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Leslie (Lesley) Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: GRIP FAST

Let me recount the fascinating history of your family, the Leslies, passed down through generations:

Your family, the Leslies, takes its name from the place called Leslie, with the surname originally recorded as ‘de Lesselyn.’ The term ‘de Leslie’ signifies ownership of Leslie. The first known ‘de Leslie’ from whom the majority of Leslies descend was Malcolm of Leslie, son of Bertolf. According to accounts, Bertolf, claimed to be a Hungarian prince, arrived in Scotland in 1067 as part of the retinue of Edgar the Aetheling, brother of Margaret, who would later become the queen of Malcolm III. However, the historical evidence regarding Bertolf is limited, and his supposed Hungarian origin has been challenged, with a Flemish origin being suggested. Nonetheless, Bertolf’s close association with the King of Scots enabled him to name his son Malcolm. In recognition of his alleged act of saving Margaret’s life during a river crossing, Bartolf was granted lands in Aberdeenshire, Angus, and Fife. He established his residence at Lesselyn in the Garioch, which later became the origin of his descendants’ name. Bartolf’s son was appointed as the Constable of the Royal Castle of Inverurie.

Malcolm was appointed as constable of the royal castle at Inverurie, which he held under the reign of David II. His great-grandson, Sir Norman Leslie, acquired the lands of Fythkill in Fife, subsequently known as Lesley. The chiefly line of the family passed to a junior branch, from which the present chiefs of the clan descend. George Leslie became Lord Lesley of Leven in 1445 and later attained the title of Earl of Rothes. George, the fourth Earl, served as one of the Scottish commissioners at the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, to the heir to the French throne in 1558. George’s eventful life included five marriages and over fourteen children. Mysteriously, he died under suspicious circumstances, leading to popular belief that he and his family were poisoned for refusing to allow the crown of Scotland to be settled on the Dauphin of France.

Through strategic marriages, the family expanded its possessions to include the Baronies of Rothes, Fytekill, and Ballinbriech. In 1457, George Leslie was bestowed with the title of Earl of Rothes. The third Earl of Rothes tragically perished at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, and the fourth Earl played a significant role as one of the Commissioners during the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, to the Dauphin of France. The sixth Earl emerged as a prominent figure, becoming a leader among the Covenanters in 1638.

The seventh Earl of Rothes received the title of Duke of Rothes from Charles II but passed away without a male heir. The ninth Earl assumed the role of Vice-Admiral of Scotland and served as the Governor of Stirling Castle. He supported the government and led a regiment of cavalry during the Battle of Sheriffmuir.

Sir Alexander Leslie, born around 1580 and died in 1661, served in the Swedish Army and achieved the rank of Field Marshal. He later commanded the Covenanters’ Army and, following the signing of the peace treaty in 1641, was appointed Lord Balgonie and Earl of Leven. In 1682, through his parents’ marriage, the third Earl of Leven gained the additional earldom of Melville.

Subsequently, the Leslies temporarily shifted their focus from politics to the less perilous career of professional soldiers. The seventeenth century witnessed continuous conflicts throughout Europe, offering abundant employment opportunities for the younger sons of many Scottish noble families. Leslies fought in various countries, including Germany, France, Sweden, and the Baltic states. Among the renowned Leslie mercenaries, Alexander Leslie stands out. He was later elevated to the peerage as the Earl of Leven, and the seventh Earl was granted the title of Duke of Rothes by Charles II in 1680. Leslie Castle in Aberdeenshire has undergone a complete restoration in recent years, thanks to the efforts of David Leslie, a local architect. Presently, Alexander Leslie serves as the chief of the clan, receiving support from the Clan Leslie Society.

Your family, the Leslies, boasts an illustrious history filled with noble titles, military achievements, and connections to significant historical events.

As a Leslie, you inherit a rich tapestry of history filled with noble titles, military feats, and influential connections. From the days of Malcolm of Leslie to the esteemed Earls of Rothes and the courageous Covenanters, your ancestors have left an indelible mark on Scottish history. As the present chief, Alexander Leslie, you carry on the traditions of honor and strength. Embrace this noble heritage as you face the future, knowing the Leslie name stands for valor and enduring spirit. Your family’s legacy continues with every step you take.

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Family Crest Motto: GRIP FAST

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