John Balliol's rule and Edward's overlordship

Edward decided that Balliol should be king at Berwick in November 1292. He was crowned king of Scotland at Scone on the 30 November 1292. He faced several immediate problems:

  • he was an inexperienced politician and was unprepared for his role as king
  • Scotland had not had a king for six years and the administrative system was weak
  • many of the nobles, especially in the Western Isles and in the Robert Bruce lands, did not support him as king - these areas would be difficult to assert authority over

Edward I of England made life difficult for the new king from the beginning of his reign. Edward made Balliol pay homage to him, showing Balliol that he was really in charge of Scotland.

Edward's interference in legal cases

Edward declaring that he would hear legal complaints from members of the Scottish Royal Court. This undermined and humiliated Balliol.

As example, a burgess of Berwick appealed a legal decision upheld by Balliol before he became king. The burgess took his case to Edward's Parliament in 1292 and the English king found in his favour. Balliol was forced to reverse the decision. This was humiliating as it appeared that Scotland was now subservient to England.

In 1293, Macduff, the younger son of Malcolm, Earl of Fife claimed that he had been deprived of his inheritance and improsoned by Balliol. Edward instructed Balliol to appear before him in Westminster. When Balliol complained to Edward that he did not have any right to hear the case, Edward threatened to charge Balliol with contempt and confiscate Scottish castles.

Balliol protests

Balliol wanted to communicate his disdain. In a letter to Edward, he reminded him of the Treaty of Birgham. Edward stated that this was a marriage agreement, and since no union took place, it was now null and void. Edward went further and forced Balliol to recognise that the safeguards protecting Scottish independence in the treaty and those given to the Guardians before Norham, were no longer binding.

Edward treated Balliol as a feudal lord rather than a king. Edward insisted that an Englishman, Master Thomas of Hunsingore, be appointed as Chancellor. He ordered that the role of Chamberlain be designated as Treasurer, forcing Balliol to follow English practice.

Balliol’s grip on the Scottish throne was not secure. Some historians argued that he needed English support in order to counter the threat from the Bruce family.