Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Leslie, Alexander
LESLIE, ALEXANDER, first Earl of Leven (1580?–1661), general, was born, according to Macfarlane the antiquary, at Coupar-Angus, in the house of Leonard Leslie, who was abbot there from 1563 to 1605 (manuscript in Advocates' Library, Edinburgh). His father was George Leslie, captain of the castle of Blair in Athole, a scion of the Leslies of Balquhain; his mother, whose surname was Stewart, and whose christian name is variously given as Ann and Margaret, is doubtfully said to have been a daughter of the laird of Ballechin. David, second earl of Wemyss, who was engaged in the covenanting war under Leslie, noted in his diary the current story that she was ‘a wench in Rannoch’ (manuscript preserved at Wemyss Castle). He was born out of wedlock, but after the death of his wife Captain George Leslie married his former love in order to legitimate his eldest son (Leslie, Hist. Records of the Family of Leslie, iii. 356).
Leslie is said to have been over eighty on his death in 1661 (Turner, Memoirs, p. 25), and must have therefore been born about 1580. His education was probably scanty. Lord Hailes pointed out the print-like form of his signatures, the only extant specimens of his handwriting, as proof of his illiteracy, and relates the story that Leslie once told some attendants that his instruction in reading did not reach beyond the letter g (Masson, Life of Milton, ii. 55, footnote).
In early manhood he sought employment as a soldier on the continent. According to Macfarlane he first served under Sir Horatio Vere in the Netherlands, probably as one of the Scottish company which, under the captaincy of Sir Walter Scott, father of the first Earl of Buccleuch, followed Vere from England before 1604. In 1605 Leslie entered the army of the king of Sweden, in which he served with distinction during the next thirty years. He fought under Charles IX of Sweden and under his son, Gustavus Adolphus, in their campaigns against Russia, Poland, and Denmark, as well as against the imperial house of Austria in the thirty years' war.
On 23 Sept. 1626, when Gustavus Adolphus was invested by envoys from Charles I with the order of the Garter at Dirschau, he knighted Leslie, then lieutenant-general, and five others, in the presence of the whole army (Rutliven Correspondence, p. ix). In the same year Leslie signalised himself in an encounter with the Polish troops of Sigismund in the neighbourhood of Danzig.
In 1628, when the Swedish king had flung himself into the thirty years' war, Leslie acted as his chief officer. In May he was sent to take the command at Stralsund, which Wallenstein was besieging. With five thousand Scots and Swedes Leslie fought his way into the town, the stores of which he replenished, and his vigorous action compelled Wallenstein to raise the siege and retire. Leslie was thereupon appointed governor of all the remaining cities along the Baltic coast. Munificent rewards were given him by the citizens of Stralsund, including a medal struck in gold to commemorate the relief of the city (Munro, Expedition, 1637, pp. 75–8). The medal is still preserved by Leslie's descendants.
Leslie continued in command of the Baltic district until 1630, and made it a valuable recruiting-ground for the Swedish armies. The adjacent island of Rugen was meanwhile in the occupation of the imperialist troops, and satisfied that they were incapable of much injury, Leslie for a time ignored their presence. But learning in that year that Duke Bogislaus of Pomerania had privately agreed, with Wallenstein's consent, to cede the island to Denmark, he by a bold sally took possession of it in the name of the king of Sweden (Fletcher, Gustavus Adolphus, 1890, pp. 85, 114, 117).
In recognition of his services Gustavus conferred upon him an estate in Sweden, which was resumed by the Swedish government in 1635 on the ground of some defect in the grant; and if it be true that he received ‘two rich earldoms in Germany’ at the same time, it is clear that the changing fortunes of war soon deprived him of them (State Papers, Dom. 1639, p. 226). A valuable jewel, another gift of Gustavus, with a miniature likeness of the donor, Leslie retained till his death (Fountainhall, Historical Notices of Scottish Affairs, i. 421).
In May 1630 Leslie went to England to advise James, third marquis of Hamilton [q. v.], who had been entrusted by Charles I with the duty of bringing six thousand English soldiers to Gustavus's aid. Leslie acted as sergeant-major-general to Hamilton and his troops. After Hamilton's landing at the mouth of the Oder in Pomerania, Leslie, despite the sickness and death that soon reduced the numbers of the British contingent by a third, captured with their aid the towns of Crossen, Frankfort, and Guben on the Oder. He was afterwards engaged with the British contingent at the recovery of Magdeburg from the imperialists (January 1632), and at the siege of Boxtelude he was in command of the army of Field-marshal Todt, who had fallen into temporary disgrace; but a few days after his arrival a shot from the town struck him on the instep of his left foot while he was viewing the place, and disabled him. He was carried to Hamburg (Swedish Intelligencer, pt. iv. p. 128), but recovered in time to be present at the battle of Lutzen on 6 Nov. 1632, where Gustavus was killed. Subsequently he laid siege to Brandenburg, which surrendered to him on 16 March 1634; and returning to Pomerania, again took part in the reduction of Frankfort on the Oder. Later he was made general of the Swedish armies in Westphalia, where he reduced the castle of Petershagen, took the town of Minden on the Weser, and relieved the garrison of Osnabruck. On the death of Kniphausen in the summer of 1636 he was made field-marshal in his place (Turner, Memoirs, p. 9), and he despatched Colonel Robert Monro [q. v.] to Scotland in order to gain recruits, giving him letters appealing for assistance addressed to Charles I and Hamilton. At the time the position of the Swedish army in Germany was becoming critical. In the latter half of 1637 Leslie was driven from Torgau and down the Elbe to Stettin, whence he crossed to Stockholm in September. The Swedish queen and her chancellor, Oxenstierna, acknowledged the value of his exertions by granting him an annual pension of eight hundred rixdollars, while his elder son, Gustavus, was appointed a colonel in the Swedish army. He at the same time received fresh instructions for the prosecution of the war in Germany (note of Swedish documents in Melville Charter-chest; Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. pt. vi. pp. 69–93; Fraser, Earls of Haddington, ii. 91–114).
Leslie had married in early life Agnes Renton, daughter of the laird of Billy, Berwickshire, but she had remained in Scotland in his absence, and he had managed to pay her frequent visits. In 1635, when he seems to have had thoughts of retiring from military life, he spent some time in Scotland, and with the assistance of his remote kinsman and intimate friend John, earl of Rothes, acquired the estate of Balgonie and other adjacent lands in Fife, and the estate of East Nisbet in Berwickshire. On 9 July 1635 Culross in Perthshire conferred on him the civic freedom (burgess ticket in Melville Charter-chest). In 1636 his relations with Rothes were drawn closer by the marriage of his second son, Alexander, to Rothes's second daughter, Margaret. On his return to Scotland in the year following Leslie announced his intention of carrying his wife and family to Sweden, but he seems to have contemplated transferring his services to the elector palatine (cf. Ruthven Correspondence, p. xiv). In April 1638 he was presented in London to Charles I, and expressed himself ready to undertake the leadership of an expedition for the recovery of the Bohemian throne for Charles's nephew, the elector (Gardiner, Hist. of England, viii. 388). He received a safe-conduct from Charles, dated 20 March 1637–8, for the safe conveyance of himself and household from Scotland across the sea on business from the king (original safe-conduct in the Melville Charter-chest). Leslie accordingly paid a very brief visit to Germany, but nothing in regard to the elector was effected.
Leslie had watched with interest the course of events in Scotland, and was in complete sympathy with the covenanters. He had not only taken the covenant himself, but caused ‘a great number of our commanders in Germany subscryve our covenant’ (Baillie, Letters, i. 111). He was generally marked out as the leader of the Scottish army in event of those hostilities with England which Charles I's ecclesiastical policy seemed to make inevitable in 1638. On 14 Aug. 1638 Christina of Sweden gave him, at his request, letters of demission, in which she testified to his achievements in the Swedish service, and his arrears of salary were paid in the shape of munitions of war—two field-pieces and two thousand muskets. With these arms he returned in November to Scotland, and had some difficulty in avoiding the English cruisers which were watching the Scottish coast.
Immediately on his arrival Leslie took the direction of the military preparations then going forward. He gathered together the most expert military officers as a council of war, saw to the levying and drilling of the recruits, sent abroad to Holland and other countries, not only for more ammunition and arms, but to impress upon any of the Scots serving abroad the duty of coming home; and he caused Captain Alexander Hamilton, who was better known by the sobriquet of ‘Dear Sandy,’ to cast a number of cannon, such as were used in field warfare on the continent, but were hitherto unknown in Britain. Leith he strongly fortified in order to resist the attack of an expected fleet under Hamilton, and he infused such a spirit into the covenanters that even the nobles and their wives put their hands to the work. Leslie fully identified himself with the cause of the covenant by appending his signature to the libel against the bishops (Gordon, Scots Affairs, i. 127).
The first active incident of the campaign was the capture of Aberdeen, which Leslie effected without a blow (State Papers, Dom. 1639, p. 39; cf. Gordon, George, second Marquis of Huntly). In March 1639, when the covenanters resolved to seize the fortresses, Leslie was sent to demand the surrender of Edinburgh Castle. He took very few men with him, and, after the constable refused to give up the castle, made a feint of retiring. But placing a petard on the outer gate, he instantly destroyed it by the explosion, and then vigorously assailed the inner gate with axes and rams. Before the garrison recovered from their surprise, scaling-ladders were applied to the walls, and without the loss of a man on either side the castle was in Leslie's hands.
As Hamilton with his fleet now lay in the Forth, and Charles was reported nearly ready to lead an army in person into Scotland, a general muster of the Scottish levies took place at Leith, and with one consent Leslie was formally nominated lord-general of all the Scottish forces by land or sea, and also of all fortresses (9 May 1639). Plenary powers were conferred upon him, and the whole estates assembled in convention swore to give him dutiful obedience. His command was to endure, they said, ‘so long as we are necessitat to be in armes for the defence of the covenant, for religione, crowne, and countrie, and ay and whill the Lord send peace to this kingdome.’ He claimed much dignity for his office, sitting ‘at table with the best of the nobility of Scotland, at the upper end, covered, and they all bareheaded,’ and in joint letters ‘he signs before them all’ (State Papers, Dom. 1639, pp. 226, 234).
As Charles drew near the borders Leslie marched his army, which consisted of thirty thousand horse and foot, southwards to meet him, encamping first at Dunglas, and afterwards on Duns Law, where he maintained in the castle, at his own expense, says Baillie, ‘ane honourable table for the nobles and strangers with himself. … The fare was as became a generall in tyme of warr’ (Letters, i. 212, 214). Charles, encamped before Berwick, offered 500l. sterling for Leslie's head. Leslie was unwilling to fight if fighting could be averted, but his duty was to be prepared, and he issued rousing and practically worded manifestoes urging his fellow-countrymen to prompt and united action in order to prevent invasion (ib. vol. ii. App. pp. 438, 442).
The unreadiness of either side to assume the offensive resulted in the opening of negotiations, and a treaty of pacification was concluded in June 1639. The king insisted that Leslie's commission should be cancelled. The Scots were unwilling to yield on this point, but Leslie asked permission to resign, and removed the difficulty. The peace, however, was very short-lived. In November Leslie again placed his services at the disposal of the committee of estates, and superintended the work of reorganising the army. On 1 Nov. he was presented with the freedom of the town of Perth (burgess ticket in the Melville Charter-chest), and on 1 April 1640 Edinburgh conferred upon him a similar honour (ib.) In March 1640 the estates offered Leslie the generalship of their army to be held conjointly with some of their own number, but he declined it on such terms, and on 17 April his former sole commission was renewed to him by the convention, and was confirmed to him by parliament in the following June.
The new campaign opened with an unsuccessful attack by Leslie on Edinburgh Castle (Memorie of the Somervilles, ii. 223–70), and a vessel belonging to him, laden with arms and ammunition, was seized at sea. Provoked by these rebuffs, he declared that if a satisfactory reply from the king to the Scots' demands was not forthcoming he would at once carry the war into England (State Papers, 1640, pp. 313, 336). Meanwhile he with other Scottish leaders had signed a letter to Louis XIII of France, reminding him of the ancient friendship between the two countries, and bespeaking his friendly offices in their behalf with Charles. It was addressed ‘Au roy,’ and fell into Charles's hands. The English king judged its superscription treasonable. But a summons sent to Leslie and the other signatories to stand their trial in London was naturally disregarded.
By the beginning of July Leslie's army was concentrated upon the borders. His intention was to seize Newcastle and the English coal-fields there, but he did not cross the Tweed until the middle of August. On the occasion Secretary Windebank penned a squib, in which Leslie was compared to William the Conqueror, and was represented as assuring his men of certain conquest and ready fortunes (State Papers, Dom. 1640, p. 612). The Scots encountered no opposition until they reached the Tyne at Newburn, where after a brief struggle they forced the passage of the river, took possession of Newcastle, and within a brief space reduced all the surrounding country as far south as the Tees. Leslie remained at Newcastle for a whole year, and there welcomed to the Scottish army twenty-six of his distinguished comrades in the German wars. Charles was during the period at York, but few in his camp were anxious to begin hostilities. At length a submissive petition to Charles from the Scots at Newcastle, craving redress of their national grievances, led to the opening of negotiations at Ripon, and they were concluded at London on 7 Aug. 1641.
A few days later Charles set out for Scotland in person. In passing through Newcastle he was received with demonstrative loyalty by the Scottish army, and was magnificently entertained by Leslie. He and his army afterwards followed Charles northwards, and marching to Hirsel Law, Leslie disbanded his troops. On 30 Aug. he was present with the king in Edinburgh at a banquet given by the provost in the great parliament hall, and as lord general took precedency there of all the Scottish nobles. Charles wrote to the queen that Leslie drove round the town with him amidst the shouts of the people. Leslie was reported to have said that he saw the king was ill-used; that he had served his country to settle religion, and this being done, he would now serve his king against those that would imperil his crown. It was suspected that Leslie's views were influenced by the hope of an earldom (Nicholas Papers, Camd. Soc., i. 52). But when he secretly learned of the plot of the royalists—known as ‘the Incident’—to kidnap Argyll, Hamilton, and his brother Lanark, the leaders of the party hostile to the king, he privately gave them the warning that enabled them to escape. The king subsequently complained that Leslie ought to have at once brought the disclosures to him, but the general excused himself by saying that the affair was ‘a foolish business.’ Charles came to parliament on the day following the flight of the lords, accompanied by five hundred armed troopers. The members refused to proceed to business until Leslie received a special commission to guard the parliament with the troops at his command, consisting of a few foot regiments which had been retained at the general disbanding. In the same parliament Leslie gracefully secured a revocation of the sentence of forfeiture pronounced against his old comrade in Germany, Patrick Ruthven, lord Ettrick, who had held Edinburgh Castle for the king in the late war (Acts of Parliament of Scotland, v. 382; Balfour, Annals, iii. 102). At the parliament's request the king created Leslie Earl of Leven and Lord Balgonie with elaborate ceremony on 6 Nov. (ib. pp. 139–41). Solemnly and with an oath Leslie is asserted to have then told the king ‘that he would never more serve against him, but that whenever his majesty required his services he should have them, and that he (Leven) would never ask what the cause was’ (Clarendon, Rebellion, ii. 38, 581). The patent as earl was dated at Holyrood 11 Oct. 1641 (cf. Melville Book, ii. 167; State Papers, Dom. 1641–3, p. 161). His appointment as captain of the castle of Edinburgh and as a privy councillor followed.
At the same time the parliament, on whose chief committees he served, voted him one hundred thousand merks (between 5,000l. and 6,000l. sterling), with current interest till paid, confirmed all his estates to him by a special act, and formally acknowledged his ‘pietie, valour, wisdome, and good governmente’ in recent events. When the session closed he formally resigned his office of lord-general, but was retained in command of all the standing forces. He became a member of the executive committee of the estates for the government of the country during the recess (Acts of Parliaments of Scotland, v. 392–450; Balfour, Annals, iii. 159–63).
In November 1641, while in Scotland, Charles introduced his nephew, the young prince elector palatine, to the Scottish parliament, and appealed for aid in gaining the young man's kingdom of Bohemia. The matter was committed to the consideration of four noblemen, of whom Leven was one, and they reported next day that ten thousand Scottish foot might be sent on the country's charges to any convenient German port on the prince's service. Elizabeth, queen dowager of Bohemia, writing to Sir Thomas Roe, ascribed this decision to Leven's influence. Leven at once wrote to the Swedish chancellor, Axel Oxenstierna, suggesting a union of the Swedish and Scottish forces in behalf of Bohemia, but the arrival in Scotland of the news of the rising in Ireland and the massacre of the protestants there led to the despatch to Ireland of the forces intended for Bohemia. Leven was appointed general of the army, under a commission granted by Charles at York, on 7 May 1642.
The Scottish army crossed to Ireland in the spring, but Leven did not proceed thither until August. On 6 July Dunbar, and on 1 Aug. Ayr, had previously conferred their civic freedom on him. Personally he took little part in the Irish campaign. According to the hostile testimony of Sir James Turner, a major-general in the expedition, he soon had to face the outbreak of a mutiny among his officers, and Turner adds that it was owing to his inability to quell the insubordination that he quickly returned to Scotland, leaving the command to Robert Monro (Turner, Memoirs, p. 19). More probably, however, his return was due to the invitation of the English parliament (November 1642) to take part in the war with Charles. On his journey from Ireland to Edinburgh Glasgow conferred the honour of its freedom on him on 2 Dec. (burgess tickets in Leven and Melville Charter-chest).
Leven joined the convention of the estates which was summoned to consider the appeal of the English parliament. In July 1643 the latter begged for the assistance of an army of eleven thousand men under Leven's leadership, and as soon as the commissioners of the English parliament agreed to adopt the solemn league and covenant, the Scottish convention gave orders for the immediate raising of the levies and appointed Leven to the command (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. App. p. 96). He accepted the post of ‘lord general’ without hesitation. ‘It is true,’ says Baillie, ‘he past manie promises to the king that he would no more fight in his contrare; bot,’ as he declares, ‘it was with the expresse and necessar condition that religion and country's rights were not in hazard; as all indifferent men think now they are in a verie evident one’ (Letters, ii. 100).
The Scottish army, composed of twenty thousand foot and two thousand horse, was ready for action by the end of 1643, and on 8 Jan. 1644 Leven was ordered to lead it into England. It was midwinter, and the ice which covered the Tweed was so strong that on the 19th the army crossed upon it, baggage-wagons and all. Leven made for his former ford on the Tyne at Newburn, but that spot was too strongly fortified, and he crossed the river higher up at Ovingham, just in time to avoid the flood of melting snow which next day rendered the stream impassable. Newcastle, on being summoned, refused to surrender, and Leven for a time did little more than maintain his ground and prevent the royalist army in the neighbourhood under the Marquis of Newcastle from proceeding to the assistance of the king. After his arrival in England he was appointed commander-in-chief of all the ‘British and Scottish’ forces in Ireland, by a joint committee of the two kingdoms, which managed the war, but he never personally assumed that command.
In April he was ordered to proceed to York, which Lord Newcastle held, and he lay before it for nine or ten weeks (Whitelocke, Memorials, p. 90); but when Prince Rupert arrived with a large army from the west for the relief of the city, the siege was raised and the combined Scottish and parliamentary forces met the royalists on 2 July on Marston Moor. Within half an hour one of Rupert's brilliant cavalry charges threw the wing of the army under the command of Leven and Fairfax into utter confusion. Leven failed to rally his troops, he was himself forced to fly, and galloped as far as Wetherby or even Leeds (Turner, Memoirs, p. 38). Meanwhile his lieutenant, David Leslie [q. v.], and Cromwell had won the day. He returned immediately on receiving the tidings, and on 16 July York surrendered (Gardiner, Civil War, i. 445).
Newcastle still held out, and Leven marched thither, having been reinforced from Scotland with an army under the Earl of Callendar. His ‘very fair’ conditions of capitulation were rejected on 18 Oct., and on the following day the town was stormed with the aid of three thousand countrymen whom Leven had pressed into his service with their spades and mattocks (Whitelocke, p. 100). A few days later he received the surrender of Tynemouth Castle (State Papers, Dom. 1644–5, pp. 51, 75, 122).
In January 1645 the earl was present at a meeting of parliament in Edinburgh, whence he was recalled to his command in order to prevent the advance of Montrose from the highlands to the king's aid in the west of England. Leven marched into Westmoreland, but the failure of the English parliament to send him payment for his army hampered his movements, and in order to support his army he was obliged to permit his soldiers to plunder the farmers far and near. In June he marched southwards as far as Gloucestershire, and after the king's defeat at Naseby (14 June) was directed to invest Hereford. He had prepared his batteries to open fire on the town when the approach of Charles with an army forced him to raise the siege (Webb, Civil War in Herefordshire, ii. 391). He retreated into Yorkshire and joined his forces to those then engaged in besieging Newark. The English houses of parliament directed that he should have chief command of all the forces there, both English and Scottish. But while the siege was still in progress he received orders from Scotland to return to Newcastle.
Pecuniary difficulties, due to the neglect of the English parliament, and an attempt made in Scotland to create another generalship, co-ordinate and therefore conflicting with his own, seem to have now led Leven to press his resignation on the Scottish parliament. But the latter was not prepared to part with him, and issued a declaration stating that any commissions granted by them to others in no way derogated from his position as general of the whole forces within and without the kingdom (Acts of Parliaments of Scotland, vol. vi. pt. i. p. 411). The English parliament sent at the same time a letter of thanks for past services, and promised him a jewel of the value of 500l. (Whitelocke, p. 163), which was presented 23 Feb. 1647 (ib. pp. 232, 233, 241).
Leven had regarded with no favour recent royalist endeavours to win the Scottish army to the service of the king, and letters forwarded to him on the subject he had sent to the parliament at Edinburgh. But when Charles fled to Newark (5 May 1645), Leven's officers soon brought him to the general's quarters at Newcastle, and acting on instructions from Scotland, Leven placed him in safe keeping, out of the reach of ‘all papists and delinquents.’ On receiving the king Leven is said to have tendered his sword in token of submission, and the king retained it as if he would assume command, whereupon the earl suggested that it were better to leave that to him as the older soldier, especially as he was in command here, though in humble duty to his majesty. Whitelocke says that Charles was received without any solemnity (ib. p. 206). The king remained with Leven at Newcastle until his surrender to the English parliament was arranged by the Scottish parliament in January 1647. Leven and other officers constantly appealed to Charles to take the covenant, and to terminate, by prudent and liberal measures, the civil disorders of his realms, vowing that if he did so they would cheerfully sacrifice life and fortune in his service.
On Leven's return to Scotland a large portion of the army was retained for the suppression of the royalists in the north, and he was continued in his office as lord general of all the forces, with a yearly salary of ten thousand merks (nearly 560l. sterling). His great age and infirmity, however, necessitated his exemption from active service in the field, except in special circumstances. An act was passed by the parliament approving his conduct of the army at home and in England and Ireland during the past nine years, and in March 1647 a jewel of the value of ten thousand merks, of which nothing further is known, was promised him (Acts of Parliaments of Scotland, vol. vi. pt. i. pp. 672–777 passim). The despatch of a Scottish army for the rescue of the king, in accordance with a secret engagement made by Scottish commissioners with the king at Carisbrooke, and in agreement with a vote of the majority of the Scottish parliament, met with no approval from Leven. In the discussion he sided with Argyll and the other members of the so-called ‘honest’ or ‘godly party,’ which was powerfully supported by the Scottish church. Leven and Argyll drew up a ‘petition of the army,’ embodying the contention of the church that before arms should be taken for the king's relief religion and the covenant must first be secured. Nevertheless parliament invited Leven to resume the active command of the army in England. ‘The old generall,’ wrote Baillie, ‘for all his infirmitie, is acceptable;’ but the same writer reports that the Duke of Hamilton, the Earl of Callendar, and others who were foremost in support of the Engagement, as the English expedition was called, ‘with threats and promises moved old Lesley to lay down his place’ (Letters, iii. 40, 45). Clarendon says: ‘He was in the confidence of Argyll, which was objection enough against him, if there were no other’ (Hist. Rebellion, vi. 44). Finally parliament, on 11 May 1648, with renewed expressions of veneration, relieved him of his command at, it was formally stated, his own request, but decreed at the same time that on the removal of this army out of the kingdom, should it be necessary to raise any new forces for its defence, Leven by the fact became ‘lord generall of these forces’ (Acts of Parliaments of Scotland, vol. vi. pt. ii. pp. 68, 88).
Consequently, after Cromwell's overthrow of the Scots under Hamilton at Preston (17 Aug. 1648), Leven had immediately to adopt vigorous efforts and to raise a new army, not only to defend the country against Cromwell's vengeance, but also to prevent the remnants of Hamilton's army, which were returning and reforming under his brother, the Earl of Lanark, from replacing the military party in power. Aided by David Leslie, who like his chief had taken no part in the Engagement, Leven assembled an army of eight thousand horse and foot at Edinburgh, and Argyll's party assumed the government. A deputation was sent to meet Cromwell upon the borders, and he was induced to visit Edinburgh as a peaceful guest. During his stay Leven gave him a sumptuous banquet in the castle, of which he was keeper, and at his departure saluted him with rounds of firing from ordnance large and small (Carlyle, Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, Nos. lxxv. lxxvii.) Lambert also visited Leven (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. pt. vi. p. 171). Leven's reinstatement in office as general was formally recognised by the Scottish parliament, which met on 4 Jan. 1649, and he entreated the parliament to apply to the repair of the castle of Edinburgh, which he declared was ruinous and insecure, the sum of money that had been voted to him in 1641, but was still unpaid. He received some money, which enabled him to carry out only a portion of his scheme.
When Scotland adopted the cause of Charles II, Leven, in anticipation of an invasion by Cromwell, was asked to superintend the levies for a new army. He again sought to be released from the active duties of his office on account of his infirmities, and formally laid down his baton before the parliament and quitted the house; but he was summoned back and informed that, ‘seeing he had so able a depute [in David Leslie], they would be careful to lay no more upon him than he could undergo, and with which his great age might comport’ (Balfour, Annals, iv. 58, 59). When, therefore, Cromwell marched towards Scotland in July 1650, Leven, pursuing the military tactics of former days, laid waste the southern counties and concentrated his army in and around Edinburgh for defensive purposes only. He relied on starvation to weaken the invading force. Prince Charles soon offered to sally forth in person and attack Cromwell, but Leven told him if he did so he would lay down his commission (Whitelocke, p. 468). The plan answered his expectations. After a month's forced inaction Cromwell retired. Leven and his lieutenant, David Leslie, followed and occupied the passes beyond Dunbar, but in the early morning of 3 Sept. Cromwell completely routed the Scottish army. Leven fled to Edinburgh, which he reached at two in the afternoon; but Cromwell was at the gates, and he at once removed, with what remained of the army, towards Stirling. The disaster was laid on all sides to his charge; there was talk of superseding him at once; the king was for Lord Ruthven and the kirk for Lord Lothian (ib. p. 472). In November, when the Scottish parliament, presided over by Charles II in person, met at Perth, Leven, assuming full responsibility, petitioned them ‘to take exact tryall of all his cariages in there severall services, and especiallie concerning the late vnhappie bussienes at Dunbar.’ The king and the estates in reply exonerated him from all censure ‘in relation to all his former imploymentis and service, with ample approbatione for his fidelitie thairin’ (Acts of Parliaments of Scotland, vol. vi. pt. ii. pp. 609, 618, 624). At the next meeting of the parliament, in March 1651, Leven made one more effort to be relieved of his command, but, as of old, the parliament declined his request (ib. vol. vi. pt. ii. p. 651).
In 1650 Leven purchased the estate of Inchmartine in the parish of Errol and Carse of Gowrie, and changed its name to Inchleslie. There in June 1651, while Leven was with the army, his wife died; she was buried at Balgonie (Lamont, Diary, p. 31). In August 1651 Leven was with the Scottish committee of estates, and was concerting with them measures for raising a new army to relieve Dundee, which Monck was besieging. On Thursday 28 Aug. the committee met at Elliot in Angus, when Colonel Alured, with his regiment of horse and three troops of dragoons, fell upon them unexpectedly, and made most of them prisoners. Leven was carried to Dundee, and thence by sea to London, where he was placed in the Tower. On 1 Oct. his son-in-law, Ralph Delavall of Seaton Delavall, obtained permission to supply him with some necessaries, while two days later Cromwell himself moved in the English council that the liberty of the Tower should be granted him, and his servant be allowed to wait on him. Delavall shortly afterwards was permitted to carry the earl to his own residence in Northumberland, on furnishing securities in his own person and two relatives for the sum of 20,000l. that the earl would confine himself there and twelve miles around, and otherwise carry himself as a true prisoner of parliament (State Papers, Dom. 1651 pp. 431, 458, 465, 1651–2 pp. 12, 16, 17). He paid a visit to London in 1652, in order to recover his estates, which had been sequestrated, and he seems on this visit to have been again temporarily incarcerated by mistake in the Tower. Queen Christina of Sweden and her successor, King Charles X, both wrote to Cromwell praying for his freedom. In 1654 he recovered full liberty, his lands were restored, and he was exempted from the fine which had been imposed on the other Scottish nobles. He returned to Balgonie, his Fifeshire seat, on 25 May 1654 (Lamont, Diary, p. 72), and spent his remaining years in settling his affairs. He died at Balgonie 4 April 1661, and was buried on the 19th in the church at Markinch.
As a general, Leven's unrivalled experience inspired confidence in his soldiers. But his manner was so unassuming that his superiors felt that they could trust him with almost dictatorial power without fearing that he would abuse it. In person he was little and crooked; but his wise exercise of authority won universal respect. The nobles of Scotland, in spite of their jealousies and haughty temper, ‘with ane incredible submission, from the beginning to the end [of the wars in Scotland], gave over themselves to be guided by him as if he had been great Solyman. … Yet that was the man's understanding of our Scotts humours that he gave out, not onlie to the nobles, but to verie mean gentlemen, his directions in a verie homelie and simple forme, as if they had been bot the advyces of their neighbour and companion’ (Baillie, Letters, i. 213, 214). Although in Scotland Leven declined to accept any joint command, he proved himself, at the siege of York and Marston Moor, well able to act in harmonious co-operation with the parliamentary generals Fairfax and the Earl of Manchester. They courteously allowed him to sign their joint despatches first, and designated him ‘His Excellency,’ a title which he had brought with him from Germany. His influence, even with the English generals, seems to have been similar to that wielded by him among the Scottish nobles. When jealousies sprang up later among the English parliamentary generals on points of precedency, the joint committee bade the rivals take ‘as an example the fair and amicable agreement that was between the three generals at Marston Moor and the taking of York, where in all that time they were together there never grew any dispute nor differences about command’ (State Papers, Dom. 1644, passim).
By his wife, Agnes Renton, he had two sons and five daughters. The daughters were (1) Barbara, who married General Sir John Ruthven of Dinglas; (2) Christian, who married Walter Dundas of Dundas; (3) Anne, who married, first, Hugh, master of Lovat, and secondly, Sir Ralph Delavall of Seaton Delavall; (4) Margaret, who married James Crichton, first viscount of Frendraught [q. v.]; and (5) Mary, who married William, third lord Cranstoun. His two sons both predeceased him, the elder, Gustavus, when young, and the second, Alexander, lord Balgonie, who married the daughter of the Earl of Rothes, in 1645. Alexander left a son and two daughters, who were taken charge of by their grandfather. The younger daughter, Agnes, died in infancy, and after the marriage of the other daughter, Catherine, to George, fourth lord, afterwards first earl of Melville, Leven settled the whole of his estates upon his grandson and successor, Alexander, who married in 1656 Margaret Howard, sister of Charles, earl of Carlisle. After Cromwell's death, when Leven petitioned the English parliament to extricate his estates from some heavy claims upon them arising out of their sequestration in 1651, Leven referred to his grandson's alliance with an Englishwoman as justifying a favourable treatment of his case (petition printed in Fraser's Melvilles of Melville, &c., i. 432).
Leven is improbably said to have married as his second wife Frances, daughter of Sir John Ferrers of Tamworth in Staffordshire, and widow of Sir John Pakington of Westwood in Worcestershire (Collins, English Baronetage, i. 396). Neither in his will, which the earl made in 1656, nor in any other document whatever, is any reference made to such a person.
The earldom and estates devolved upon his grandson, Alexander, second earl of Leven, but he and his young countess both died in 1664, within a few weeks of each other, leaving three sickly daughters, none of whom reached womanhood. The eldest, Margaret, succeeded her father as Countess of Leven, and married her cousin, the Hon. Francis Montgomerie, younger brother of Alexander, eighth earl of Eglinton. She died in 1674, in less than a year, and was succeeded by her youngest sister, Catherine, countess of Leven (their second sister, Lady Anna, having died first), who only survived till January 1676. The earldom of Leven was then claimed by George, earl of Melville, for his second son, David Melville, as next heir of entail in the settlement made by the second Earl of Leven; but the chancellor, John, duke of Rothes, whose second son, then deceased, had a prior place in the entail, resisted the claim on the ground that, though he had no sons as yet, he still might have. The judges of the court of session ruled his contention good. Rothes, however, died without a male heir in 1681, when David Melville became third earl of Leven, and as he afterwards also succeeded his father as Earl of Melville, the two titles eventually were conjoined.
[Authorities cited; Fraser's Melvilles of Melville and Leslies of Leven, and authorities there cited.]