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The Scottish Nation

ROTHES, earl of, a title in the peerage of Scotland, conferred, before 20th March, 1457-8, on George de Lesley of Rothes, Fifeshire, the ninth in descent from Bartholomew, a Flemish baron, ancestor of the family in Scotland. The first earl died about 1488, and having been predeceased by his only son, Andrew, master of Rothes, was succeeded by his grandson, George, second earl, who, with his younger brother, William, was killed at Flodden. The latter had two sons; George, who succeeded as third earl, and John, one of the prisoners taken by the English at the rout of Solway in 1542. He has obtained an historical name as being one of the chief conspirators in the assassination of Cardinal Bethune. After the martyrdom of George Wishart, March 1, 1546, he declared in all companies, holding his dagger in his hand, that “that same dagger and that same hand shall be priest to the cardinal,” and he kept his word.

George, third earl, was in 1529 appointed sheriff of Fife. He attended King James V., on his matrimonial expedition to France in 1536. He was admitted a lord of session, Nov. 16, 1532, and on Dec. 7, 1541, he had a charter of the office of sheriff of Fife to himself in liferent, and to Norman his son in fee, on his own resignation. IN 1543 he fell under the suspicion of the governor Arran and Cardinal Bethune, and in Nov. of that year was apprehended at Dundee, with Lord Gray and Balnaves of Halhill. The following year he was set at liberty, and on Nov. 7 was appointed a lord of the articles. In June 1546, after the murder of Cardinal Bethune, in which his brother John and his son Norman were the two principal actors, the friends of the cardinal prevailed on the governor to have him tried for accession to the murder, while the Scots army was on its way to repel an invasion on the western borders, when he was acquitted. In June 1550, he was sent ambassador to Denmark, and on Dec. 18, 1557, he was one of the eight commissioners elected by the estates to represent the Scots nation at the nuptials of Queen Mary and Francis the dauphin in Paris, April 24, 1558. The firm conduct of these commissioners in refusing the crown matrimonial to that prince, gave great offence to the French court, and it was thought that poison was administered to them, as the earls of Rothes and Cassillis, and Reid, bishop of Orkney, three of their number, died at Dieppe, on their way home, in November.

The earl was four times married. By his 1st wife, and his 4th, he had no issue. His 2d wife (according to Douglas’ Peerage) was Agnes, daughter of Sir John Somerville of Cambusnethan, and by her he had 4 sons and 2 if not 3 daughters. The sons were, 1. Andrew, who succeeded as 4th earl of Rothes; 2. Peter; 3. James; 4. John. In 1517, previous to his nuptials with Agnes Somerville, he had contracted a marriage with Margaret, only daughter of William, 3d Lord Crichton, and granddaughter of James II. This marriage was declared, before 1524, to be uncanonical. By this lady, “his affidate spouse,” and whom, after the death of Agnes Somerville, he married regularly, he had four sons born previously to his marriage with the latter. 1. George, who died unmarried; 2. Norman, called the Master of Rothes, of whom afterwards; 3. William; 4. Robert of Findrassie, ancestor of the Leslies of Wardes and Findrassie.
The above-named Norman Leslie, master of Rothes, is well known in Scottish history. He distinguished himself at the battle of Ancrum Moor against the English in Feb. 1545, but was forfeited in parliament, Aug. 1546, for his share in the death of Cardinal Bethune. After the surrender of the castle of St. Andrews to the French in June following, he was carried, with the other prisoners, to France. He afterwards entered into the king of France’s service, and gained great reputation in the wars between that monarch and the emperor of Germany. He was killed in an engagement fought between their armies near Cambray in 1554. Referring to his two younger brothers, Mr. David Laing, in his edition of ‘Knox’s History of the Reformation,’ says in a note: -- “The reader may be referred to the appendix of Nisbet’s ‘Heraldry,’ to explain the grounds upon which they, as heirs-male, were passed over in the succession at their father’s death in 1558, when Andrew Leslie, the eldest son by a subsequent marriage, and who had married a niece of the governor, the Earl of Arran, became Earl of Rothes.” Of these two brothers, William is understood, died without issue, as Norman also had previously done. Robert, the other brother, settled in Morayshire, in the parish of Spynie, and became founder of the Findrassie family. He married Janet Elphinstone, a daughter of Robert Lord Elphinstone, and left three sons and two daughters. The representative of this family in the direct line is Sir Charles Henry Leslie, of Wardes and Findrassie, baronet, a minor(1862), who, as descended from an elder son of the third Earl of Rothes, is the undoubted representative of the Leslies.

Andrew, eldest son of George, third earl of Rothes, by Agnes Somerville, succeeded his father as 4th earl in Nov. 1558. In June of the following year, he joined the lords of the Congregation at Cupar, “with a goodly company,” when threatened by the troops of the queen regent, and as he was hereditary sheriff of Fife, his prompt accession at that time, greatly strengthened their cause. He was one of the protestant noblemen who signed the ratification of the contract of Berwick, 10th May 1560, for the assistance of the English against the party of the queen regent. In September 1561, when the youthful Queen Mary, after her return from France, made a tour through some of the principal towns of the kingdom, she spent a night at Leslie house, Fife, the seat of the earl of Rothes. Randolph, the English ambassador, wrote to Cecil Queen Elizabeth’s minister, that the plate and some other articles belonging to the earl, disappeared during this short visit, but he does not insinuate who among the queen’s followers, many of them Frenchmen, were supposed to have taken them. On the marriage of the queen with Lord Darnley, 27th July 1765, he was one of the noblemen engaged in the “Chase-about Raid,” and with the other malcontent lords was forced to take refuge in England. He was afterwards pardoned by the queen. He joined the association on her behalf at Hamilton, 9th May 1568, and fought on her side at Langside. In 1581 he was one of the jury on the trial of the regent Morton, and as he had also been on the jury at the mock trial of the earl of Bothwell, it was afterwards alleged against him and the laird of Lochinvar, who had likewise been on both assizes, that they had found Morton guilty of that whereof they had cleared Bothwell. In 1583, he was appointed temporary keeper of the castle of Lochleven. He married, first, Grizzel, daughter of Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, and, with other issue, had, James, master of Rothes, who was engaged in the raid of Ruthven in August 1582, but died before his father, leaving a son, John, fifth earl of Rothes; and Patrick, commendator of Lindores, ancestor of the first four Lords Lindores and of the Lords Newark. By his second countess, Jean, daughter of Patrick, Lord Ruthven, the widowed Lady Methven, he had two daughters; and by his third wife, Janet, daughter of David Durie of Durie, Fife, he had three sons and a daughter. The second son, Sir John Leslie of Newton, was the ancestor of the fifth and subsequent Lords Lindores.

John, fifth earl, the great Covenanter, born in 1600, was served heir to his grandfather, earl Andrew, in 1621. In that year he was one of the few noblemen who had the courage to oppose the act of confirmation in parliament of the five articles of Perth. In 1626 he was one of the commissioners sent to London with a petition against the king’s measures in relation to the church, at which Charles is said to have “storm’d as if too high, a straine for subjects and petitioners.” (Balfour’s Annals, vol. ii. p. 153.) He carried the scepter in the procession of the 18th June 1633, when the king, on his visit to Scotland that year, went in state from the castle of Edinburgh to the chapel royal of Holyrood-House. In the parliament which met two days after, at which the king was present, he opposed, with great spirit, the act “anent his majesty’s royal prerogative and apparel of kirkmen,” insisting that it should be divided, but the king said that it was now one act, and he must either vote for it, or against it. The earl said he was for the prerogative as much as any man, but that addition relative to the apparel of kirkmen, was contrary to the liberties of the church, and should not be agreed to, until they were heard. The votes were declared to be in favour of the act, when his lordship challenged their correctness. Clarendon says that, after this, Charles was so highly offended with Rothes that he would not speak to him; and in his progress to Falkland palace, in July, he is said purposely to have changed his route, to avoid the gentlemen of Fife, who had been collected by the earl of Rothes, for his reception. His lordship was one of the chief preparers of the Covenant, and when the marquis of Hamilton, the king’s commissioner, attempted to dissolve the famous Glasgow Assembly of 1638, Lord Rothes presented a protest against the dissolution, as he did also against the marquis’ proclamation thereanent. From that period till the conclusion of the treaty at Rippon in June 1641, he took a very active share in public matters, and was the author of ‘A Relation of proceedings concerning the affairs of the Kirk of Scotland, from August 1637 to July 1638,’ which was printed for the Bannatyne Club in 1830, in one volume 4to, with a full-length portrait of the earl. Various public letters written by him during 1637 and 1641 are contained in Mr. Thomsons’ edition of the Acts of parliament (Acts 1641, vol. v.); in Balcanquhall’s Large Declaration, 1639; in Baillie’s Letters and Journals; in Balfour’s Annals; in Burnet’s Lives of the Dukes of Hamilton; and in different manuscript collections. In 1639 he was one of the commissioners deputed by the Scottish army, then encamped on Dunse Law, to treat with the king, who, with his forces, was stationed at the Birks, a plain on the English side of the Tweed, about three miles from Berwick. In Hardwicke’s State Papers (vol. ii. pp. 130-139), is printed an interesting account of a conference held between the king and Rothes and the other Scottish commissioners, in the tent of the lord-general, the earl of Arundel, 11th June 1639, which led to the pacification of Berwick. So keen was he at this time in the cause of the Covenant, that in one of his letters to the earl of Pembroke, then lord-chamberlain, dated Edinburgh, 29th January 1639-40, “he threatens the English nation with war, if the hierarchy of the church was not new-molded, to the minds of the Scottish commissioners.” The same year (1640) he was nominated chief of the commissioners sent to London to treat with the king. His residence there and his intercourse with the court appear to have had some influence in moderating his views, if not of gaining him entirely over to the king’s party. Clarendon says: “Certain it is, that he had not been long in England before he liked both the kingdom and the court so well, that he was not willing to part with either. He was of a pleasant and jovial humour, without any of those constraints which the formality of that time made that party subject themselves to.” He was to have been appointed one of the lords of the bedchamber and a privy councilor, and he had the prospect of a marriage with Lady Devonshire, “a very wise lady,” says Baillie, “with £4,000 sterling a-year.” A life-pension of £10,000 Scots (£833 6s. 8d. sterling) had been settled on him, and was confirmed by parliament in August 1641, in which month he was to have accompanied the king to Scotland, had not illness prevented him. He died at Richmond upon Thames on the 23d of the same month, and his death was considered a great blow to t he king’s hopes of accommodation with the Scots, happening as it did so suddenly, just at that particular time. By his countess, Lady Ann Erskine, second daughter of John, earl of Mar, he had a son, John, created duke of Rothes, who was as much opposed to the Covenant as his father had been for it, and two daughters, Lady Margaret, who was thrice married, being successively Lady Balgonie, countess of Buccleuch, and countess of Wemyss, and had issue to all her husbands, and Lady Mary, countess of Eglinton.

John, sixth earl, was the duke of Rothes of Charles the Second’s reign. Born in 1630, he was eleven years of age when he succeeded his father. On the arrival of Charles II. in Scotland, in 1650, he waited on the king, and carried the sword of state at his coronation at Scone, 1st January 1651. The following month he was appointed colonel of one of the two regiments of horse levied in Fife for the king’s service, and was taken at the battle of Worcester, 3d September the same year. He was confined in the Tower of London till 1654, when he was removed to Newcastle. By the interest of the countess of Dysart, afterwards duchess of Lauderdale, with Cromwell, he obtained his liberty in July 1655. In January 1658, he was committed to Edinburgh castle, by order of Cromwell, in order to prevent a duel between him and Viscount Howard, on account of the earl’s supposed gallantry to the viscount’s wife. His estate was sequestrated in April the same year, and through the good offices of General Monk, he was liberated the first of December following. He afterwards went to Breda, to wait on Charles II. At the Restoration he was appointed lord-president of the council of Scotland “by the joint consent of all the opposite parties, for his youth had as yet suffered him to have no enemies, and the subtlety of his wit obliged all to court his friendship.” (Mackenzie’s Memoirs, p. 8). He was also named a lord of session, 1sst June 1661, and at the same time was appointed one of the commissioners of exchequer. On the fall of the earl of Middleton, he was constituted lord-high-commissioner to the parliament which met at Edinburgh, 18th June 1663, and the same year he received the staff of high-treasurer of Scotland, in room of his father-in-law, the earl of Crawford. He was also appointed captain of the troop of life-guards and general of the forces, and sworn a privy councilor of England. The following year, on the death of the earl of Glencairn, he was appointed keeper of the privy seal of Scotland, so that he held the three highest offices in the kingdom. In all matters relating to the church the earl of Rothes followed the violent counsels of Archbishop Sharp, and his conduct in reference to the oppressed Presbyterians was in consequence of the most persecuting kind.

In 1667, Lauderdale supplanted him in the royal favour, and on 16th April that year, he was stripped of all his employments, except the chancellorship. He had been represented to the king, and that not by the Presbyterians, but by some of his own colleagues in the government, as unfit to hold such high offices, on account of his dissolute and lascivious life, which it was said was wholly given up to debauchery. He afterwards joined the party of the duke of York, through whose influence he was, by patent, dated at Windsor, 29th May 1680, created duke of Rothes, marquis of Ballenbreich, earl of Lesley, viscount of Lugton, Lord Auchmutie, and Caskiebery, with limitation to the heirs male of his body. He did not long enjoy his new titles, as he died of jaundice at Holyrood-house, Edinburgh, 27th July 1681, aged 51. As he had no male issue, his ducal titles became extinct at his death. He had two daughters, Lady Margaret, on whom the earldom devolved, and Lady Christian, marchioness of Montrose, mother of the first duke of Montrose.

The duke of Rothes does not bear an enviable character among the Scots statesmen of his time. His talents were of no mean order, though he was totally devoid of learning. Lord Fountainhall says, he gave himself “great libertie in all sorts of pleasures and debaucheries, particularly with Lady Anne, sister to the first duke of Gordon, whom he took along with him in his progress through the country in hat and feather, and by his bad example infected many of the nobility and gentry.” He is said to have excused his gallantries on the ground that, as Charles’ commissioner, it became him in all things to represent the royal person. The following passage, suppressed in the earlier editions of Burnet’s history, gives a singular account of his intemperance: “He was unhappily made for drunkenness. For as he drank all his friends dead, and was able to subdue two or three sets of drunkards, one after another, so it scarce ever appeared that he was disordered, and after the greatest excesses, an hour or two of sleep carried them all off so entirely that no sign of them remained. He would go about his business without any uneasiness, or discovering any heat either in body or mind. This had a terrible conclusion; for, after he had killed all his friends, he fell at last under such a weakness of stomach that he had perpetual cholics, when he was not hot within and full of strong liquor, of which he was presently seized; so that he was always either sick of drunk.”

His elder daughter, Margaret, countess of Rothes, married Charles, fifth earl of Haddington, and died 20th August 1700. They had three sons, viz., John, seventh earl of Rothes; Thomas, sixth earl of Haddington, and the Hon. Charles Hamilton, who died young.

John, seventh earl of Rothes, the eldest son, was appointed keeper of the privy seal of Scotland in 1704, but the following year he was removed from that office. At the general election of 1708, he was chosen one of the sixteen Scots representative peers, and subsequently was twice re-elected. After the accession of George O., he was, in November 1714, appointed vice-admiral of Scotland, and in 1715, governor of Stirling castle. He was lord-high-commissioner to the Church of Scotland from 1715 to 1721, both inclusive. On the breaking out of the rebellion of 1715, he rendered himself very active on the side of the government. With 500 men of the Fife militia he marched to seize Perth, but was prevented obtaining possession of that town by the rebels being beforehand with him. On 26th September, when a party of the rebels had assembled at Kinross, for the purpose of proclaiming the Pretender, Lord Rothes entered the town, sword in hand, with a detachment of the Scots Greys, put them to flight, and seizing Sir Thomas Bruce of Kinross, carried him prisoner to Stirling. In the following month a party of the rebels went to his seat of Leslie, and searched it for arms. Forcing the church doors, they broke into the family burial place, and having dug up the coffins, tore them open. On the 17th October, his lordship and Lord Torphichen, with 300 volunteers and 200 horse, marched from Edinburgh to Seton House, Haddingtonshire, then garrisoned by the rebels, but found them so strongly entrenched within the gates that it was impossible to dislodge them without artillery. At the battle of Sheriffmuir, on the 13th November, he commanded the horse volunteers, and behaved with great gallantry. On 2d January 1716, he attempted to possess himself of the royal palace of Falkland, but was repulsed with loss by the rebels. Besides being heritable sheriff of Fife, he was lord-lieutenant of the counties of Fife, Kinross, and Aberdeen. He died 9th May 1722. By his countess, Lady Jean Hay, daughter of the second marquis of Tweeddale, high-chancellor of Scotland, he had eight sons and four daughters.

The eldest son, John, eighth earl, entered the army, and at the battle of Dettingen, 16th June 1743, acted as major-general. He was one of the sixteen Scots representative peers, and in June 1744, was appointed chamberlain of Fife and Strathern. At the battle of Rocoux, 1st October 1746, betwixt the British and the French, the latter commanded by Marshal Saxe, his lordship was at the head of the first line of cavalry, and behaved with great bravery. Under the heritable jurisdictions abolition act of 1747, he received for the hereditary sheriffship of Fife, £6,268 16s. In 1751, he was appointed governor of Duncannon fort, and a lieutenant-general on the staff in Ireland. In March 1753, he was invested with the order of the Thistle. He was subsequently commander-in-chief of the forces in Ireland, a general in the army, colonel of the third regiment of foot-guards, and a member of the privy council in Ireland. He died 10th December 1767. He married, first, Hannah, daughter and heiress of Matthew Howard of Thorpe, county of Norfolk, and by her had two sons and two daughters; secondly, Miss Lloyd, daughter of Mary, countess of Haddington, by her first husband, but by her had no issue. This countess of Rothes, after the death of the earl her husband, became the wife of Bennet Langton of Langton, Lincolnshire, the friend of Dr. Johnson, and to Mr. Langton she had a large family.

John, ninth earl of Rothes, an officer in the army, died 18th April 1773, in his 29th year, without issue, when, his brother having predeceased him, his elder sister, Lady Jane Elizabeth, became countess of Rothes. Her right to the succession was contested by her uncle, the Hon. Andrew Leslie, equerry to the princess dowager of Wales, but both the court of session and the House of Lords on appeal, decided against him. Her ladyship died June 2d, 1810, in her 61st year. She married, first, George Raymond Evelyn, youngest son of William Evelyn Glanville of St. Clere in Kent, by whom she had three sons, the two eldest of whom died infants, and the third, George William, was tenth earl of Rothes. She married, secondly, in 1772, Lucas Pepys, M.D., physician to George III., and physician general to the army, created a baronet of Great Britain, 10th December 1783, and had to him two sons and a daughter, who assumed their mother’s maiden name of Leslie instead of that of Pepys. The elder son, Sir Charles Leslie, second baronet, died in 1833, and was succeeded by his brother, Rev. Sir Henry Leslie, third baronet. The daughter, Harriet, countess of Devon, died in 1839.

George William, 10th earl, born March 28, 1768, married, 1st, Lady Henrietta Anne Pelham, eldest daughter of the 1st earl of Chichester, and had two daughters, Lady Henrietta Anne, and Lady Mary. He married, 2dly, charlotte Julia, daughter of Colonel John Campbell of Dunoon, by whom he had a daughter, Elizabeth-Jane, married to Major Wathen 13th light dragoons. His lordship died in 1817.

His eldest daughter, Henrietta Anne, 3d countess of Rothes in her own right, born in 1790, married in 1806 George Gwyther, who assumed the surname and arms of Leslie, and had two sons and four daughters.

The elder son, George William Evelyn Leslie, 11th earl, succeeded his mother, Jan. 30, 1819. Born Nov. 8, 1809, he married, May 7, 1831, Louisa, 3d daughter of Colonel Anderson-Morshead, colonel-commandant of engineers, and, with a daughter, Lady Hannah Anderson Morshead, had an only son, George William Evelyn Leslie, born Feb. 4, 1835. The latter succeeded him, in his death March 10, 1841, as 12th earl, and died at Edinburgh, unmarried, Jan. 2, 1858, succeeded by his sister, Henrietta Anderson Morshead Leslie, countess in her own right. Born in 1832, she married, Jan. 22, 1861, Hon. George Waldegrave, 3d son of William, 8th earl of Waldegrave.

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