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Devorguilla Balliol

  • Name  : Balliol
  • Born  : c.1209
  • Died  : 1290
  • Category  : Famous Historical Figures
  • Finest Moment : Foundation of Balliol College, Oxford

'She was buried with her husband's heart at Sweetheart Abbey'

Born the youngest daughter of Alan of Galloway, in 1233 she married John Balliol of Barnard Castle, Co Durham, with whom she had four sons and three daughters. Her name in Gaelic is dearbh-fhorghoill, or 'true judgment'.

She inherited much of Galloway in addition to lands in Aberdeenshire and Angus, and in the Honour of Huntingdon, she transmitted a claim to the throne to her only surviving son, John Balliol. She was obviously an outstanding woman in many ways, and with her husband was active in Anglo-Scots politics.

Her husband died in 1268, and Devorguilla had his embalmed heart encased in an ivory shrine. This was placed before her at meals, when she would give its share of every dish to the poor. Other good deeds included the building of friaries at Wigton, Dundee and Dumfries (and these were Dominican, Franciscan and Franciscan respectively, indicating a respect for the different schools), the endowment of a hostel for poor scholars at Oxford (later to be known, as it is today, as Balliol College), and the foundation of Sweetheart Abbey. She is also credited with the first stone bridge at Dumfries.

She died at Buittle Castle in 1290, and was buried in her abbey with the casket containing her husband's heart in her arms.

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