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Clan Balfour

Clan Balfour is a Scottish family or kin-group which does not have a recognised chief and is therefore considered to be an armigerous clan


The lands of Balfour, or Bal-orr, lie in the Parish of Markinch in Fife. The Orr is a tributary of the River Leven. <ref>George Way of Plean and Rommilly Squire, Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia, 356</ref> It means 'pastoral village'. <ref>David Dorward, Dictionary of Scottish Surnames, 11</ref>The earliest dependable record of the name is a charter of William the Lion in favour of Michael de Balfour around 1196. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 356</ref>

Middle Ages

Sir Duncande Balfour supported the cause of Sir William Wallace and was killed at the Battle of Blackironside in 1298, although the engage- ment was a great victory for the Scots. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 356</ref> SirJohn Balfour of Balfour died in 1375 and his estates passed to his only daughter, Margaret, wife of Sir Robert de Bethune. The Bethunes of Balfour were to flourish and figure prominently in Scottish history through such personalities as Cardinal Bethune and Mary Beaton, celebrated as one of the 'four Maries', the ladies-in-waiting of Mary, Queen of Scots.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 356</ref>

The Balfours continued through the descendants of Adam, the brother of Sir John Balfour, who married into the powerful Macduff Earls of Fife. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 356</ref> Adam died of wounds sustained at the Battle of Durham in 1346 and his son, James Balfour, was brought up in the Earl's household.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 356</ref> He is the ancestor of the Balfour families of Denmylne, Forret, Torry and Kinloch.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 356</ref>James Balfour of Denmylne was killed at the siege of Roxburgh in 1460.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 356</ref> His son John died along with much of the Scottish nobility, at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 356</ref>

Seventeenth Century

Sir Michael Balfour was Comptroller of the Household to Charles I and fought for the king's cause during the civil war. Sir James Balfour, son of Sir Michael Balfour of Denmylne, was created Lord Lyon, King of Arms, in June 1630. He was a heraldic scholar and was also a chronicler of the Scottish monarchy, and his Annals and Short Passages of State was published in book form almost two centuries later, in 1824. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 357</ref>Sir Andrew Balfour (d.1694) Baronet, also of the house of Denmylne, was a distinguished botanist and founder of the Botanic Garden of Edinburgh (which now flourishes as the Royal Scottish Botanical Garden). He was also a noted physician and the first president of the Royal College of Physicians in Scotland.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 357</ref> Sir James Balfour of Forret was knighted in 1674 and elevated to the Supreme Court in Edinburgh taking the judicial title, 'Lord Forret'.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 357</ref>He was subsequently appointed judge of the High Court of Justiciary. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 357</ref>

Balfours of Burleigh

Arthur Balfour (1848-1930)

Another branch of the family, the Balfours of Burleigh, were raised to the peerage with the title of 'Lord Balfour of Burleigh', in 1606.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 357</ref> The fifth Lord Balfour of Burleigh brought disaster to the family in the early eighteenth century. He became involved with a girl considered to be socially unacceptable by his family, was sent into exile by his father and swore to kill anyone else she married. In his absence the girl put aside the threat and married a local schoolmaster. On his return from exile Balfour shot the schoolmaster and despite an elaborate defence was sentenced to death.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 357</ref> He escaped from prison by changing clothes with his sister, and he went into hiding. He succeeded to the title on the death of his father in 1713.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 357</ref>

He joined the cause of the 'Old Pretender' in the rebellion of 1715, for which he was declared a traitor.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 357</ref> His title and estates were forfeited by an Act of Attainder in November 1715. He died unmarried in 1757. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 357</ref> The attainder was reversed in 1869 in favour of Mary, the heir of Lord Balfour's sister, who had taken his place in the condemned cell.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 357</ref> Alexander, sixth Lord Balfour of Burleigh, was a Knight of the Thistle and Secretary of State for Scotland from 1895 to 1903. Arthur James Balfour, who was descended from the Balfours of Balbirnie, was Prime Minister from 1902 to 1905, and was created Earl of Balfour in May 1922. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 357</ref>

Mystery of Balfour Chiefs

In 1843, William Balfour of Trenabie in Orkney proved his descent from the principal family, and received a grant of supporters from the Lord Lyon, King of Arms, as representer and head of the house. The arms were rematriculated in 1936. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 357</ref> However, the current whereabouts of Balfour chiefs remain unclear.