John De Baliol (1249-1315), king of Scotland, was a son of John de Baliol (d. 1269) of Barnard Castle, Durham, by his wife Dervorguila, daughter of Alan, earl of Galloway, and became head of the Baliol family (see above) and lord of extensive lands in England, France and Scotland on his elder brother's death in 1278. Little else, however, is known of his early life. He came into prominence when the Scottish throne became vacant in 1290 owing to the death of Margaret, the "maid of Norway," a granddaughter of King Alexander III., and was one of the three candidates for the crown whose pretensions were seriously considered. Claiming through his maternal grandmother, Margaret, the eldest daughter of David, earl of Huntingdon (d. 1219), who was a grandson of King David I., Baliol's principal rival was Robert Bruce, earl of Annandale, and the dispute was the somewhat familiar one of the eldest by descent against the nearest of kin. Meanwhile the English king, Edward I., was closely watching the trend of affairs in Scotland and was invited to settle this dispute.
It is doubtful what rights, if any, the English kings had over Scotland, but when Edward met the Scottish nobles at Norham in May 1291, he demanded a formal recognition of his position as overlord of Scotland. After some delay this was tacitly admitted by the nobles, and acknowledged by Baliol and the other competitors, who all agreed to abide by his decision. A court of eighty Scotsmen and twenty-four Englishmen was then appointed to try the question. Traversing the statements made in favour of Bruce, Baliol claimed by the principles of feudal law for an indivisible inheritance, and on the advice of the court Edward decided in his favour. Having sworn fealty to the English king, Baliol was crowned king of Scotland at Scone on the 30th of November 1292; in his new capacity he did homage to Edward at Newcastle, and in January 1293 released the English king from all promises and obligations made while the kingdom of Scotland was in his hands. These amicable relations were soon disturbed. A Scottish vassal carried his case to Edward as Baliol's overlord, and Baliol himself was soon summoned to the English court to answer a suit brought against him.
After a short struggle he admitted Edward's right, and in May 1294 attended a parliament in London. He soon quarrelled with his overlord, the exact point at issue being doubtful, and returned to Scotland. Consequent on the dispute which had broken out between England and France, a council of twelve was appointed to assist him, and it was decided to defy Edward. Englishmen were dismissed from the Scottish court, their fiefs were confiscated, and an alliance was concluded with Philip IV., king of France. War broke out, but Baliol did not take the field in person. Invading Scotland, Edward met with a feeble resistance, and at Brechin in July 1296 Baliol surrendered his kingdom to Antony Bek, bishop of Durham, as the representative of the English king. About the same time he appeared before Edward at Montrose, and delivered to him a white rod, the feudal token of resignation. With his son, Edward, he was taken a prisoner to England, remaining in captivity until July 1299, when he was released at the request of Pope Boniface VIII. He lived for some time under the pope's supervision, and seems to have passed his remaining days quietly on his French estates.
He died in Normandy early in 1315, leaving several children by his wife, Isabel, a daughter of John de Warenne, earl of Surrey (d. 1304).
See Documents and Records illustrating the History of Scotland, edited by F. T. Palgrave (London, 1837); Documents illustrative of the History of Scotland, 1286-1306, edited by J. Stevenson (Edinburgh, 1870), J. H. Burton, History of Scotland, vol. ii. (Edinburgh, 1905); A. Lang, History of Scotland, vol. i. (Edinburgh, 1904); Sir H. Maxwell, Robert the Bruce (London, 1897); Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, edited by J. Bain (Edinburgh, 1881-1888). Also Scotland: History.