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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Tue 19 May, 2009 9:14 pm    Post subject: John de Balliol, origin of his nickname?         Reply with quote

John de Balliol (aka King John of Scotland) was the person appointed King of Scots by Edward I of England during a succession dispute in the late 13th century. John was undermined by Edward, who pulled most of the strings. Balliol was forced to give up the throne. William Wallace and others actually fought on behalf of Balliol early in the war of independence.

John is often called "Toom Tabard", meaning empty cloak, supposedly for his lack of real authority. Others say the nickname comes from when the coat of arms of Scotland was formally torn from his clothing when he abdicated the throne.

But....

I had a thought a while back while looking through a book of mine. A dagger had been identified as belonging to Balliol's cousin Alexander. It bears a heraldic charge on its pommel: argent, an orle gules (on a silver or white background, the outline of a shield in red). An orle is the outline of a shield. This book also states that the orle was used frequently by members of the Balliol family, including King John, though the color of the orle and the color of the background changed from family member to family member.

Is it possible that nickname of "Toom Tabard" can be attributed in any way to a heraldic charge that is essentially an empty shield, being just an outline of one? Could the nickname be a play on that?

Here's a 16th century image of King John, with his coat of arms (from Wikipedia):


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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 8:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

No thoughts on this? Oh well. Happy
Happy

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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 1:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad, I'll try:

I thought a tabard was something more like a shirt - at least that's how I've seen it translated in popular history books (Empty Shirt). Would heraldry really appear on a tabard?

But speculating, If your theory is right, it could have originated as a play on words and then stuck for its other meaning. I doubt the nickname would have stuck if it did not have a nasty connotation related to the man's political status.

-JD
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 1:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The term tabard has also been used for garments worn over amour in certain periods. Here's some Wikipedia info (which may not be accurate, of course, since it's Wikipedia):

Quote:
A Tabard (from the French tabarde) was originally a humble outer garment of tunic form, generally without sleeves, worn by peasants, monks and foot-soldiers, including Chaucer's ploughman. In this sense the first OED citation is 1300. See also The Tabard, the inn at which the principals meet in that same Prologue. (Wikisource:The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue) In the late middle ages tabards, now open at the sides and so usually belted, were worn by knights over their armour, and usually emblazoned with their arms (though sometimes worn plain). OED first records this use in English in 1450. In this meaning they were apparently distinguished from surcoats by being open at the side, and by being shorter. These became an important means of battlefield identification with the development of plate armor as the use of shields declined.


Certainly garments called tabards were used over plate armour, but that particular context would be after John de Balliol by quite a while.

One of the two more accepted explanations for the nickname stems from having the coat of arms of Scotland ripped from his garment, leaving it heraldically empty.

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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 3:49 pm    Post subject: Re: John de Balliol, origin of his nickname?         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
John de Balliol (aka King John of Scotland) was the person appointed King of Scots by Edward I of England during a succession dispute in the late 13th century. John was undermined by Edward, who pulled most of the strings. Balliol was forced to give up the throne. William Wallace and others actually fought on behalf of Balliol early in the war of independence.

John is often called "Toom Tabard", meaning empty cloak, supposedly for his lack of real authority. Others say the nickname comes from when the coat of arms of Scotland was formally torn from his clothing when he abdicated the throne.

But....

I had a thought a while back while looking through a book of mine. A dagger had been identified as belonging to Balliol's cousin Alexander. It bears a heraldic charge on its pommel: argent, an orle gules (on a silver or white background, the outline of a shield in red). An orle is the outline of a shield. This book also states that the orle was used frequently by members of the Balliol family, including King John, though the color of the orle and the color of the background changed from family member to family member.

Is it possible that nickname of "Toom Tabard" can be attributed in any way to a heraldic charge that is essentially an empty shield, being just an outline of one? Could the nickname be a play on that?


Chad...

The story of how Balliol came to be king of Scotland in the late 13th c. is a rather long and complicated one. To boil it down, he was hand-picked by Edward I from among a number of competitors for the throne. Edward had been asked by the Scottish nobility, after the untimely death of Alexander III who had no surviving male heir, to select the next king of Scotland. Asking Edward to make a decision in these matters was something like asking the goat to tend the cabbage (old Russian saying), in that in Edward's eyes that made him the liege lord of the man he selected. And indeed, Balliol swore fealty to Edward before he was crowned and again afterward. One cannot blame Edward for drawing the conclusion that Balliol was his man.

After his ascent to the throne of Scotland, Balliol began to show a little independence, finally overstepping his bounds by refusing to supply troops and money to Edward for his territorial wars in France and, in fact, concluding an alliance with France. This made Edward angry of course, and in the spring of 1296 he came north, took Berwick in a bloody massacre and subdued Scotland completely. Balliol, who apparently lacked any backbone at all, begged his liege lord's forgiveness by letter and surrendered to the Bishop of Durham in July. Edward ordered Balliol to be literally stripped of the Scottish royal arms in a public humiliation. From that day forward he was known by his countrymen and his enemies as "Toom Tabard, the empty coat". After that came the wars of independence, Wallace and Bruce and the rest, as they say, is history.

I hope that answers your question.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2009 10:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lin,
Thanks for the reply. You confirmed one of the two theories I've seen published, and though I knew the rest of the story, it was still nice to read your concise version of the events. Happy

I suppose it may be as simple as being stripped of the coat of arms, though some still hold to the "lack of authority" story. I still think it's interesting that a basically-empty heraldic charge is associated with the family, but I suppose we'll never know for sure if that played any part in the enduring nickname.

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Justin King
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PostPosted: Fri 05 Jun, 2009 6:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I came across a reference from Andrew Wyntoun's "Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland" (complete with period spelling) that touches on this-just to note, I did double-check the spelling and capitalization which have some odd inconsitencies even within the space of this passage. If you want your wife to think you have gone insane, try reading this aloud phonetically.


"This Johun the Balliol dispoyilyeide he
Off al his robis and royalte,
The pellour that tuk out his tabart,
Tuyme Tabart he was callit efftirwart
Amd all othir insignyis
That fel to kynge on ony wise,
Bathe septure suerde, crowne and rynge,
Fra this Johun, that he made Kynge,
Hallely fra hym, he tuk thar
And mad hym of his Kynrick bare"

I came across this reference in Alan Young's "Robert the Bruce's Rivals: The Comyns, 1212-1314", which provides some interesting perspectives and some less-common history concerning the political realities in Scotland preceding and during the Wars of Independance. The original sources we do have for this area of history tend to write from a perspective that is pro-Bruce and therefore cast the Comyns as villains to a large extent, and have probably distorted our understanding of these events and the social and political climate in which they took place.
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J. Scott Moore





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PostPosted: Fri 05 Jun, 2009 9:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Justin King wrote:
I came across a reference from Andrew Wyntoun's "Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland" (complete with period spelling) that touches on this-just to note, I did double-check the spelling and capitalization which have some odd inconsitencies even within the space of this passage. If you want your wife to think you have gone insane, try reading this aloud phonetically.


I may do just that. Wink
but, seriously that's some pretty cool stuff.

"Whoever desires peace, let him prepare for war."
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Justin King
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PostPosted: Fri 05 Jun, 2009 5:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What I find interesting is that you can actually read the Scots accent in the some of the words, the atrocious spelling which is notorious in old Scots and old English is often phonetically unique to the region and accent of the writer.
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James R.Fox




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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jun, 2009 7:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sirs- The reason the spelling was the same is that the lowland scots and the northumbreans were originally inhabitants of the Saxon Kingdom of Norhumbria, which was not finally split into English and Scots portions untill the days of William the Bastard, and his son William Rufus, who completed the split by conquering Cumbria from Scotland.Many lowland scots famlies, like the Bruces, held land in borh kingdoms.For this reason they spoke the same dialect of english, a fact often remarked on by the historians of the period,
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