John Balliol (r. 1292-1296)

Born about 1250, John Balliol was the son of John, 5th Baron de Balliol and his wife Devorgilla, daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway.

The crown was awarded to him at Berwick on 17 November 1292. He swore fealty to Edward I, was installed as king at Scone and on 26 December at Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, and did homage to Edward I for the kingdom of Scotland. 

Edward soon made it clear that he regarded the country as his vassal state. Balliol was too weak to resist, and the Scots resented Edward's demands. 

When in 1294 Edward instructed them to supply soldiers for his war with France, they set up a council of ecclesiastics and noblemen to rule instead of Balliol, although in his name. 

They then made a defensive alliance with Philip IV of France against England. This Treaty marked the formal beginning of the 'Auld Alliance' between Scotland and France, which was to last for nearly 300 years.

Balliol finally renounced his fealty to Edward I on 5 April 1296. Edward I marched north, defeated the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar in East Lothian and captured the castles of Roxburgh, Edinburgh and Stirling. 

On 10 July, in the churchyard at Stracathro, Angus, Balliol surrendered himself, his kingdom and his people to Edward I. He was forced to seal a document confessing that he had wrongly allied himself with his overlord's enemies. His nickname, 'Toom Tabard' [empty coat] is thought to refer to the ceremonious removal of heraldic insignia from his coat as part of his submission. 

Edward I marched north as far as Elgin before turning south to Scone, to carry off the Stone of Destiny upon which the Scottish kings were crowned. He had it sent to Westminster Abbey (where it remained for the next 700 years before being returned to Scotland in 1996). 

Balliol was taken to England as a prisoner, but in 1299 he was allowed to go to France, where he lived on his family estates at Bailleul until his death in April 1313 at about the age of 63.

Image: Part of a 14th-century manuscript showing John Balliol acknowledging Edward as his overlord in 1292 © The British Library Board, Royal 20 C.VII f.28

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