The Balliol Roll

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The Balliol Roll, the earliest roll of arms for Scotland. It contains thirty-five shields of Scottish noblemen arranged beneath the arms of Sir Edward Balliol, king of Scots (c. 1282-1364), and was almost certainly composed for that ruler. Edward Balliol, the last of the Anglo-Scots, was the son of John de Balliol (King John of Scotland) and Isabella de Warenne, daughter of John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey.

In 1295, he was among the signatories of Scotland's famous 'Auld Alliance' with France, a treaty of mutual defence against England. However, the treaty did not hold, and France failed to act as King Edward I of England invaded Scotland and deposed King John. John was eventually released and went to Picardy, but Edward remained in English captivity as a guarantee for his father's good behaviour.

The year 1306 saw a dramatic political shift in Scotland with the coronation of Robert the Bruce ending any prospect of a Balliol restoration, and three years later, the Bruce's first parliament, held at St. Andrews, declared that he was the lawful heir of Alexander III, disinheriting Edward in exile. Edward now became the figurehead of a new class of nobility, later to be known as the 'Disinherited'.

Old allies of the Balliols still exited in Scotland, and did not fare well under the Bruce, and after the Battle of
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    Bannockburn many of these lords were formally disinherited. They found their leader in Henry Beaumont, and on the death of the Bruce in 1329 and the accession of his infant son, David II , they seized their moment. With the unofficial support of Edward I of England, Beaumont put together an invasion-force and persuaded Edward Balliol to return with him to Scotland.

    In 1332 this force set out, landing at Fife, and after the resounding defeat of their enemies at the Battle of Dupplin Moor, Edward Balliol was crowned king of Scotland at Scone. However, he was a king only in name. His supporters controlled only isolated regions, and he was forced to draw back towards the border, closely followed by the supporters of the Bruce. Edward Balliol took up residence in the partially ruined fortress of Roxburgh, and wrote two open letters, recognising Edward I of England as his feudal superior and asking him for help.

    Weeks later the fortress of Roxburgh was taken, and reportedly Edward himself only escaped by making a hole in his bedroom wall and finding a horse in the confusion. Edward may have been forced into flight, but the letters had been carried to England by Henry Beaumont.

    Edward I immediately declared his support for Edward Balliol, and launched what would come to be known as the Second War of Scottish Independence, defeating the Scots at the Battle of Halidon Hill, and restoring Edward Balliol. However, power proved difficult to hang on to, and with the outbreak of the Hundred Years War in 1337 Edward Balliol found his English allies occupied elsewhere. He left Perth in 1338, never to return, having begun the process of abdication of his crown to Edward I. Edward gave him an annual pension of ฃ2000, and settled him on estates near Knaresborough in Yorkshire. He died in January 1364.

    The present manuscript is the only extant recorded copy of his roll of arms. It includes Edward Balliol, and thirty-five of his supporters, including the well-known Henry Beaumont (no. 3 here; azure, three garbs or, banded gules) who held the earldom of Buchan (here styled Le Counte de Bogham); Geoffrey de Moubray (no. 17; gules, a lion rampant argent, crowned or; named here the Sr de Moubray); as well as the earls of Fife, March, Carrick, Ross, Moray, Atholl, Strahearn, Menteith, Sutherland, Angus, Caithness, Lennox and Mar, and a number of other influential supporters.

    It must date to the period 1332-40, and the original was perhaps made on the coronation of Edward Balliol in 1332 or on his formal act of homage to Edward I in June 1334.

    No Scottish copy survives, and this is most probably the copy of an interested English herald made as an addition to document otherwise dated c. 1340. Thus, this manuscript would appear to be written and decorated within a few years of the creation of this roll of arms, most probably while Edward Balliol was still struggling for power in Scotland.

    It has been edited by Sir Anthony Wagner (p. 54), and is the subject of a dedicated publication by B. A. McAndrew (The Balliol Roll, 2002). It is, of course, a document of great historical importance for the history of Scotland and England alike.

    The Balliol Roll

    • Sire Edward Bailoll Roy descoce - Or, a lion rampant within a double tressure flory counter-flory Gules
    • Le conte de fyf - Gules, a lion rampant Or
    • Le conte de Boghn - Azure, three garbs Or banded Gules
    • Le conte de La Marche - Gules, a lion rampant within a bordure both Argent charged with eight pierced cinquefoils Gules
    • Le conte de Carryk - Or, a saltire Gules and on a chief Gules a lion passant guardant Or
    • Le conte de Ros - Gules, three lions rampant Argent
    • Le conte de Murre - Argent, three lozenges within a double tressure flory counter-flory all Gules
    • Le conte de Athel - Paly of six Or and Sable
    • Le conte de Stratherne - Or, two chevrons Gules
    • Le conte de Menteht - Or, a fess chequy Argent and Azure debruised by a label of three points Gules
    • Le conte de Sotherland - Or, three pierced mullets of six points Gules
    • Le conte de Anegos - Gules, crusily paty and a pierced cinqufoil Or
    • Le conte de catenesse - Gules, a galley with pennon flying Or
    • Le conte de Leuonox - Argent, a saltire between four pierced cinquefoils Gules
    • Le Seneschal - Or, a fess chequy Argent and Azure
    • Le conte de Mar - Azure, a bend between six crosses crosslet fitchy Or
    • Sr de Moubray - Gules, a lion rampant Argent crowned Or
    • Sr de Morref - Azure, three mullets of six points Argent pierced Gules
    • Le heir Sr Alexander comyn - Azure, three garbs Argent banded Gules
    • Le Sire de Bryghyn - Or, three piles conjoined in base Gules
    • Le Sr de Seules - Barry of six Argent and Gules
    • Le Sr de Abernethy - Or, a lion rampant Gules debruised by a riband Sable
    • Sr de Seintclere - Argent, a cross engrailed Sable
    • Sr de Keth - Argent, on a chief Or three pales Gules
    • Sr dargael - Or, a galley Sable with dragon heads at prow and stern and flag flying all Gules, charged on the hull with four portholes Argent
    • Sr de Vaus - Argent, a bend Gules
    • Sr de la Haye - Gules, three escutcheons Argent
    • Sr de Douglas - Argent, on a chief Azure three mullets of six points Argent pierced Gules
    • Sr de Frysel - Gules, six pierced cinquefoils Argent
    • Sr Suard - Sable, a cross flory Argent
    • Sr de Halyberton - Argent, on a bend Gules three mascles Or
    • Sr de Graham - Argent, on a chief Sable three escallops Or
    • Sr de Gordon - Azure, three boars' heads couped Or armed Gules
    • Sr de Harcise - Sable, three fleurs-de-lis Argent
    • Sr de Laundeles - Azure, an orle Or
    • Sr Ingram de Umframville - Gules, an orle Ermine



    Sources for this article include:
  • Sothebys
  • The Heraldry Society of Scotland

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    Last modified: Sunday, 02 June 2019