Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Leslie, George (d.1558)

LESLIE, GEORGE, usually called third, but properly fourth, Earl of Rothes (d. 1558), was the second son of William Leslie or Lesley, properly third earl of Rothes, the brother of George, second earl of Rothes, by Margaret, daughter of Sir Michael Balfour of Montquhannie. Wood states that both his uncle George, second earl, and his father were killed at Flodden, 9 Sept. 1513, but in the act of parliament dated 31 March 1513, and other documents previous to the date of the battle of Flodden, the death of the second earl is already mentioned. On account, however, of some unexplained difficulty, the estates had not been conveyed to his brother William, and after Flodden, George, fourth earl, was served heir to both. On 2 March 1528–9 he was named sheriff of Fife (Reg. Mag. Sig. 1513–46, entry 798), and 7 Dec. 1540 the office was made hereditary in the family, and bestowed on his son, Norman Leslie [q. v.], for life, the father having personally resigned it (ib. 2227). Rothes was one of the nobles present in Paris in 1536 at the marriage of James V. On 1 July 1541 he was made a lord of session. After the death of James V he fell under the suspicion of Arran and Cardinal Beaton, who, Sadler writes on 13 Nov. 1543, had gone into Fife and Angus to win over Rothes, Lord Gray, and others, to their party (Sadler, Papers, i. 340). Rothes and his friends were then at Castle Huntly, Perthshire, and, suspecting a hostile purpose on the part of the cardinal, collected a force to resist him, but on the governor expressing a special wish to reconcile them with Beaton, they were induced to come to a conference at Perth, where they were immediately apprehended, and sent prisoners to Blackness Castle (Knox, i. 114–16). Rothes is said to have afterwards given a pledge of personal service to the cardinal (Calderwood, i. 170). On 7 Nov. 1544 he was made a lord of the articles. Although other members of his family, including especially his brother John and his son Norman, were among the principal contrivers of the murder of the cardinal, 29 May 1546, Rothes himself held nominally aloof from it. A commission having been issued on 12 July 1547 to call and accuse him of the murder, an assize was formed for his trial on 15 July, while he was present with the Scottish army near the river Yarrow, Selkirkshire; but on his appearing and denying his complicity in the murder, he was acquitted without further inquiry (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 504; Lindsay of Pitscottie, p. 488; Calderwood, i. 239). In June 1550 he was sent ambassador to Denmark. With eight other commissioners he was appointed on 20 June 1558 to be present at the nuptials of Queen Mary and the dauphin of France, and he was one of those who were seized with a sudden illness, suspected to have been caused by poison, on the way home. He died at Dieppe on 28 Nov.

Rothes contracted an alliance with Lady Margaret Crichton—the widow of, first, William Todrick, burgess of Edinburgh, and secondly George Halkerton, burgess of Edinburgh—daughter of William, third lord Crichton of Frendraught, by Lady Margaret Stewart, second daughter of James III. In a charter of 1 April 1517 she is termed ‘ejus sponsa affidata per verba de futuro cum carnali copula inde secuta.’ No ceremony seems to have taken place, and on 27 Jan. 1520 the marriage was declared by the rector of Flisk, Fifeshire, to have been invalid from the beginning, on account of consanguinity. The issue were Norman and William, who were both implicated in the murder of Cardinal Beaton, and a daughter Elizabeth. In Colonel Leslie's ‘Historical Records of the Leslie Family’ (ii. 64) Rothes is said to have married subsequently Elizabeth Gray, widow of the Earl of Huntly, but in the charter referred to in proof (Reg. Mag. Sig. 1513–46, entry 315) she is not described as Countess of Rothes. Some time between 18 Dec. 1526 (ib. 409) and 29 Jan. 1529–30 (ib. 895) Rothes married Agnes, daughter of Sir John Somerville of Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire, and widow of John, second lord Fleming. By this marriage he had four sons—Andrew, fifth earl [q. v.], Peter, James, ancestor of the Leslies of Ballybay in Ireland, and John, for some time a prisoner in Ireland—and two daughters, Janet, married to Crichton of Naughton, Fifeshire, or Cockburn of Langton, and Helen to Mark Kerr [q. v.], commendator of Newbottle. In various charters granted while he was married to Agnes Somerville his obligations to Margaret Crichton are recognised, and after the death of Agnes Somerville he married her canonically before 31 May 1542 (ib. entry 2679). He had subsequently by her one son, Robert, ancestor of the Leslies of Findrassie, and four daughters—Agnes, married to Sir William Douglas of Lochleven; Beatrix to Beaton of Creich; Euphemia to Learmonth of Balwearie; and Margaret to Archibald, eighth earl of Angus. After her death he married Isobel Lundy, daughter of Lundy of Lundy, and widow of David, seventh earl of Crawford, but by her he had no issue. He is said to have had an illegitimate son, Walter, and an illegitimate daughter, who married Lord Kelly.

[Histories of Buchanan, Lesley, Lindsay, Knox, and Calderwood; Sadler's State Papers; Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep.; Colonel Leslie's Historical Records of the Leslie Family, 1869, ii. 46–68; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 477–8.]

T. F. H.