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The Reign of King John Balliol

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1 The Reign of King John Balliol

2 The coronation of John Balliol
On 17 November 1292 Edward I made his judgement in favour of John Balliol. Two weeks later, on St Andrew’s Day, John was inaugurated King of Scots at Scone. He was enthroned upon the ancient Stone of Destiny, and the ceremony was held in the presence of the great men of the realm. However, despite this, King John’s position was different to that of previous kings: ‘He was king not by unquestioned right, but by judgement of a court and the events leading up to that judgement made him both a vassal king and a factional king.’ The Wars of Scotland, 1214–1371, Brown, M., Edinburgh University Press, 2004.

3 The issue of overlordship
From Scone, Balliol travelled to Newcastle to spend Christmas at King Edward’s court. On 26 December 1292 he paid homage to Edward for the second time, saying: 'Lord Edward, lord superior of the realm of Scotland, I, John Balliol, King of Scots, become your liegeman for the whole realm of Scotland.'

4 The new Scottish government
Edward immediately began to interfere in the administration of Scotland. He ordered the wording of the Royal Seal of Scotland to be changed. John was made to accept Master Thomas of Hunsingore, a Yorkshire man, as his new chancellor. The office of treasurer was introduced; this title had never been used in Scotland before. This was clear imitation of English practice

5 The government of Scotland under King John
John faced a difficult situation even without the issue of Edward’s overlordship. Politics within Scotland remained factional – John needed to win the allegiance of all his subjects and to cement his authority as king. In February 1293 he called a parliament at Scone; most of the Scottish nobles accepted Balliol as king and attended. Three new sheriffdoms were created in the Isles and Argyll, showing that Balliol had an awareness of the need to extend royal authority into these areas in order to effectively rule the kingdom.

6 Appeals Edward I made his authority over King John clear when he acted as supreme judge in appeals from the Scottish king’s court. Even before John’s homage, Edward was hearing his first Scottish case. Master Roger Bartholomew, a burgess of Berwick, had been involved in a case in the court of the Guardians. In three separate cases judgements had gone against him. Dissatisfied with this, Bartholomew complained to King Edward at Berwick on 7 December 1292, one week after Balliol’s enthronement. In one of the three cases, Edward reversed the previous judgement in Roger Bartholomew’s favour.

7 How did King John Balliol react to Scottish decisions being overturned?
The Scots protested to Edward that he had promised to preserve the laws and customs of Scotland, and that he had agreed that Scottish lawsuits should not be dealt with outside of Scotland (Treaty of Birgham). Edward publicly forced John to back down. On 2 January 1292 John issued letters which freed Edward from all obligations and promises which the English king had entered into with the Guardians. This meant that the Treaty of Birgham, and all other guarantees of Scottish independence, were null and void.

8 G.W.S Barrow 'At every step he took, the new king would have to pause, examine its implications, and find out whether it could be allowed under the new regime… It was John’s misfortune that he had succeeded to a kingdom which could not have been ruled by anyone forced to walk such a narrow tightrope.' Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland, Edinburgh University Press, 2005

9 The Macduff case The case of Macduff, younger son of Malcolm, Earl of Fife, was the most well known example of Edward asserting his superiority over King John. Macduff claimed that he had been unjustly deprived of his inheritance and then imprisoned by John Balliol. The Scottish king was summoned to appear in the English parliament to answer the charge in September of 1293. Balliol was initially defiant; he arrived at Westminster to argue that Edward’s court had no right to judge the case. He refused to answer without consulting his ‘chief men’. In response to this, Edward threatened to charge John with contempt of court and confiscated three royal castles. Balliol gave in to these demands and renewed his homage to Edward.

10 The Macduff case English chroniclers describe the humiliation experienced by the Scots king at the English court, where he was not permitted to speak through a representative. The case was not resolved in 1293, and was adjourned until the following year. The case was then postponed until 1295, when it was forced off the agenda by news from France.

11 The Anglo-French war Tensions between Scotland and England came to a head over England’s proposed war with France. Edward I held land in France – the duchy of Aquitaine. On 19 May 1294, Philip IV of France confiscated Edward’s land following Edward’s failure to appear in the French court. On 24 June Edward renounced his homage as Duke and sent his formal defiance to the French king. This meant war…

12 Preparations for war On 29 June formal summons were issued to the king of Scots, 10 Scottish earls and 16 barons to raise knights and join Edward’s army at Plymouth in early September. This seemed to confirm the subjection of the Scottish realm to their overlord. …Or did it??

13 Defiance Overseas service had never before been demanded of the Scots on such a large scale. King Malcolm IV of Scotland had performed overseas service for Henry II of England in This was the last time a king of Scots had provided military service for England. On that occasion, he had returned to find his earls angry. According to an English chronicle, Balliol promised to give aid. However, neither Balliol nor any of his barons appeared in response to Edward’s summons, instead making various excuses.

14 The Council of Twelve At a parliament held at Stirling in July 1295, a Council of Twelve was appointed. This has been the topic of historical debate. Some historians believe that the existence of the Council of Twelve shows that John was being sidelined by his own nobles, lending further weight to the argument that John was a weak king. However, it has been argued that the Council of Twelve may in fact have been appointed to support the king, and that it did not replace him.

15 The Anglo-French Treaty
An embassy of four Scots was sent to Paris in July, 1295. By 23 October 1295 they had entered into a treaty with King Philip of France. The treaty guaranteed that Scotland would maintain hostilities against England in return for military aid from the French should Scotland be invaded; a peace could only be made if both sides agreed. It also contained the agreement that King John’s son and heir, Edward Balliol, would marry King Philip’s niece, Jean Valois. The Treaty was ratified by the king and a wide cross section of the Scottish political community on 23 February 1296.

16 The Siege of Berwick and the Battle of Dunbar
On 30 March 1296 the English arrived before the walls of Berwick-upon-Tweed, an important Scottish burgh. The town surrendered, and thousands of the inhabitants of Berwick are reported to have been slaughtered. The Scots’ response to this was formal defiance of Edward; Balliol renounced his homage. In the last week of April Edward sent an army to secure Dunbar castle. On 27 April 1296 a sizeable Scottish army was defeated at Dunbar. Many Scots were killed and important nobles were captured.

17 Edward’s progression north in 1296
© The Scottish Wars of Independence, 1286–1328 by Andy McPhee, reproduced by permission of Hodder Education

18 The subjugation of Scotland
Edward marched north, meeting little resistance along the way after news of the outcome of the Battle of Dunbar spread. Almost 1600 Scots swore loyalty to Edward by attaching their seal to the ‘Ragman’s Roll’. Those who paid homage included nobles, the clergy and freeholders of land.

19 ‘Toom Tabard’ King John officially offered his surrender at Kincardine Castle on 2 July 1296. The surrender was accepted in a humiliating ceremony on the 10 July. John was forced to renounce his treaty with France, apologise to Edward and was stripped of his royal robes and his throne. Balliol was exiled to London. The Scottish seal was broken in two. The Stone of Destiny and the Black Rood of St Margaret were removed.

20 Was King John a weak king?
'It is true he was not a forceful man and certainly no match for Edward I. But he was not a complete nonentity nor altogether lacking in dignity.' G.W.S Barrow 'Historians have been aware for some time that Balliol’s reputation as king resulted in part from the very difficult circumstances of his reign, but more particularly from the effect on that reputation of the propaganda of the man who usurped his throne, Robert Bruce, and subsequent pro-Bruce writers, such as John Barbour.' F. Watson, Under the Hammer: Edward I and Scotland, 1286–1306

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