Edward Balliol, the son of the ‘Toom Tabard’, John Balliol, was crowned at Scone on the 24th of September, 1332.
Edward Balliol gets a bad press where Scotland’s history is concerned, but things could have been so much different. At one point, he had a claim to the Scottish throne, which was as legitimate as that of Robert the Bruce, if not more of a claim, being the eldest son of the previous King, John Balliol. However, events didn’t work out in his favour and, although he was crowned King of Scots, he never held on to the Crown. History doesn’t record a nickname for Edward Balliol in the manner of his father’s ‘Toom Tabard’ but if we called him the ‘yo-yo’ King, it wouldn’t be too far off the mark. In comparison to the familiar and famous Robert the Bruce, any challenger for the Throne of Scotland at that time will be seen as nothing less than a treacherous loser who sold his soul to an English Edward in exchange for the dubious honour of ruling a Kingdom rendered abject and subject by an act of craven surrender. He would be seen as guilty of treason and of resorting to any means, even surrendering his self respect, in order to achieve his goal of wearing the crown of the King of Scots. Edward Balliol and the Comyn faction of the ‘Disinherited’ ultimately lost out to the descendents and supporters of Robert the Bruce, but he went down fighting in the sense that he tried, time and again, to secure his hold on the Throne. He may have seen a spider too, but unlike Bruce in the end, give up he did.
Edward Balliol was born around 1283, in the reign of Alexander III. He was the eldest son of John Balliol and Isabella de Warenne, the daughter of John de Warenne, the Earl of Surrey. When his father was forced to abdicate in1296, by King Edward I of England, Edward was imprisoned with him in England. History records that he was a prisoner in the Tower of London in 1315. However, before and after that, between his father’s removal from the Throne and the year 1324, it is also recorded that he was exiled to live in France. Whatever the dates, bearing in mind that Edward I died in 1307 and John Balliol died in France in 1314, Edward Balliol spent time in England as a prisoner and as an exile in France. He was recalled to England by Edward II in 1324, who wanted to present him as a rival to Robert the Bruce. Whatever legitimacy Edward Balliol had in terms of rightful claims to the Scottish Throne, right there and then, hapless victim of the English King’s propaganda campaign, he lost all credibility. In return for the support of Edward II, Balliol sold his soul to the devil.
After the success of the First Scottish War of Independence and the impact Robert the Bruce had had on Scotland and the Scots, how could Balliol have imagined he could win the loyalty, never mind the hearts and minds, of the nobles of Scotland? All he had to call upon were his fellow ‘Disinherited’ nobles or the ‘Dispossessed’ as they were also known, his Comyn relations, and the army of Edward II. However, that didn’t materialise into any concrete action and it wasn’t until the death of Bruce and the intervention of Edward III that Balliol made progress towards his goal. David II succeeded to the Scottish throne when he was four years old, on the death of the Bruce. The two men whom Robert the Bruce had entrusted with the guardianship of his young son, Sir James Douglas and Thomas Randolph, the Earl of Moray, were made joint Regents to rule on David’s behalf. Neither of those two outlived their King by long. Douglas died shortly after in a battle against the Moors in Spain, whilst on route to the Holy Land to partake in the Crusades as Bruce’s proxy; to fulfill his dying wish. It wasn’t long before Randolph followed him to the grave and the Regency passed to the Bruce's nephew, Donald, Earl of Mar. Those circumstances presented Edward Balliol with a chance of seizing the Throne and with the support of his puppet master, Edward III of England, he sailed from the Humber with a large armed force to invade his own country. He landed his army of 3,400 at Kinghorn in Fife and marched towards Perth, near where, on the 12th of August, 1332, he was met in battle by the Earl of Mar. The battle is known as the Battle of Dupplin Moor and the result was a victory for Edward and his largely English army. After the victory, Edward marched to Scone, where he was crowned King of Scots on the 24th of September, 1332.
By the end of the year, Edward had been driven back to England by Scottish nobles loyal to King David II. Those were led by Sir Andrew Murray and Archibald, Earl of Douglas. His plans thwarted and in a huff, Edward III declared the Treaty of Northampton null and void and the two Edwards marched on Berwick. This time, the Scots were defeated at the Battle of Halidon Hill on the 19th of July, 1333. After that defeat, David II and his young Queen were sent to France for safety’s sake. So Balliol had returned to Scotland and as a previously crowned King, he remained in residence for a while. He thanked Edward III for his help by granting him control of the whole of Lothian, including Edinburgh. He also paid homage to Edward III, thus destroying everything for which the Bruce, and Wallace before him, had fought. Scottish independence, for which so many had fought and dearly lost, was given away. Thus began the Second Scottish War of Independence.
Balliol was deposed by Sir Andrew Murray in 1334 and forced to retreat back to England. He then continued his game of ‘yo-yo’ when he was restored by the English in 1335, ousted by Sir Andrew Murray by the end of the year, and came back in 1336 to be deposed yet again by Murray. During the early part of 1337, Murray captured one Balliol/English-held stronghold after another and by the summer, he had secured most of northern Scotland. In May, 1337, Balliol appealed again for help from Edward III, but his attention had turned to France. Without the help of Edward III, Balliol was powerless and, despite some English strongholds remaining north of the border, Moray was in effective command. He had effectively seen off Balliol’s claims to the Scottish Throne. Relative peace then lasted for nearly ten years until David II returned to Scotland and defeat at the hands of Edward III in the Battle of Neville’s Cross in October, 1346. Balliol then had one last go at invading Scotland, when he led an uprising in the Comyn heartland of Galloway, but that failed to gain him any success. He finally gave up and, on the 20th of January, 1356, he relinquished his claim to the Scottish Crown, selling his ‘right’ to Edward III in exchange for an English pension. Edward Balliol died in 1367 at Wheatley, near Doncaster.