Leslie and Rothes:

a thousand years of British history

arms of the Earls of Rothes
The origins of the family that held the feudal estates of Leslie and Rothes lie in the 11th century before Duke William crossed the Channel to conquer England. At that time the rules of succession to thrones were not so clear cut as now, and the temptation to kill competitors was substantial, so the young sons of King Edmund Ironside, together with their mother, left their inheritance and fled first to Sweden and thence to Hungary. The elder boy died there, but the younger, Edward, thrived, married the niece of the Holy Roman Emperor and had three children of whom Edgar Atheling became heir to the English throne, and Margaret a future saint.
Edward and his family returned to England in 1057, but Edward died before he was able to meet King Edward the Confessor to whom he was the recognised heir apparent. The children stayed on until 1066, surviving the short reign of Harold II, but decided to flee back to Hungary when Duke William won at Hastings. Fortunately for both Scotland and England, their ship was driven northwards by bad weather and eventually they landed in Scotland where they were met by King Malcolm III Canmore ~ who married Margaret shortly thereafter.
Edgar was proclaimed King in England by William’s opposition party, but as he was no warrior, and was almost certainly not very bright mentally, this collapsed and Edgar eventually returned to England where he lived on as a friend and pensioner of King William. His other sister, Christine, took the veil and died in the convent of Romsey. In Scotland Queen Margaret’s influence over her devoted husband grew to be so strong that she materially affected the future development of Scotland in social and religious affairs.
Among those who landed in Scotland with Margaret were the officers of her brother’s court, many being men from Hungary and Flanders. Margaret’s Chamberlain, a Fleming by the name of Bertolff, is claimed as the ancestor of the Leslie family, and to him or his son were allegedly granted the lands of Lescelyn in Aberdeenshire. A century later these were confirmed to Malcolm, son of another Bertolff, and when Malcolm’s son Norman, the Constable of Inverury, was granted Caskieben, the charter spelled Lescelyn as Leslie.
The family’s growth in power, wealth and influence from that time can be conveniently illustrated in many ways, not least by a listing of the families into which the Leslie chiefs married ~ first as lairds and knights, later as earls, and for one generation as a duke. Not all are given here, as with one exception we have restricted the list to fathers of those ladies who provided the next heir, but what is included here is an impressive cross-section of Scotland’s leaders down the years until the late 17th century. (If the mouse touches an illustration, the name of the father of the bride will appear.)
Arms of Sir Thomas Hay of Erroll Arms of Sir John de Seton Arms of Walter Haliburton of Dirleton
Arms of Sir Alexander Abernethy of that Ilk
Sir Andrew Leslie m Mary Abernethy of that Ilk
Sir George Leslie m Elizabeth Hay of Erroll
Sir Norman Leslie m Christian Seton of Seton
1st Earl of Rothes m Christian Haliburton of Dirleton
Arms of 4th Earl of Angus Arms of Sir John Somerville of Cambusnethan
Arms of Sir Michael Balfour of Montquhanny Arms of William, 3rd Lord Crichton
4th Earl of Rothes m 3rd Agnes Somerville of Cambusnethan
3rd Earl of Rothes m Janet Balfour of Montquhanny
4th Earl of Rothes m 1st Margaret Crichton (illegitimate)
2nd Earl of Rothes m Janet Douglas of Angus
Arms of Patrick, 3rd Lord Drummond Arms of John Erskine, Earl of Mar John Lindsay, 17th Earl of Crawford and Lindsay
5th Earl of Rothes m Grizel Hamilton of Finnart
James Master of Rothes m Catherine Drummond
Duke of Rothes m Anne Lindsay of Crawford and Lindsay
6th Earl of Rothes m Anna Erskine of Mar
In common with all the great Scottish families the tidal movement of national politics raised and lowered the fortunes of the Leslies as the centuries passed. Lands were acquired and others were disponed, baronies were created and sometimes later lost their identity by being integrated with other baronies. The original Leslie lands went to a cadet branch in the north, and its name was given to a new barony of Fythkill in Fife. The marriage of the Abernethy coheiress brought in the Barony of Ballinbreich, and this was subsequently united with other lands and baronies to become the most important Leslie property.
On 4th July 1663 the Barony of Leslie was regranted as the Lordship of Leslie and Ballinbreich for the 7th Earl, who was subsequently the first and last Duke of Rothes, and all the lands, baronies, lordships and earldom were erected “into one free barony burgh of barony, lordship of Leslie, and earldom of Rothes”. The rent for all the lands and baronies was “one red rose at midsummer”. Although the lands of Rothes on Speyside were sold in 1711 and those of Ballinbreach in Fife followed in 1765, the feudal Lordship of Leslie and the Feudal Earldom of Rothes were retained, “the manor-place of Leslie” being the caput of the earldom.
On 19th October 1859 a Crown Charter confirmed the Barony and Lordship of Leslie and the Earldom of Rothes in favour of The Rt. Hon. Henrietta Anderson Morshead Leslie, Countess of Rothes (in her own right), and in 1919 her first cousin once removed, the 19th Earl of Rothes, sold these feudal titles out of the family. The current owner, the son of the purchaser, now offers them for sale with an asking price of £150,000 (approximately $240,000).
The Baronage Press has mixed views about the sales of such important ancient titles, preferring by far that they stay in the family, certainly within the clan. However, these moved out of Leslie ownership as long ago as 1919, and here is a chance for them to move back. The Leslie clan does not have a long list of septs, Bartholomew, Lang and More (by any spelling) being the only ones claimed, so there is no long list of surnames that might produce potential buyers, but Leslies have emigrated to a large number of different countries and there will be many with Leslie blood in their veins who could be tempted to protect this ancient feudal earldom. They may be found, according to our 1764 edition of Douglas’s Peerage, in England, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Poland, France and Muscovy (Russia), and to those we can today add North America and all the dominions of the old British Empire.
The sale of this property was completed shortly after it was featured in the Baronage pages.
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