Balmyle, Nicholas de (DNB00)

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BALMYLE or BALMULE, NICHOLAS de (d. 1320?), chancellor of Scotland and bishop of Dunblane, was brought up as a clerk in the monastery of Arbroath. By 1290 he had been appointed parson of Calder, for in the September of this year his name appears in that capacity among a list of Scotchmen to whom Edward I restored their estates on their swearing fidelity to him (Rot. Scot. i. 25). He is said to have been made chancellor of Scotland in 1301, and somewhere about that year is found in the St. Andrews register confirming a donation of the archbishop of that see to the church of Dervisyn. But even before this Balmyle seems to have been acting a very prominent part in an interesting Scotch ecclesiastical quarrel. In 1297 William Lamberton had been elected archbishop of St. Andrews by the canons regular of that foundation. It so happened, however, that the Culdees had long claimed the right of electing to this see, and as they now opposed the appointment of Lamberton, both parties appealed to Boniface VIII at Rome, and he gave a final decision in favour of Lamberton and the canons. So the once famous name of Culdee vanishes from history. Fordun, however, tells us that while the bishopric was vacant, its jurisdiction remained entirely in the hands of the chapter, and that this body appointed Nicholas de Balmyle, one of its officers, to execute all its functions, a duty which, the same chronicler adds, was discharged by him with the utmost vigour throughout the diocese. Balmyle is said to have been removed from the chancellorship in 1307, and it is certain that about this time hr was appointed bishop of Dunblane. For in 1309 we find his name, in company with those of many other prelates, prefixed to a document declaring Robert Bruce to be the rightful king of Scotland (Act. Parl. Scot. i. 100). Here he is described simply as bishop of Dunblane. His successor in the great office of state was Bernard, like Nicholas, a member of Arbroath Abbey, and for seventeen years the faithful councillor of Robert Bruce, till he, too, retired from political life to a bishopric. In the seventh year of Robert Bruce's reign the names of both the late and present chancellor are found attached to one of the deeds of the chartulary of Scone; and this seems to be the last document in which Nicholas's name occurs before his death. He is said to have died in 1319 or 1320; but he must have been already dead for some time by 25 June of the latter year, for Rymer has preserved a letter of this date, written by Edward II to the pope, begging John XXII to appoint Richard de Pontefract, a Dominican, to the see of Dunblane, and alluding to many previous letters on the same subject. In this suit, however, the king of England was unsuccessful, for Nicholas's successor appears to have been a certain Maurice.

[Keith's Catalogue of Scotch Bishops; Crawfurd's lives of the Officers of the Crown; Fordun's Scotichron. ed. Hearne, iii. 603; Rymer, iii 839; Liber Eccl. Scon. 96; Anderson's Independency, App. xiv, and authorities cited above.]

T. A. A.