Leslie's of Australia & New Zealand


Our Origin

Tradition says that the Founder of Clan Leslie was Bartolf, or as he is also known, Bartholomew. He was said to be a Hungarian nobleman, whose father was Walter de Leshlin, descended from Almos, one of the nine Hungarian Dukes who invaded Hungary. It is said that he came to Scotland in 1067, in the retinue of Princess Agatha, mother of Edgar the Atheling and his sisters, Margaret and Christina, who were fleeing from the Court of William the Bastard of Normandy, or as he is known, the Conqueror. The Scottish King, Malcolm III "Caenmor" was much taken by the beauty of Margaret, and after his wife, Ingiborge disappeared from the scene, Malcolm III and Margaret were married. Meanwhile Malcolm III had promised his sister Beatrix, in marriage to Bartolf and they were married in 1070. Malcolm III was also supposed to have made Bartolf, Governor of Edinburgh Castle.

There is another school of thought, who say that Bartolf was a Flemish nobleman, who came to Scotland, with Maude de Lens of Boulogne, when she came to Scotland to marry King David I " the Saint", about 1114. It is said that Maude de Lens was accompanied by many of her kinsmen of the House of Boulogne and they were the progenitors of many of the Scottish clans, these included amongst others, Seton, Abernethy, Cameron, Fraser, Hay and Leslie.

Until more research is carried out and more records come to light, it is impossible to say which version is correct. The Chief of Clan Leslie, the 21st Earl of Rothes, says that the official position of Clan Leslie is that the Hungarian story is the correct version. Be that as it may, either Bartolf or his son Malcolm was given grants of land in Aberdeen, Angus, Fife, Mar and the Mearns. The story is that King Malcolm promised Bartolf, that wherever he had to stop to rest and feed his horse, he would be given, in hereditary right, all the land within a radius of one mile. Finally his horse collapsed in the Garioch in Aberdeenshire and Bartolf rode back to King Malcolm at Dunfermline and reported to the King that:-

"Between a lesse ley and the mair my horse it tyred and stopped"
"Lesse" means sheltered, "ley" a pasture and "mair" the sea
to which the King is said to have answered :-
"Lord Lessley shalt thou be and thy heirs after thee"

The site of the present Leslie Castle is the third building on the site, with the present Castle being more or less what the Castle was, when it was rebuilt by the Forbes family of Leslie Castle, in the early 1660s. The Castle was purchased in the early 1980s, in a very dilapidated condition, by David Carnegie Leslie and his wife Leslie of Aberdeen and restored to the condition that it is today. The present day Castle is the site of the first grant of land to Bartolf or Malcolm. It is not sure whether the original grant was to Bartolf or Malcolm as the grant was made by David Earl of Huntingdon, brother to King William The Lion, to Malcolm filio Bartholff totam terram Suam de Lessly Sicut{ Malcolm son of Bartholf} and the copiers have dated it between 1171- 1199, due to Malcolm, Bishop of Aberdeen being the only witness to the document who could be identified by the copiers.

Leslies have played many important roles in Scottish history, such as Sir Andrew Leslie who was one of the eight Earls who signed the Declaration of Arbroath and Bishop of Ross, John Leslie, champion of Mary Queen of Scots. Of the early Earls of Rothes, many were active in government, such as John 7th Earl who became Lord High Chancellor of Scotland and was created a Duke. There are many more outstanding Leslie's as well as those of the Leslie septs of Abernethy, Lang and More. The current Earl of Rothes was entitled to attend the House of Lords as a hereditary peer, until this right was abolished in 1999.

There were four major lines of Leslie families. The direct Leslie line, the Leslies of Ross, the Leslies of Balquhain and finally the Leslies of Rothes who were the junior line until the direct line and the Ross lines died out and then the Rothes line was elevated to the peerage and became the senior branch. The other family, the Leslies of Balquhain are by far the most numerous and most of the Leslies in North America are descended from the Balquhain line who went to Ireland under the Plantation Settlement Schemes and from there went to America.

Over the centuries many Leslies have gained fame as soldiers in the armies of Scotland, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland Russia, Austria and Russia until the 1917 revolution.