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Title: The political ambitions and influences of the Balliol dynasty, c.1210-1364
Author(s): Beam, Amanda G.
Issue Date: 2005
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This study examines the importance of the Balliol dynasty in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries through their political ambitions and influences in the three realms of Scotland, England and France. The generally accepted opinion in previous historiography that John (II), king of Scots from 1292-96 (d. 1314) and Edward Balliol (d. 1364) were politically weak men and unsuccessful kings has not been challenged until recently, when historians began evaluating the family from a British approach. Despite this, challenges have remained and it has been necessary to re-examine the life of John (I) (d. 1268) in order to bring a new perspective to the Balliol family. During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the Balliols had slowly increased their power and influence in English politics, acquiring a significant landed wealth, which, by the early thirteenth century, propelled the family into a class of leading nobles. At this point in 1229, John (I) inherited his father's wealth and position and would substantially increase the family's influence in England and Scotland over the next four decades, while retaining their French links. The influence that John (I) had in the three realms and his relationships with kings Alexander II and Alexander III of Scotland and Henry III of England have been thoroughly examined in this study and have uncovered John (I)'s power and ambition as an independent lord, who remained wholly English in identity. With this evidence, a new perspective has developed. In reassessing John (I), the Balliols are revealed as committed English lords and loyal servants of the kings of England. This has thrown new light on the political roles of John (II) and Edward Balliol and underlines how the family has been unfairly judged through centuries by both chroniclers and historians who have assessed them as Scottish kings rather than as English lords. With this new perspective, the political roles of King John (1292-96) and King Edward (1332-5 6), before, during and after their respective kingships have been reexamined and re-evaluated. Admittedly, both men lacked the power which John (I) possessed in his lifetime under Henry III, and although John (I) had laid the foundations for a great baronial dynasty, the deaths of Hugh Balliol (d. 1271) and Alexander Balliol (d. 1278) limited the territorial base which John (II) would inherit. Similarly, King John's deposition in 1296 would alter any strong landed and political following to which Edward Balliol might have hoped to succeed. Despite the loss of wealth in the 1270s and the forfeiture of the Balliol estates in England and Scotland in 1296, John (II) and Edward still retained close relationships with the successive English kings and used these connections to fuel their political ambitions. Their kingships illustrate their desires to recover some influence in English politics which the family had enjoyed in the mid-thirteenth century. However, the decrease in landed wealth resulted in a less significant baronial identity within the Scottish and English political communities and perhaps affected their roles as Scottish kings. The reassessment of the Balliols as Anglo-Scottish lords has underlined their relationship with the English crown and the political nature of the family.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Arts and Humanities
History and Politics

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