Biography of King of Escocia Juan I Balliol (ca. 1250-1313)

Scottish aristocrat of Norman origin, King of Scotland between 1292 and 1296, born about 1250 and died in April 1313, in the Normandy town of Ch√Ęteau Galliard (France). He/She was the youngest of the marriage between John Balliol, head of the House of Balliol, and Dervorguilla, daughter of Alan of Galloway, late Caledonian Lord of the major Scottish territory. Following this marriage, Juan Balliol was a descendant of the old monarch Guillermo lion, which earned its candidacy and subsequent access to the throne of Scotland.

There is virtually no data on the childhood and youth of Juan Balliol, although it is quite possible that, according to the custom of his lineage, he/she trained in the English possessions of the same. While it was the younger son of John Balliol, he/she ended up inheriting the Majorat of the House by the successive deaths of his older brothers. Thus, in 1278, date in which it died his brother Alejandro, already kept the domain of all the possessions of the lineage in England and on the French coast of Normandy, a process which continued along a similar path in 1290, when deceased lady Dervorguilla, inherited the lordship of Galloway. Starting this year, Juan de Balliol contacts in politics of the country began to increase in two different ways: access to the positions of the Council of the Scottish monarch, Away III, and, on the other hand, the approach to the King of England, Eduardo I, which would be, to the dessert, its great supporter.

The crisis of the Kingdom, and thus the first intervention of Juan Balliol on the Scottish political framework, succeeded on the death of Alejandro III (1285). The heir to the Scottish throne was Princess Margaret, granddaughter of Alejandro and daughter of the Norwegian King Erik, just a girl, better known in historiography with the nickname of "Lady of Norway". Thus, Juan Balliol early supported the coronation of the princesa-nina, thinking, no doubt, that the minority of Queen could make him even stronger in the Council of Regency. On the other hand, part of the Scottish aristocracy, led by the Bruce, antagonistic lineage of the Balliol, took up arms against this preeminence in the Council and went to the English King, Eduardo I, so you act of referee in the conflict, although, in reality, only trying to find the right time to annex Scotland.

After four years of civil strife, Juan Balliol agreed, on behalf of the Council, the Treaty of Brigham (1290), which passed the marriage between "Lady of Norway" and the Prince Eduardo de Inglaterra, Eduardo I heir. But the Princess died a few months after the signing of Brigham, which plunged the Kingdom into chaos, especially by the struggle between lineages for nominations to the throne. Finally, thirteen candidates presented, only three seemed able to access the Crown, precisely because such triad claimed to descend from Guillermo Lion: John de Hastings, Robert Bruce Noble and the own Juan Balliol, who was the candidate chosen by Eduardo I of England November 17, 1292.

While Juan was crowned at Scone on 30 July, in the traditional way of the Scottish monarchy, the problems had done nothing but start. Eduardo I of England, in consideration for its verdict, Juan Balliol forced to give oath of fidelity vasallatico; through this event, held in Newcastle 26 December 1292, Juan acknowledged the superiority of England in the political affairs of Scotland, which was exploited by his enemies, especially the Bruce, to introduce as a traitor to the people, so its popularity declined in the rudas Highlands in the North of the Kingdom. Perhaps for this reason, to retrieve credit among people and among the nobility, the first Juan Balliol as King was the refusal to pay feudal aid inherent to his English counterpart when in June 1294, required his presence in the war against France. The decision was fatal, since English troops, sent to punish the felony committed by his vassal Balliol, by Eduardo I penetrated the blood and fire in Scotland and defeated the loyal to the monarch in Dumbar and Berwick. Own Juan had fled by boat to France, as the Bruce took advantage of the confusion to sign a secret Treaty of cooperation with Eduardo I.

From French exile, Juan Balliol did not resist to lose his Crown; proof of this is the adoption of the Auld Alliance (1295), one of the oldest international treaties in the history of diplomacy, by which both kingdoms were committed to mutual defence of their common interests against England. Thus, taking advantage of the complications of Eduardo I of England in the military campaign of Gascony, Juan I Balliol returned to Scotland with some French reinforcements to fight for their cause. The reaction of the English monarch was furious: an impressive army of 50,000 men, under the command of Hugh Cressingham, Earl of Surrey, invaded Scotland. The first setback was the seizure of Berwick, of March 30, 1296, but the war would end just a month later, when the Balliol himself was defeated by the Earl of Surrey in Montrose and taken prisoner. A few days, with the overall English victory and the annexation of Scotland to the obedience of Eduardo I, Juan I Balliol was publicly stripped the Royal arms, as well as its status as a gentleman; precisely to this humiliating ceremony should Balliol no less humiliating nickname which has become the British history: Toom Tabard ('the empty jacket').

Later, Juan Balliol was transferred to the prison in the Tower of London, where he/she remained until, in 1299, a papal request managed to Eduardo I put him in freedom, in Exchange for swearing that he/she would never return to Scotland. From 1299, Juan Balliol retired to the stately domains that still possessed in Normandy, section of all the controversial Scottish nationalist of William Wallace and, above all, Robert Bruce, the namesake grandson of its competitor in 1292, which would restore independence to Scotland. However, through Juan Balliol's son, Edward, the secular lineage would reign in Scotland, always with English support and complicity of the aristocracy of Norman and Anglo-Saxon, origin, which had also been the two maximum Juan props in their access to the Scottish throne.


MITCHINSON, r.: A History of Scotland. (London-New York: Methuen, 1980).

MORGAN, K. O.: The Oxford History of England. (Oxford: University Press, 1988).

Links on the Internet; Official website of the Government of Scotland about various subjects in the history of the country.