John Balliol (c. 1249 – late 1314), known derisively as Toom
Tabard (meaning "empty coat") was
King of Scots
King of Scots from 1292 to 1296.
Little is known of his early life. After the death of Margaret, Maid
Scotland entered an interregnum during which several
competitors for the Crown of
Scotland put forward claims. Balliol was
chosen from among them as the new King of
Scotland by a group of
selected noblemen headed by King Edward I of England. Edward used his
influence over the process to subjugate
Scotland and undermined
Balliol's personal reign by treating
Scotland as a vassal of England.
Edward's influence in Scottish affairs tainted Balliol's reign and the
Scottish nobility deposed him and appointed a council of twelve to
rule instead. This council signed a treaty with France known as the
In retaliation, Edward invaded Scotland, starting the Wars of Scottish
Independence. After a Scottish defeat in 1296, Balliol abdicated and
was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Eventually, Balliol was sent to
France, and retired into obscurity, taking no more place in politics.
Scotland was then left without a monarch until Robert the Bruce
ascended in 1306. John Balliol's son
Edward Balliol would later exert
a claim to the Scottish throne against the Bruce claim during the
minority of Robert's son David. The picture in the article is a very
rare painting made by the Bruce family who were angered when Balliol
had become king instead of Robert De Bruce. The painting is to
represent a broken king which is what
John Balliol was.
2 Early life
3 Accession as King of Scots
6 Marriage and issue
7 Fictional portrayals
9 See also
In Norman French his name was Johan de Bailliol, in
Middle Scots it
was Jhon Ballioun, and in Scottish Gaelic, Iain Bailiol. In Scots he
was known by the nickname Toom Tabard, usually understood to mean
"empty coat", with the word coat referring to coat of arms.[disputed
Little of Balliol's early life is known. He was born between 1248 and
1250 at an unknown location; possibilities include Galloway, Picardy
and Barnard Castle, County Durham. He was the son of John, 5th
Baron Balliol, Lord of
Barnard Castle (and founder of Balliol college,
Oxford), and his wife Dervorguilla of Galloway, daughter of Alan, Lord
Galloway and granddaughter of David, Earl of Huntingdon. From
his mother he inherited significant lands in
Galloway and claim to
Lordship over the Gallovidians, as well as various English and
Scottish estates of the Huntingdon inheritance; from his father he
inherited large estates in England and France, such as Hitchin, in
Accession as King of Scots
In 1284 Balliol had attended a parliament at Scone, which had
recognised Margaret, Maid of Norway, as heir presumptive to her
grandfather, King Alexander III. Following the deaths of Alexander
III in 1286 and Margaret in 1290,
John Balliol was a competitor for
the Scottish crown in the Great Cause, as he was a
great-great-great-grandson of David I through his mother (and
therefore one generation further than his main rival Robert Bruce, 5th
Lord of Annandale, grandfather of Robert the Bruce, who later became
king), being senior in genealogical primogeniture but not in proximity
of blood. He submitted his claim to the Scottish auditors with King
Edward I of England
Edward I of England as the arbitrator, at
Berwick-upon-Tweed on 6 June
1291. The Scottish auditors' decision in favour of Balliol was
pronounced in the Great Hall of
Berwick Castle on 17 November 1292,
and he was inaugurated accordingly King of
Scotland at Scone, 30
November 1292, St. Andrew's Day.
Edward I, who had coerced recognition as Lord Paramount of Scotland,
the feudal superior of the realm, steadily undermined John's
authority. He demanded homage to be paid towards himself, legal
authority over the Scottish King in any disputes brought against him
by his own subjects, contribution towards the costs for the defence of
England, and military support was expected in his war against France.
Scotland as a feudal vassal state and repeatedly humiliated
the new king. The Scots soon tired of their deeply compromised king;
the direction of affairs was allegedly taken out of his hands by the
leading men of the kingdom, who appointed a council of twelve—in
practice, a new panel of Guardians—at
Stirling in July 1295. They
went on to conclude a treaty of mutual assistance with France—known
in later years as the Auld Alliance.
In retaliation, Edward I invaded, commencing the Wars of Scottish
Independence. The Scots were defeated at Dunbar and the English took
Dunbar Castle on 27 April 1296. John abdicated at
Montrose on 10 July 1296. Here the arms of
Scotland were formally
torn from John's surcoat, giving him the abiding name of "Toom Tabard"
John was imprisoned in the
Tower of London
Tower of London until allowed to go to
France in July 1299. When his baggage was examined at Dover, the Royal
Golden Crown and Seal of the Kingdom of Scotland, with many vessels of
gold and silver, and a considerable sum of money, were found in his
chests. Edward I ordered that the Crown be offered to St. Thomas the
Martyr and that the money be returned to John for the expenses of his
journey. But he kept the Seal himself. John was released into the
Pope Boniface VIII
Pope Boniface VIII on condition that he remain at a papal
residence. He was released around the summer of 1301 and lived the
rest of his life on his family's ancestral estates at Hélicourt,
Over the next few years, there were several Scottish rebellions
against Edward (for example, in 1297 under
William Wallace and Andrew
Moray). The rebels would use the name of "King John", on the grounds
that his abdication had been under duress and therefore invalid. This
claim came to look increasingly tenuous, as John's position under
nominal house-arrest meant that he could not return to
campaign for his release, despite the Scots' diplomatic attempts in
Paris and Rome. After 1302, he made no further attempts to extend his
personal support to the Scots. Effectively,
Scotland was left without
a monarch until the accession of
Robert the Bruce
Robert the Bruce in 1306.
John died in late 1314 at his family's château at Hélicourt in
France. On 4 January 1315, King Edward II of England, writing to
King Louis X of France, said that he had heard of the death of 'Sir
John de Balliol' and requested the fealty and homage of Edward
Balliol to be given by proxy.
A John de Bailleul is interred in the church of St. Waast at
Bailleul-sur-Eaune. This may or may not be the Scottish King.
John was survived by his son Edward Balliol, who later revived his
family's claim to the Scottish throne, received support from the
English, and had some temporary successes.
Marriage and issue
John Balliol and his wife
John married, around 9 February 1281, Isabella de Warenne, daughter of
John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey. Her mother Alice de Lusignan
was daughter of
Hugh X de Lusignan
Hugh X de Lusignan by Isabella of Angoulême, widow of
King John of England, making Isabella niece, in the half-blood, of
Henry III of England. John was also the brother-in-law to John Comyn,
who was killed following a scuffle with
Robert the Bruce
Robert the Bruce in February
Dumfries Cathedral. Opinion remains divided on who started
the fight and who exactly killed Comyn.
It has been established that John and Isabella had at least one child:
Edward Balliol, Scottish pretender, (d.1367). Married to Marguerite de
Taranto, daughter of
Philip I, Prince of Taranto
Philip I, Prince of Taranto (d. 1332) –
annulled or divorced with no issue.
However, other children have been linked to the couple as other
Henry de Balliol. He was killed in the
Battle of Annan on 16 December
1332, leaving no issue.
Agnes (or Maud or Anne) Balliol was married to Bryan FitzAlan, Lord
FitzAlan, and feudal Baron of Bedale. They were parents to Agnes
FitzAlan (b. 1298), who married Sir Gilbert Stapleton, Knt., of Bedale
(1291–1324). Gilbert is better known for his participation in the
assassination of Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall.
Margaret Balliol. Died unmarried.
John Balliol has been depicted in drama:
John Balliol, An Historical Drama. In Five Acts (1825), play based on
his life by William Tennant.
A character named Balliol, portrayed by British actor Bernard
Horsfall, appears in Mel Gibson's 1995 Oscar-winning epic Braveheart,
an heroic tale of Scottish national hero William Wallace. The
character is merely presented as a claimant to the Scottish crown,
with no further delving into his significance. He is presumably
loosely based on John Balliol, although in reality he was a prisoner
in France at that time.
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Ancestors of John Balliol
8. Eustace de Balliol
4. Hugh de Balliol
9. Ada de Fontaines
2. John, 5th Baron de Balliol
10. Aleaume de Fontaines
5. Cecilia de Fontaines
11. Laurette de St.Valérie
1. John of Scotland
24. Uchtred, Lord of Galloway
12. Lochlann, Lord of Galloway
25. Gunnild of Dunbar
6. Alan, Lord of Galloway
26. Richard de Morville
13. Elena de Morville
27. Avice de Lancaster
3. Dervorguilla of Galloway
28. Henry of Scotland
14. David of Scotland, Earl of Huntingdon
29. Ada de Warenne
7. Margaret of Huntingdon
30. Hugh de Kevelioc, 5th Earl of Chester
15. Maud of Chester
31. Bertrade de Montfort of Evreux 
Scottish monarchs' family tree
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Baliol, John de.
See also: Beam, Amanda (2008). The Balliol Dynasty, 1210–1364.
Edinburgh: John Donald.
^ Hary, Blind. The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant
Campioun Schir William Wallace.
^ Stevenson, Joseph (1870). Documents illustrative of the history of
Scotland, Volume 2.
^ a b c G. P. Stell, "John [John de Balliol] (c.1248x50–1314)",
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept
2004; online edn, Oct 2005 , accessed 25 July 2007.
^ a b c d Dunbar, Sir Archibald H.,Bt., Scottish Kings – A Revised
Chronology of Scottish History 1005–1625, Edinburgh, 1899: p. 115
^ Foedera, p 228
^ a b c d Dunbar, Sir Archibald H.,Bt., Scottish Kings – A Revised
Chronology of Scottish History 1005–1625, Edinburgh, 1899: p. 116
^ This translation is disputed.
^ Foedera, vol.1, part 2, p.909
^ a b Dunbar, Sir Archibald H.,Bt., Scottish Kings – A Revised
Chronology of Scottish History 1005–1625, Edinburgh, 1899: p. 117
^ Dunbar, Sir Archibald H.,Bt., Scottish Kings – A Revised
Chronology of Scottish History 1005–1625, Edinburgh, 1899: p. 118
^ Booklet : A Brief History of the Jermy Family of Norfolk and
Suffolk by Stewart Valdar has in it a pedigree of the Jermy family
[1221–1850] wherein Sir William Jermy MP 1335 marries Ellin,
daughter of John Balioll, King of
Scotland and they have a son, Sir
John Jermy living 1338 marries Jane, daughter of Sir Roger Hales, kt.
There is a note inscribed on a vellum roller pedigree, drawn by John
Jermy of Bayfield about 1700 stating "Thomas of Bretherton second
brother to King Edward second Count of Norfolk & Earl Marshall of
England in the fifth year of Edward II did convey to his brother in
law Sir John Jermy knight twoe part of the Manor of Metfield in
Suffolk and the third part to his wife for the assignment of her dower
as it appeareth by a deed in the possession of Francis Jermy of
Brightwell Esq. The Coat of Arms of the Jermy family are a "Griffen"
atop armour with a shield with a lion rampant with the banner stating
"Splendidum Virtus Insigne". A copy of the booklet created in 1958 is
with the British Library.
Bold, Valentina (2007), James Hogg: a bard of nature's making, Peter
Lang, ISBN 978-3-03910-897-8
Foedera Conventiones, Literae et cuiuscunque generis
Acta Publica inter Reges Angliae. London. 1745. (Latin) 
Chambers, Robert & Thomson, Thomas Napier (1857). Baliol, John. A
biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen. 1. Glasgow: Blackie and
son. pp. 116–21.
"Baliol, John de (1249-1315)". Dictionary of National Biography.
London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
House of Balliol
Born: ? c. 1249 Died: November 1314
King of Scots
Title next held by
Titles in pretence
— TITULAR —
King of the Scots
Reason for succession failure:
First War of Scottish Independence
Pictish and Scottish monarchs
Monarchs of the Picts
Monarchs of the Scots
Kenneth I MacAlpin
Constantine I (II)
Constantine II (III)
Constantine III (IV)
Malcolm III Canmore
William I the Lion
Robert the Bruce
Robert the Bruce (I)
1 also monarch of England and Ireland.