John Balliol

(c. 1250—1313)

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king of Scots (1292–6). The son of John Balliol of Barnard Castle, he was descended through his mother from David, earl of Huntingdon, the brother of William the Lion, king of Scots (1165–1214). The Balliol family held lands in France, in northern England, and in Galloway. These last gave John a stake in Scotland and a number of strong supporters when the crown became vacant on the death of Margaret, the ‘Maid of Norway’, in 1290.

The verdict of Edward I's Parliament at Norham went to Balliol and he was duly enthroned as king of Scots on 30 November 1292. There is every reason to think that this judgment was acceptable to the majority of Scots. Edward I, however, had insisted that all the claimants acknowledged his right to be lord superior of Scotland. Balliol therefore had to perform homage to Edward before his enthronement. Edward's claims were to plague John's entire reign. He faced nine appeals to Edward from disgruntled litigants. Far more serious was Edward's demand in 1294 for military service in his French wars by John himself and all the most prominent nobles of Scotland. Edward was for the moment distracted by a serious Welsh revolt, and the Scots were able to get away with excuses. But it was clear that Edward would not let this go on indefinitely, and the Scottish nobles, distrusting King John, set up in July 1295 a council of twelve which took power out of his hands. The council allied formally with Philip IV of France in October 1295, and prepared to resist Edward by force. From this point, John lost control. In 1296 Edward I took Berwick. Scottish resistance was destroyed by Earl Warenne at Dunbar, and John was forced to resign his kingdom into Edward's hands in July. Balliol was brought a prisoner to London; and the rest of his career had little impact. Balliol himself in 1298 declared formally that he never wanted to have anything to do with Scotland again. In 1299 he was transferred to papal custody and in 1301 was released to his ancestral lands in Picardy.

Subjects: British History.

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