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Henry Balnaves


1512 - 1579

Judge and protestant reformer. Born in Kirkcaldy (Fife), Balnaves was educated at the University of St. Andrews and on the continent where he was converted to Protestantism and worked hard to establish the faith in Scotland, provide the country with its own version of the bible and make ties with England. In 1538, Balnaves was appointed a Judge in the Court of Session in Edinburgh by King James V (1512-42). The following year, he gained title to the estate of Halhill, by Collessie in Fife. He briefly served as Secretary of State, having been appointed by James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran and Regent of Scotland (1516-75), but was soon removed for his faith when Arran decided to support Catholicism and was jailed in Blackness Castle. He was released by the invading English the following year and served as their agent. After the murder of Cardinal Beaton in 1546, Balnaves joined John Knox (c.1513-72) in the defence of St Andrews Castle against Arran. After a year, the castle was taken with the aid of the French and Balnaves, Knox and others were taken to Rouen where they were held in prison. Here he wrote The Confessions of Faith which was published posthumously, with a preface by Knox, in 1584. He returned to Scotland in 1557, was restored as a Lord of Session in 1563 and was one of the judges who tried James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell (1536-78), for the murder of Lord Darnley (1545-67). He actively supported the Lord of Congregation against Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87), who was forced to abdicate the same year.

He resigned his judicial office in 1574 and died in Edinburgh five years later.


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