Edward Balliol

Edward Balliol, (also known as Edward de Baliol), was a pretender to the Scottish throne during the reign of David II. From time to time he was able to establish a temporary hold on Scotland with English military aid; but with little native support his rule was transient and unstable.

Prince of Scotland

Edward Balliol was the son of John Balliol and Isabella de Warenne, daughter of John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey and Alice de Lusignan. Alice was daughter of Hugh X de Lusignan and Isabella of Angouleme, widow of King John of England.

His father, John, became king in 1292, when the contest for the vacant Scottish throne-known as the Great Cause-was decided in his favour by a feudal court held at Berwick-upon-Tweed presided over by Edward I, King of England. Before the matter could be considered Edward had insisted that all of the claimants, who included Robert Bruce of Annandale-the grandfather of the future king-recognise him as Lord Paramount of the realm. Edward used this concession to undermine both the authority of John as a king and the independence of Scotland as a nation. By 1295 matters had gone so far that Scotland broke its connection with England and entered into a formal agreement with France, in time to be known as the Auld Alliance. It is in this treaty that Prince Edward Balliol makes his first entry on to the stage of history.

The alliance between France and Scotland was concluded in Paris on 23 October 1295. It was, in essence a treaty of mutual defence against England, which was to be cemented by a marriage between King John's son and heir, Edward, and Jeanne de Valois, the niece of Philip IV, king of France. The infant Edward was described as the 'future king of Scotland' and guaranteed to be John's heir by the Scots envoys. By this marriage-which never took place-the French were to be given a direct interest in the fate of Scotland and the survival of the Balliol monarchy. But Philip stood aside while Edward invaded Scotland and deposed King John. By the summer of 1296 both father and son were prisoners in England.

The Claimant

In 1299 John Balliol was finally released from English captivity, eventually returning to his ancient patrimony in Picardy. Edward Balliol, however, remained in England, in the custody of his grandfather, John de Warenne, as a guarantee for his father's good behaviour. It is unlikely that they ever met again.

While the former prince grew to manhood in England the political situation in Scotland went through a radical transformation. For some time after the conquest of 1296 resistance to the English was carried out in the name of the Balliol monarchy though this became less and less important with the passage of the years. The year 1306 saw a dramatic new development when Robert Bruce was crowned king, ending forever any prospect of a Balliol restoration. Three years later Bruce's first parliament, held at St. Andrews, declared that he was the lawful heir of Alexander III, and had succeeded to a throne that had been wrongfully denied to his grandfather by Edward I. By this declaration parliament effectively dispossessed the Balliol's, both father and son. John Balliol, in retirement in France, and nearing the end of his life, was obviously never going to return; but his son Edward now became the first and greatest of a new class of nobility, later to be know as the disinherited.

At some point-we cannot be sure when-Edward Balliol was allowed to leave England for the Continent, possibly on the death of his father in 1315. Here he may have remained, forgotten by history, but for the inability of the English to establish control of Scotland by any military means. In 1324 Edward II, in what gives all the signs of political desperation, ordered Balliol to come to England. The exact purpose of this visit is unknown, and nothing came of it. At the very least Edward is likely to have seen in Balliol a way of weakening Bruce's hold in Scotland: if he was not able to defeat him by force of arms, he might well be able to challenge his legitimacy. Further invitations were issued to Balliol, including one in 1327 during the minority of Edward III; but this was a road that was going nowhere, especially after the English recognised the independence of Scotland and the legitimacy of the Bruce monarchy in the Treaty of Northampton. Edward Balliol, who shows no signs throughout this period of promoting his cause, once more slipped into obscurity. There is no reason to suppose that he would ever have emerged from this but for two things: the death of a king and the ambition of an earl.

Henry Beaumont

Bruce's successive military and political achievements had a serious impact on an important group of Anglo-Scottish nobles, men with Balliol and Comyn associations, who continued to fight on the side of the English. After the Battle of Bannockburn the Scottish parliament formally disinherited these individuals. Although they continued to press their cause, they became less relevant as the years passed, and received no recognition at all in the peace treaty of 1328.

Chief among this party was an old soldier by the name of Henry Beaumont, who laid claim to the earldom of Buchan in right of his wife, Alice Comyn. Beaumont was particular tireless in pursuit of his claim, and might be said to have created what gives all the appearance of a disinherited party. On occasion he even fell out with the English government on this issue, when they seemed not to be pressing the matter hard enough. For Beaumont and his colleagues a fresh opportunity came with the death of Robert Bruce in 1329 and the accession of his infant son, David II. In the following year Edward III took full control of the government of England. Edward was known to resent the Treaty of Northampton, and was soon to enter into an understanding with Beaumont. Now was the time to act.

Edward, King of Scotland

Some time between 1330 and 1331 Beaumont conceived a plan to invade Scotland with a private army headed by himself and Edward Balliol, the 'rightful' King of Scotland. With the unofficial support of Edward III Beaumont made contact with Balliol in France, finally persuading him to come to England in late 1331, where he was settled in the manor of Standal in Yorkshire. No official meeting is recorded between Edward and Balliol, but he must at sometime over the winter learned the price he was expected to pay for the King's tacit support. Letters issued at Roxburgh in November 1332 make it plain that Balliol met Edward sometime between the winter of 1331 and the summer of 1332 to pay homage for the kingdom he hoped to win.

Throughout the summer of 1332 men and materials were gathering in several Yorkshire ports. All that was now needed was an opportunity for action. It came on 20 July with the death of Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray, King Robert's old companion-in-arms, and now Guardian of Scotland. Taking advantage of Scotland's leadership crisis the armada of the disinherited set sail at the end of the month, landing soon after on the coast of Fife. On 11 August the army of Scotland was cut to pieces at the Battle of Dupplin Moor, a remarkable victory that first saw the combination of archers and dismounted men-at-arms that was to allow the English to dominate the battlefields of Britain and westen Europe for a century or more. Among the dead was the Guardian, Donald,Earl of Mar. Some at least saw this battle as a sign of divine favour; and on 24 September Edward Balliol was crowned King of Scotland at Scone by William Sinclair Bishop of Dunkeld.

This episode must count as one of the most remarkable political upsets in Scottish history; but even so King Balliol and his little army was far from secure. There was a rising in his favour in the old Balliol patrimony of Galloway. The rest of the country, however, can best be described as subdued but sullen. Galloway was too far from his position in central Scotland to offer much comfort, and his partisans in the south were soon under attack. The sense of isolation was heightened by the fact that there had been no contact with England for several weeks. It was now vital for the new king to re-establish communications with his feudal superior to consolidate his gains. Not long after the coronation the army left Perth in a march south towards Galloway and the English border.

In November Balliol took up residence in the partially ruined fortress of Roxburgh, shadowed throughout his march by supporters of David Bruce. While here he made plain the price he was prepared to pay for English support. The Roxburgh Declaration takes the form of two open letters. In these Balliol openly recognised Edward III as his feudal superior, confirming that he had already performed an act of homage and sworn fealty to his liege lord. He further promised to assist England in military operations both at home and abroad, in return for which he asked for Edward's help in maintaining him and his heirs as kings of Scotland. All of this was important, but the real meat of the Declaration lay in the promise of major territorial concessions. In return for Edward's help to date Balliol promised to cede to the English crown the town, castle and county of Berwickshire. This was to be supplemented by further grants of land in parts of Scotland adjacent to the English border, which were to be separated from Scotland and annexed to the English crown forever. The true extent of this promise was not made clear until the summer of 1334; but the implication was clear enough: Edward Balliol would be the client king of a dismembered Scotland.

In December what was left of Balliol's army was surprised and scattered by the Bruce partisans at Annan with considerable ease. The contempoarary Lanercost Chronicle says of the Scots raiders that "They found the King and his people in bed, like those who were too confident in the safety secured through many different victories already won." The dead at Annan included one Henry Balliol, who is sometimes described as Balliol's brother, though there seems to be no absolutely no contemporary evidence for such an assertion. The king himself was forced into ignominious flight, making a hole in his bedroom wall and finding a horse in the confusion. He escaped, so says the Scots chronicler, Walter Bower, "on a sorry jade, with neither bridle nor saddle, one shank booted and the other bare." However, the promise made at Roxburgh had made it to England before him, carried there by Henry Beaumont. It was to be too tempting to ignore.

King of Seasons

Edward now dropped the pretence, declaring open support for Edward Balliol in violation of the Treaty of Northampton, and thus launching what was soon to be the Second War of Scottish Independence. Re-equipped and rearmed, Edward Balliol led his second invasion of Scotland in the spring of 1333, crossing the border and laying siege to Berwick-upon-Tweed. He was joined there in the summer by King Edward and Henry Beaumont; and on 19 July the Scots were defeated at the Battle of Halidon Hill, a far more devastating setback than that received at Dupplin.

Confident in the completness of this victory Edward was seemingly content to leave to Balliol the task of conquering Scotland with a force no greater, perhaps, than that which had descended on Fife the year before. He may have believed that the Scots, humbled by the rout at Halidon, were more likey to accept their 'king' if he arrived with his own power rather than on an English baggage train. If so, it was a serious miscalculation.

Balliol now enters into a period of about a year's length in which he seems to have exercised at least some royal authority in a country that now had two kings. His occupation of Perth and central Scotland was certainly more secure than it had been in 1332. He was sufficiently confident to summon his first parliament to Scone in September 1333, where the disinherited proceeded to harvest the fruit of their labours. Those who supported David Bruce were to be the new disinherited, with King Balliol revoking and quashing all the deeds and grants of Robert I. The greater the investment in his cause the greater the reward: Henry Beaumont was named as earl of Moray, as well as earl of Buchan, and was appointed Constable of Scotland.

It is difficult to be sure just how much of Scotland the Balliol party controlled in the summer of 1333; perhaps all of the central and southern areas. Fife was firm, with garrisons at St. Andrews and Cupar, the latter commanded by William Bullock, soon to be named as Balliol's chancellor. Galloway was certainly loyal, but not completely secure until the fall of the old Bruce stronghold of Lochmaben Castle. Beaumont was able to return to Buchan, where he repaired Dundarg Castle. And yet even at its most secure Balliol's rule has an impermanent character: attendance of the native nobility at his two parliaments was extremly weak: no accounts have come down to us from his chancellor; and he never issued his own coinage. Throughout this period there was a small body of patriots who would not be reconciled to his rule; but there also seems to have been an even larger group who remained on the sidelines, supporting neither one party nor the other, simply waiting to see how things turned out.

In February 1334 Balliol's second-and last-parliament meeting in Edinburgh formally approved the terms of the Roxburgh Declaration. He met Edward at Newcastle in June when the full extent of his promise became known: almost all of English-speaking Scotland was to be surrendered, eight counties in all, including all of Lothian, Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire, Peeblesshire, Dumfriesshire as well as Berwickshire, all that Malcolm II had gained at the Carham and more. Balliol made no allowance for his own hereditary estates in Dumfriesshire. Edward was gracious enough to order the return of these lands, but to Edward Balliol in a personal capacity, not to Scotland. He was to have a divided rule as king of a truncated Scotland and the English Lord of Galloway.

Although we cannot be certain of any direct causal link, resistance to Balliol became stronger after these concessions became known. More seriously Philip VI, King of France, was starting to take an interest in the fate of his northern ally. David Bruce was given refuge in Normandy, setting up home in Château-Gaillard. Over the next few years French support for the Bruce party grew steadily in strength.

In July, 1334, under the leadership of John Randolph, 3rd Earl of Moray, who had returned from accompanying David to France, Scotland broke into open and widespread revolt. To make matters worse Balliol fell out with Henry Beaumont and some of his other supporters in a dispute over land. With the Bruce loyalists closing in the Balliol government effectively fell apart, with the king once again fleeing towards the safety of England, taking refuge in Ravensworth in late September.

The Hollow Crown

Not yet growing tired of the futile attempts to prop up Balliol's kingship Edward made ready in the summer of 1335 to lead a full-scale invasion of Scotland, thus making good the failures of 1333. He advanced in strength into the centre of the country, but failed to bring the Bruce party to battle. But the English king's main concern throughout was to secure his territorial gains in southern Scotland, rather than consolidate Balliol's uncertain crown. No sooner was the campiagning season over than he returned to England with his army. Balliol, seemingly in a more cautious mood, was soon to follow, leaving affairs in his kingdom in the hands of his lieutenant, David de Strathbogie, the titular Earl of Atholl. In the meantime the Bruce loyalists had appointed a new Guardian, Sir Andrew Murray, the son of William Wallace's companion in arms. On 30 November, St. Andrew's Day, Strathbogie was defeated and killed by Murray at the Battle of Culblean in Aberdeenshire, effectively nullifying the effects of Edward's great summer invasion. Once again the Balliol kingdom unravelled. Balliol spent the winter of 1335-6, so says the Lanercost Chronicle, "with his people at Elande, in England, because he does not yet possess in Scotland any castle or town where he could dwell in safety."

Further military efforts were made by Edward on Balliol's behalf in 1336, though on a smaller scale. He carried out a destructive raid in the north-east of Scotland to prevent it being used as a base for a possible French landings. Balliol was settled once again in Perth and a ring of fortresses constructed from Aberdeen to Glasgow. In many ways this was little better than a shoring-up operation, for the king already had a least an eye and a half on France. Scotland and its problems was becoming one of the tributaries of a great torrent that in time would be known as the Hundred Years War.

Balliol himself was well on the way to becoming little more than a rather akward figurehead. Both his political value and his credibility were close to exhaustion, and Edward seems to have had little trust or confidence in him. When the king left Perth command of the English forces was given to the Earl of Cornwall rather than Balliol. When Cornwall died in October 1336 command of the town passed on Edward's insistence to Sir Thomas Ughtred. Balliol spent his time trying to widen his dangerously narrow base of support in Scotland. He tempted the neutral John, Lord of the Isles, chief of the Macdonalds, to join the war on his behalf by an extensive grant of lands. John was happy to take the land but made no effort to assist his beleaguered benefactor. Balliol spent the winter in Perth, according to Lanercost, with "an extremly modest following". In May 1337 he lost only remaining base of support in Scotland when Eustace Maxwell and the men of Galloway, clearly aware of the decline of English power in the north, decided to change their allegiance. One by one the remaining English strongholds were reduced by Murray, so much so that by the time of the Guardian's death in 1338 Balliol's kingdom comprised the town of Perth and little besides. Even Henry Beaumont grew tired of the enterprise, accompanying Edward on his first expedition to Flanders, where he died in the spring of 1340.

Decline and Fall

With the outbreak of the Hundred Years War in 1337 Balliol was left in the north, less of a king and more of a frontier guard. He left Perth in 1338, never to return. Under siege by the Scots, the town finally surrendered in August 1339. Prior to this Balliol had attempted a relief; but not strong enough to intervene he hovered ineffectually in the wings, achieved nothing and returned to England. The best he was able to do at this time was to establish a somewhat shadowy rule as Lord of Galloway, where a manor house was built for him on Hestan Island at the entrance to Auchencairn Bay. It was completed in 1342, command then being given to Duncan MacDouall.

By 1341 the Bruce faction had recovered to the point where King David, now grown to manhood, was able to return from France and take charge of affairs in person. His rival for the crown now became a figure of very little substance, flitting in and out of the English records over the next few years. Galloway and Hestan was lost in 1345. His last great opportunity came in 1346 when David in answer to an appeal from King Philip, reeling under an English invasion, led an army into England and defeat at the Battle of Neville's Cross. David was taken prisoner, destined to spend the next eleven years in English hands.

The capture of David Bruce was highly damaging. He was the first Scottish monarch to be captured in battle since William the Lion in 1174. On that occasion the English king, Henry II, had used his prisoner to extract major political concessions from Scotland. Edward now had a chance to end the long Bruce and Balliol struggle in favour of his negelected protégé. Two thing's acted against this: Edward was too heavily committed to the war in France to permit any immediate intervention in Scotland; and second, the king, always quick to see a chance for profit, was soon to realise that David was a greater political and financial asset than the hopeless Edward Balliol, who on past experience was not acceptable to the Scots on any terms whatsoever. The irony of Neville's Cross was that, in the long run, England came to recognise the legitimacy of the Bruce dynasty, however grudgingly, while allowing the claims of the Balliol pretender to wither and die.

There is some evidence that Balliol was at Neville's Cross, but it is not conclusive. If he was it must have been in a subordiante role, for he exercised no significant command as he had at Halidon Hill. He was, however, keen to take advantage of the new situation to breath life into his moribund cause. Soon after the battle he entered Galloway, taking up residence in Caerlaverock Castle in preparation for more decisive action. But it is fairly obvious that Edward's interest in Scotland from his camp at Calais in 1347 was limited to recovering the lands ceeded by Balliol, rather than restoring the latter to the Scottish throne. So when the expected invasion came in the spring of 1347 it was a modest affair with limited aims.

Balliol was allowed to recruit troops in northern England at Edward's expense, for what was to be his last Scottish campaign. But there were clear limits on the amount that could be spent. He was able to recruit a little under 1000 men-at-arms and archers, a tiny fraction of the 320,000 claimed by Henry Knighton, the English chronicler. With his little army he entered Scotland in May, wasting the Lothians and advancing on Edinburgh. Beyond that, very little more was achieved. Laden with booty the English soldiers returned south, depositing King Balliol in Galloway on the way.

By the late 1340s, if not long before, Edward had clearly given up on Balliol, who was now little better than an awkward political obstacle. In 1349 the king wrote to Ralph Neville, informing him that his affairs were being hindered "because Sir Edward de Balliol would not agree to good ways of establishing peace such as would seem reasonable to one side or the other". Balliol was clearly yesterday's man, while the ransom of David Bruce offered a way of recouping some of the losses of the Scottish war. Edward would keep as much of the border land as he could, gain a large money prize, and might even find a way to claim the Scottish crown, either for himself or a member of his family, by some backdoor negotiations. The objections of Edward Balliol would simply be ignored.

By the early 1350s, even with the king in prison, the Scots had recovered well from the disaster at Neville's Cross. Now under the guidance of Robert Stewart, the future Robert II, steady progress had been made on the borders against the English and the remaining supporters of Edward Balliol. In 1355 most of Galloway was overrun, and Balliol's holdings shrunk to a coastal strip around Hestan, Caerloverock and Buittle castles. Now well into his sixties, and unmarried, he had had enough. By prior arrangement he agreed to meet Edward at Roxburgh to put an end to his pointless struggle.

The King Departs

On 20 January 1356 Balliol met Edward to begin the process of abdication. In a dramatic and symbolic gesture he handed his crown and a handful of Scottish earth to the king, thus making him his heir, declaring to all, "Most excellent prince...I do here before all your chivalry....resign, yield and relinquish to you all my right which I have, claim, or may hereafter have to the throne of Scotland, to the end that you may avenge me of mine enemies, the infamous Scots, who ruthlessly cast me off that I should not reign over them." He also surrendered his lands in Picardy and Galloway, from which he had derived little profit. "He himself gave nothing," wrote John of Fordun, "because from the beginning he had no right to anything." A little more charitably Lord Hailes was later to summarise the tragedy of his life thus;

The fate of Edward Balliol was singular. In his invasion of Scotland...he displayed a bold spirit of enterprise, and a courage superior to all difficulties. By the victory at Dupplin he won a crown; some weeks after, he was surprised at Annan and lost it. The overthrow of the Scots at Halidon, to which he signally contributed, availed not to his re-establishment. Year after year he saw his partisans fall away, and range themselves under the banner of his competitor. He became the pensioner of Edward III and the tool of his policy, assumed and laid aside at his pleasure.

The reasons he gave for his abdication were the approach of old age and the rebelliousness of the Scots. If as Fordun says Balliol gave nothing, he certainly received much in return. Edward gave him an immediate money gift to pay off his debts, and promised to pay an annual pension of £2000. There is some historical irony here; for it was Balliol's promise at Roxburgh in 1332 to give Edward £2000 worth of Scottish land that eventually ruined all prospect he had of establishing himself as the uncontested king of Scotland. Edward was to gain practically nothing from Balliol's abdication, while his client was at least to have the satisfaction of drawing his considerable pension for the next eight years. Balliol retired to obscurity near Knaresborough in Yorkshire, where he spent his time poaching on the king's estates. He died in January 1364, the last of the Anglo-Scots. Long forgotten in Scotland, he was remembered for some time after his death by the monks of Beauvale in Nottinghamshire, who received a grant to pray for the soul of Sir Edward Balliol in perpetuity.



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