Dervorgilla of Galloway

Other names: 
Dervorgilla Balliol
Born c. 1213, died 28 January 1290

Dervorgilla was the daughter of Margaret of Huntingdon, and Alan, Lord of Galloway. She was the younger daughter of Alan of Galloway’s second marriage and his third surviving legitimate child. The death of their legitimate brother made Dervorgilla and her two sisters heiresses to a landed inheritance centred on Galloway. In 1233, Dervorgilla married John Balliol, lord of Barnard Castle in Teesdale.

Following her father’s death in 1234, Dervorgilla and John received one third of the Galloway inheritance. After 1237, she and her sister fell heirs to the earldoms of Chester and Huntingdon on the death of their uncle, and Dervorgilla acquired most of the inheritance of her childless sister. By c. 1260, she possessed properties from Aberdeenshire to Middlesex, making her one of the greatest landholders of the day.

Deeply pious, Dervorgilla founded convents in Dundee, Dumfries and Wigtown. Following John’s death in 1268, she founded in 1273 the Cistercian abbey of Sweetheart, where she was later buried, and in 1282 she issued statutes that formally instituted Balliol College, Oxford.

Dervorgilla and John Balliol's youngest son, John, became a competitor for the Scottish throne by virtue of Dervorgilla’s descent from David, Earl of Huntingdon, and in 1292 he was awarded the kingdom.

The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women
Entry by Richard Oram