Balnaves, Henry

Biography: Diplomat and religious reformer. Said to come from Kirkcaldy and studied at Cologne, but where he received his M.A. is uncertain. Returned to St Andrews by 1527. Worked as a procurator in St Andrews for several years and by 1537 he was an advocate in the Court of Session. Promoted to lord of session 1538. In 1539 he bought Halhill in Fife with his wife. By 1539 he was clerk to the treasurer and in 1540 he first acted as a diplomat, going to Coldstream to negotiate extraditions. Regularly attended parliament in the 1530s-40s. Supported the earl of Arran in his bid to be governor, and became his secretary in February 1543. Sent to England to negotiate the marriage treaty of Mary, Queen of Scots to the future Edward VI, but by November Arran's English policy had changed and Balnaves was removed from office and imprisoned in Blackness Castle til Spring 1544. However he was back in parliament by November and sitting in court by June 1545. He was not implicated in the murder of Archbishop Beaton in May 1546, but by the middle of August he was no longer appearing at the Privy Council, and in the autumn he entered St Andrews Castle where the assassins were holding out. In November, with Norman Lesley, he boarded an English ship to London under heavy fire, to meet with the English privy council. Balnaves offered to gain "assurances" of support for English intervention from Scottish nobles in exchange for financial support for the castilians and a pension for himself. By March 1547 he had returned to Scotland to compile this list of assurances, which was thought to contain 200 signatures. In April he made another secret trip to England, and he encouraged John Knox to preach in May. St Andrews Castle fell to the French at the end of July and Balnaves was taken prisoner along with others in the castle. He was imprisoned in the castle at Rouen, where he was allowed to debate with other learned men, and wrote a religious treatise, strongly influenced by Luther, which was eventually published in 1584. Balnaves was released in the early 1550s but remained in France til 1556 when Mary of Guise reversed the forfeiture caused by his imprisonment. Back in Scotland, Balnaves resumed his secret diplomacy, meeting with Ralph Sadler and James Croft at Berwick in 1559 to gain financial support for the Scottish reformist lords of the congregation. He was also a signatory to the Anglo-Scottish treaty of Berwick in 1560. Following the establishment of the reformed kirk, Balnaves eventually returned to his old occupation, and was readmitted to the bench in 1563. His final diplomatic work was in 1568, when he helped the regent Moray to bring charges against Mary, Queen of Scots. He regularly attended the privy council in 1568 and 1569. He died in Leith, 1570.

Biography Date: d.1570

Biography References: CERL; DNB;


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