If Barbara’s activity as the wife of a leading figure in the sixteenth-century Scottish political and theological scene is well-attested, her French origins are not. The only near-contemporary source for her parentage comes from a manuscript entitled “The Barons, Knights, and Earls of Panmore (by Name Maule) their Genealogy, Marriages, Succession &c. most from Mr. Robert Maule a Son of the House”, which appears within the genealogical manuscripts of the antiquary George Martine (1635-1712), better known for his 1683 account of St. Andrews. Robert Maule’s original manuscript was written no earlier than the mid-seventeenth century on internal evidence and Martine’s work can probably be dated to no earlier than the 1690s, poor evidence at best, but the only account available. According to Maule and/or Martine, Barbara was “a French Woman of Picardie in France Daughter to the Lord Camnecourt who came to Scotland with Queen Mary of Lorrain the Regent”.
This account was repeated by Violet Jacob (1863-1946), a distant descendant of Dun, in The Lairds of Dun (1931), without further comment, but Jacob also provided the key which would eventually unlock the problem of Barbara’s ancestry. A 1552 charter, now in the British Library, contains the seals of both Dun and his wife Barbara and a description was provided by Jacob in an appendix to her work in which she identified Barbara’s seal as consisting of a shield bearing impaled arms, on the dexter side a saltire between four lions contourné and on the sinister on a pale a cross crosslet fitchée. It also bore a legend “S. Barbara de Barll”. The sinister half of Barbara’s seal is well-attested as the arms of the Erskines of Dun, but the dexter half provides a crucial clue as to her ancestry.
Armed with this sigillographic evidence, it proved short work to locate the family of Berle, seigneurs de Guignicourt, in Chesnaye-Desbois and Badier’s not always reliable but reasonably comprehensive Dictionnaire de la noblesse; their arms: Azure, a saltire or, between four lions of the same, armed and tongued gules. The similarities of surname, estate, and arms make it next to certain that this was Barbara’s family. What generation she belonged to is less clear; perhaps she was the daughter of Enard de Berle, Seigneur de Guignicourt, who married before 1499 to Jacqueline de Savigny? Regardless, it should now be possible to begin exploring the French ancestry of a remarkable but forgotten sixteenth-century Scottish woman.
 There are, of course, exceptions. One of the better known is the Englishwoman Elizabeth Barley, a maid of honour to Margaret, the English wife of James IV, who married (1) Alexander Elphinstone, 1st Lord Elphinstone, and (2) John Forbes, 6th Lord Forbes (see Sir James Balfour Paul, ed., Scots Peerage, 9 vols. [Edinburgh, 1904-1914], iii. 530-531, iv. 54-55). The Scots Peerage was unaware of her parentage, but it can be established from an eighteenth-century MS pedigree printed in Sir Montague Barlow, Barlow Family Records (London and Derby, 1932), 46. http://barlowgenealogy.com/england/SirMontague/BFR-CH6B.pdf
 Scots Peerage, iii. 27.
 ODNB, sub John Erskine and Walter Macfarlane, Genealogical Collections, 2 vols., ed. James Toshach Clark (Edinburgh, 1900), ii. 153.
 “The Obitis of the Lairdis and Ladeis of Dwne”, in Miscellany of the Spalding Club, Volume Fourth (Aberdeen, 1849), lxxvii. For a discussion of the rich archival evidence illuminating Dun’s two marriages see W. C. J., “Gamnecourt in Picardy: Barbara de Bierle”, Notes and Queries, 2nd series, 11 (1910): 512-513.
 It is published in Macfarlane, Genealogical Collections, ii. 125-156.
 Based on its reference to the many miscarriages of Margaret Hamilton, wife of James Maule, 4th Earl of Panmure, whose marriage contract is dated 5 February 1687 (Scots Peerage, vii. 26; Macfarlane, Genealogical Collections, ii. 156.
 Macfarlane, Genealogical Collections, ii. 153.
 Violet Jacob, The Lairds of Dun (London, 1931), 66.
 Jacob, Lairds of Dun, 299.
 For other contemporary examples of the family of Dun using these arms see William Rae MacDonald, Scottish Armorial Seals (Edinburgh, 1904), 109.
 François-Alexandre Aubert de la Chesnaye-Desbois and Jacques Badier, Dictionnaire de la noblesse . . ., 3rd ed. (Paris, 1863-1877), ii. col. 958.
Copyright © 2014 Kelsey Jackson Williams