliol / balliol.ox.ac.uk

The Old Library at Balliol, an Oxford college founded by the father of John Balliol / balliol.ox.ac.uk

John Balliol was born in his native Scotland around 1250, the exact year is uncertain, because of faulty records. When Margaret ‘The Maid of Norway’ died in 1290, John was a claimant to the throne, and was supported in his petition by none other than Edward I (‘Hammer of the Scots’), King of England. The reason for this was probably that another claimant was Robert Bruce, whom Edward had reasons for disapproval.

  Balliol was the claimant chosen and he swore fealty to Edward both before and after his investiture at Scone in 1292. He was then forced to cancel the Treaty of Bingham (signed in 1290) with its guarantees of Scottish liberties. This reinforced his popularity with English rulers but made him unpopular with the Scots.

  In 1295 twelve of the greatest Scottish magnates had taken power out of John Balliol’s hands, and signed an alliance with France, England’s long-lasting foe. It was one of those periods, oft repeated, when France was at war with England. Edward I promptly invaded Scotland with much violence, and took John Balliol prisoner, though what had happened was hardly his fault. Edward thought him treacherous however and made him give up his crown (1296). He was then dragged down into England and jailed first at Hertford and afterwards in the Tower. In 1302 he was released but permitted passage to Normandy, where he owned estates. He died in 1313.

  Edward Balliol was born in 1283, a son of John. In 1332 he led the ‘disinherited barons’ determined to recover their forfeited Scottish estates, by landing with a handful of supporters (around 3,400) at Kinghorne in Fife. Surprisingly, this rag, tag and bobtail force routed the Scottish army at the Battle of Dupplin Moor in Perthshire on the 12th August. The luckless Scottish commander was the Earl of Mar. On the 24 September Edward was crowned king of Scotland at Scone but a matter of weeks later he was himself surprised at Annan and got away by the skin of his teeth by riding bareback on a riderless horse he was lucky enough to find.

  Determined not to be thwarted, Edward made two more entirely unsuccessful bids to invade Scotland during 1334 and 5, and then sadly resigned any claim to the Scottish throne to Edward III of England. It was 1356. He died without heirs.

(Point of interest)

John de Balliol, father of our first-mentioned John, was one of the richest landowners in Britain, as he was a magnate of Norman descent. He is regarded as the founder of Balliol College, Oxford, as he supported and housed several students in that small town after his capture at the Battle of Lewes in 1264. When he died his widow completed his pledge to endow scholars at Oxford, and his house was formally chartered as Balliol College in 1282.

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