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Balfour of Denmylne
Arms: Or, a chevron Sable charged with ane otters head erased of the field between three trefoils Vert, and in chief a label of three points Gules.

SOURCES/NOTES & CREDITS: Biographical information was contributed by Elizabeth Ann Roads, LVO, OStJ, LLB, Snawdoun Herald at the Court of the Lord Lyon and Secretary of the Order of the Thistle. Mrs. Roads is a direct descendant of Sir James Balfour through his daughter Janet. Sir James is Mrs. Roads six times great grandfather. Note: Sir James’ arms blazoned here with a three point label Gules. He was for most of his working life, the son of his living father, Sir Michael Balfour of Denmylne, who only died in 1652, thus the arms with the label would have been those familiar to his contemporaries.

Sir James Balfour of Denmylne and Kinnaird, Bt., Lord Lyon King of Arms 17 March 1630 until deprived by Oliver Cromwell in about 1654.

He was born in about 1600, the son of Sir Michael Balfour of Denmylne who conveyed the lands of Kinnaird to his son in 1630. A baronetcy was conferred on James on 22 December 1633. He married four times but his only son died young in 1673 leaving no issue and the baronetcy passed to a younger brother of Sir James in whose line it continued until it became dormant in 1793.

Sir James was the first Lyon who was a true scholar of history and heraldry and he took a life-long interest in recording historical events which were collated and published as “The Annals of Scotland” in four volumes in 1824. He drew up a map of Fife, including genealogies of the local families, which appeared as part of the series of maps prepared by Timothy Pont, brother of the heraldist James Pont. He studied at the College of Arms as a young man and Garter confirmed that his heraldic knowledge was excellent which set the stage for him to become Lyon. He wrote many treatises on heraldic history and practice, many of which can be seen at the National Library of Scotland and it to these works that much of our present-day knowledge of heraldic practices of the past can be attributed. He was a dedicated collector of manuscripts and had a vast library some of which eventually passed to the Advocates Library, although sadly much was lost. He was responsible for arranging, in his first year of office, for the Privy Council to declare the great Armorial of Sir David Lindsay of the Mount one of the official records of Scotland. Also, in 1630 all goldsmiths and engravers were ordered to hand in their books to Sir James for examination, although few initially did. When James Workman produced his book Sir James was instructed by the Privy Council to peruse it and correct any errors and that armorial remains one of the most accurate and is consulted regularly. Like his predecessors he was to make a perfect book of arms but sadly this has not survived but from our knowledge of his work we know that such an armorial would have been an accurate record of heraldry in the first half of the 17th century He officiated at the Coronations of Kings Charles I and II, although on the latter occasion he had already retired to Fife and worked on heraldic matters in seclusion.

His heraldic legacy is enormous, leaving us the knowledge that the armorials of others were examined and found to be accurate and setting the scene for the successful establishment of the Public Register in 1672.

Sir James Balfour of Denmylne and Kinnaird, Bt. died on 13 February 1657

The artwork is a rendition of John Hamilton Gaylor

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