The family name comes from the Leslie lands of Aberdeenshire and was to become famous in Germany, Poland, France and Russia. According to tradition, a Hungarian (or more likely by onomastics and typical of the times as well as later Leslie history, a Kievian 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’s sister, Princess Beatrix of Scotland. His brother inlaw Malcom III made him Governor of Edinburgh Castle. No trace can be found in the Ragman Rolls of any members of the Leslie family-despite their strong connection to a number of claimants to the Scots crown.We can only surmise that they viewed the slaughter by Edward I at Berwick upon Tweed with disdain. The family sided with Robert the Bruce against firstly The Comyn in the Buchan and secondly Edward I and as a result were awarded large tracts of Aberdeenshire. They fought at the Battle of Bannockburn.
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.The first Leslie in Aberdeenshire was Alexander who was Constable of The Bass in Inverurie on behalf of the kings brother.His son Walter died at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411 together with six of his cousins from Balquhain.
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.
Fetternear which became the home of the Leslie,s of Balquhain,Wardes and Warthill includes the remains of a 14th-century palace, home of Bishop Alexander Kininmund who, in 1320, drafted the Declaration of Arbroath, the letter sent to Pope John XXII in Avignon declaring that the Scots would never be subjected to English rule. It also incorporates the remains of even earlier palaces and sites of settlement dating back 4,000 years.
After the Reformation in Scotland in 1560, Fetternear became the principal Scottish seat of the Leslies of Balquhain and Fetternear. It had been granted to the family as a reward for saving St Machar’s cathedral, Aberdeen, from destruction. In the 17th century, the family became successful mercenaries, acquiring through might, diplomacy and marriage a string of properties in central and eastern Europe. Their strong Catholic faith helped sustain Fetternear as a centre of recusancy, as evidenced by a religious plaque carrying IHS and MRA monograms set into the facade of the existing 17th-century palace, now only a shell. Given Leslie links with central Europe, it is significant that the combination of monograms, extremely rare in Scotland, is characteristically used in the Alps.
Years Attended: 2011
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