Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 03.djvu/59

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Balfour
Balfour
53

a pension of 500l. and the presidency of the court of session, from which William Baillie, Lord Provand, was removed on the ground that he was not, as the act instituting it required, of the clerical order—a mere pretence on the part of the leader of the protestant party. That he betrayed Bothwell by giving the information which led to the interception of the casket letters is doubted, not because such an act would be in the least inconsistent with his character, but because it is deemed by many a more probable solution of the mystery that the letters were fabrications. During the regency of Murray he was suspected of intriguing with the adherents of the queen while ostensibly belonging to the party of the regent, and he was deprived of the office of president in 1568. Shortly before the death of Murray, Balfour was imprisoned, on the accusation of Lennox, for his share in Darnley's murder; but a bribe to Wood, the regent's secretary, procured his release without trial, and though he lost the presidency of the court he retained the priory of Pittenweem. After the accession of Lennox to the regency, he was forfeited on 30 Aug. 1571, but he made terms with Morton in the following year by abandoning his associates on the queen's side, Maitland of Lethington and Kirkcaldy of Grange, and negotiating the pacification of Perth in 1573. Not unnaturally distrusted, even by those he pretended to serve, and doubting his own safety, he soon afterwards fled to France, where he appears to have remained till 1580, and in 1579 the forfeiture of 1571 was renewed by parliament. On his return he devoted himself to the overthrow of Morton, which he accomplished, it has been said, by the production of the bond for Darnley's murder which he had himself drawn, but more probably of the subsequent bond in support of Bothwell's marriage with Mary. The last certain appearance of Balfour in history is in a long letter by him to Mary, on 31 Jan. 1580, offering her his services: but he is believed to have lived till 1583, from an entry in the books of the privy council on 24 Jan. 1581, restoring his children, which refers to him as then dead. By his wife Margaret, the heiress of Michael Balfour, of Burleigh, he had three daughters and six sons, the eldest of whom was created by James Lord Balfour of Burleigh in 1606. Balfour appears to have been a learned lawyer, and is praised by his contemporary, Henryson, for the part he took in the commission issued in 1566 for the consolidation of the laws. Some parts of the compilation, published in 1774 from a manuscript in the Advocates' Library, were taken from the collection probably made bv him in connection with this commission. But the special references to the Book of Balfour (Liber de Balfour) and the fact that there was a subsequent commission issued by Morton in 1574, in which, although he was a member, his exile in France cannot have admitted of his taking a leading part, deprive him, in the opinion of the best authorities, of the claim to the authorship of the whole manuscript, which has unfortunately been published under his name, and is known as 'Balfour's Practicks,' the earliest text-book of Scottish law. The character drawn of him by an impartial historian is borne out by contemporary authority. 'He had served with all parties, had deserted all, yet had profited by all. He had been the partisan of every leader who rose into distinction amid the troubled elements of those times. Almost every one of these eminent statesmen or soldiers he had seen perish by a violent death—Murray assassinated, Lethington fell by his own hand, Grange by that of the common executioner, Lennox in the field, Morton on the scaffold. … Theirs was, upon the whole, consistent guilt. Balfour, on the other hand, acquired an acuteness in anticipating the changes of party and the probable event of political conspiracy which enabled him rarely to adventure too far, which taught him to avoid alike the determined boldness that brings ruin in the case of failure and that lukewarm inactivity which ought not to share in the rewards of success' (Tytler, Life of Craig, p. 105). Member of a house which had, in the words of Knox, 'neither fear of God nor love of virtue further than the present commodity persuaded them,' he was himself, in the briefer verdict of Robertson, 'the most corrupt man of his age.'

[Knox's History of the Reformation; Spottiswood's History of the Church of Scotland; Keith's History; Bannnatyne's Journal; Sir James Melville's Memoirs; Goodal's Preface to Balfour's Practicks.]

Æ. M.

BALFOUR, Sir JAMES (1600–1657), of Denmiln and Kinnaird, historian and Lyon king-of-arms, the eldest son of Sir Michael Balfour of Denmiln in Fife, comptroller of the household of Charles I, and Joanna Denham, was born in 1600). The youngest of the family was Sir Andrew Balfour [q. v.], an eminent botanist, the friend of Sir Robert Sibbald, who has written his life, along with that of Sir James, in a small and now scarce tract, 'Memoria Balfouriana sive Historia reru, pro Literis promovendis gestarum a clarissimis fratribus Balfouriis DD. Jacobo barone de Kinnaird equite, Leone rege armorum, et