The family name comes from the Leslie lands of Aberdeenshire and was to become famous in Germany, Poland, France and Russia. A Hungarian (or more likely by onomastics and typical of the times as well as later Leslie history, a Kievan of Varangian origins) nobleman, named Bartholomew arrived in the retinue of Agatha, wife of Edward the Exile. Bartholomew became Chamberlain to Saint Margaret of Scotland. Bartholomew later married Malcolm III sister, Princess Beatrix of Scotland. His brother inlaw Malcolm III made him Governor of Edinburgh Castle.

Sir Andrew de Lesly was one of the signatories when a letter, the Declaration of Arbroath, was sent to the Pope in 1320 asserting Scotland’s independence. His son Walter died at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411.



16th century

      During the Anglo-Scottish Wars George de Lesly was the Leslys’ first Earl. His grandson, the 2nd Earl, was killed at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513 and the third Earl, also George, carried out a private family vendetta on the life of David Beaton, cardinal Archbishop of St Andrews. At the trial he was acquitted.

      Battle with the Clan Ruthven: In 1544 the Ruthvens, who held considerable sway over Perth from their nearby Castle Huntingtower, often disputed the authority of the Clan Charteris, which led to a bitter and bloody feud. In 1544 Patrick, Lord Ruthven, was elected Provost of Perth, but at the instigation of Cardinal Beaton, who suspected Ruthven of Protestant sympathies, was deprived of the office, and John Charteris of Kinfauns was appointed in his stead. The city declined to acknowledge Charteris, and barred the gates against him. Clan Charteris, along with Lord Gray and Clan Leslie, gathered their forces and attacked the town. They were repulsed by the Clan Ruthven who were assisted by their neighbours the Clan Moncreiffe, and Charterises was forced to flee. The Ruthvens remained Provosts of Perth until William Ruthven, Earl of Gowrie, was executed in 1584. In 1552 John Charteris had been killed by the earl’s heir in the High Street in Edinburgh.

      One of the most highly respected Leslies is said to be John Leslie, the Bishop of Ross, who was born in 1526. He was the most loyal of Mary Queen of Scots‘ supporters during the turbulent times of 1562. It was John Leslie who wrote for her the famous ‘History of Scotland’.

      In 1571 the Clan Leslie joined forces with the Clan Gordon against their bitter enemies the Clan Forbes. The Gordons were also joined by Clan Irvine and Clan Seton. The Forbes were joined by Clan Fraser, Clan Keith and Clan Crichton. The feud between the Gordons and Forbes which had gone on for centuries culminated in two full scale battles: The Battle of Tillieangus and the Battle of Craibstone. It was at the Battle of Tillieangus that the 6th Lord Forbes’ youngest son known as Black Aurther Forbes was killed. Legend has it that “he stooped down to quench his thirst and one of the Gordons gave him his death blow through an open joint in his armour“.



17th century

Thirty Years’ War

      During the early part of the 17th century the Clan Leslie fought in the Thirty Years’ War. General Alexander Leslie of Balgonie fought for Gustavus Adolphus, the King of Sweden. He achieved great fame across Europe for his skills in war and returned to Scotland a Field Marshal.

      Walter Leslie Field Marshall of the Imperials and alleged conspirator against Albrecht von Wallenstein.

Civil War

      Commanding the Covenanters Alexander Leslie captured Edinburgh Castle with a thousand men.

      With the Scots Alexander Leslie, 1st Earl of Leven went into England in 1640 and defeated the King’s soldiers at the Battle of Newburn. For this he was created Earl of Lewis by King Charles I. General Alexander Leslie of Balgonie fought for Gustavus Adolphus, the King of Sweden. He achieved great fame across Europe for his skills in war and returned to Scotland a Field Marshal.

      In 1642 Alexander Leslie, 1st Earl of Leven went to Ireland and held command alongside Robert Munro (d. 1680) of the Scottish Army. They were sent to put down a rebellion of Irishmen who had killed Scotts in Ulster.

      1644, Alexander Leslie, 1st Earl of Leven commanded Scottish Covenantor forces to victory over English Royalists at the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644. This battle was the largest battle of the English and Scottish Civil War, and one of the most decisive. It resulted in a Parliamentarian victory, which meant that the north of England was effectively lost to King Charles for the rest of the war.

      During the Civil War General David Leslie was victorious commanding his Scottish Covenanters force against a Scottish Royalist force at the Battle of Philiphaugh in 1645. The Royalist army of James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose was destroyed by the Covenanter army of Sir David Leslie, restoring the power of the Committee of Estates.

      Dunaverty Castle was a MacDonald stronghold. During the Civil War it was besiged in 1647 by Scottish supporters of Oliver Cromwell who were led by General David Leslie from Clan Leslie. The MacDonalds surrendered and then 300 of them were massacred. The castle is nothing more than a ruin now, known as Blood Rock.

      During the Civil War General David Leslie laid siege to the Royalist garrison at Kincardine Castle. The Castle was being held by the Chief of Clan MacNab. MacNab found that it would not be possible to maintain defense and during the night, sword in hand at the head of 300 men they cut their way through the besieging force. All made it through apart from the MacNab chief himself and one other man who were captured and sent to Edinburgh as prisoners of war. The chief was sentenced to death but he escaped and rejoined King Charles and continued to fight. MacNab was later killed at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

      During the Civil War General David Leslie’s Scottish Covenanter force was defeated by the Scottish Parliamentarian forces who were at this point in time loyal to the Parliament of England and Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Dunbar (1650).

      David Leslie successfully commanded the Scottish Argyll Government Royalist forces at the Battle of Carbisdale (1650) where he was victorious against Scottish Royaslist forces commanded by James Graham 1st Marquess of Montrose.

      General David Leslie’s Royalist Forces were defeated at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Sir David Leslie who was now commanding Royalist forces, supported the plan of fighting in Scotland, where royal support was strongest. King Charles, however, insisted on making the war in England.



18th century

      During the Jacobite Uprisings the Clan Leslie supported the British government. The 9th Earl of Rothes now the Duke of Rothes was Vice Admiral of Scotland and governor of Stirling Castle. He commanded a British regiment of cavalry at the Battle of Sherrifmuir in 1715 where he helped defeat the Jacobites.



Castles and Great houses

      Leslie Castle in Aberdeenshire is the setting of the Clan Leslie gatherings.

      Fetternear Palace in Aberdeenshire.

      Balquhain Castle in Aberdeenshire.

      Balgonie Castle was acquired by Alexander Leslie in the early 17th century.

      Leslie House in Fife was owned by the Leslies until 1919, when a major fire destroyed most of the house and contents.

      Kininvie Manor House in the Spey Valley near Rothes. Originally part of the Balquhain Leslies’ estates, then purchased by the second son of the Earl of Rothes (1936), currently the home of Colonel David Leslie.

      Castle Leslie in County Monaghen Ulster, Ireland Built in the 17th-century, the Castle and surrounding 1000 acre estate is still a Leslie residence, and an exclusive guest house, spa and school for cuisine. In 2002 Sir Paul McCartney married Heather Mills in the Family Church just adjacent to the Castle.



Earl of Rothes

From 1457 the Clan Chief of Clan Leslie also held the position of Earl of Rothes. It is currently held by James Malcolm David Leslie, 22nd Earl of Rothes (b. 1958).




Septs of Clan Leslie include:











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