Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Leslie, John (1630-1681)

LESLIE, JOHN, seventh Earl and first Duke of Rothes (1630-1681), eldest son of John, sixth earl [q. v.], by his wife, Lady Anne Erskine, was born in 1630. His mother died when he was ten, and on his father's death in the following year he succeeded to the peerage. He was placed under the care of John. earl of Crawford [see Lindsay, John, John, tenth Lord Lindsay and seventeenth Earl of Crawford], to whose daughter he was betrothed. On account of the wars his education was much neglected. 'He had,' says Burnet, 'no advantage of education, no sort of literature; nor had he travelled abroad; all in him was mere nature' (Own Time, ed. 1839, p. 71), He was one of the first noblemen to wait on Charles II on his arrival from Breda in 1650, and on 20 Dec. was appointed colonel of one of the Fife regiments of horse (Balfour, Annuals, iv. 210). At the coronation of the king at Scone he carried the sword of state. In command of his regiment, he accompanied the Scots army under David Leslie into England. and was taken prisoner at the battle of Worcester on 3 Sept. 1651. On the 18th he was commiited to the Tower (Cal. State Papers. Dom. Ser. 1651. p. 432). On 18 July 1652 his liberty was extended to ten miles from the city of London (ib. 1651-2, p. 349) On 14 Dec. 1652 he was permitted, on heavy security, to go to Scotland on business for three months (ib. 1652-3, p. 25); similar permission was granted in 1653 and 1654; in 1654-5 he was permitted to stay six months at Newcastle. On 8 Jan. 1656-7 he obtained leave, owing, it is told, to the influence of Elizabeth Murray, countess of Dysart, to visit Scotland again (ib. 1656-7. p. 238). In January 1658 he was, however, committed to the castle of Edinburgh by Cromwell, to prevent a duel between him and Viscount Morpeth, who was jealous of the attentions which Rothes paid his wife ; he was released in the following December.

Rothes crossed over to visit the king at Breda in 1650, and accompanied him on his return to England, when the new ministry was formed in Scotland, he was appointed president of the council 'by the joint consent,' according to Sir George Mackenzie, 'of all the opposite parties' (Memoirs, p. 8). For some years be enjoyed the king's special confidence, and faithfully executed the King's orders. Notwithstanding his imperfect education he possessed a 'ready dexterity in the management of affairs' (Burnet, Own Time, p. 20), and according to Mackenzie, 'the subtlety of his wit obliged all to court his friendship' (Memoirs, p. 8). On 1 June 1661 he was named a lord of session and apappointe a commissioner of the exchequer. In 1662 he went to London to justify the proceedings of the Earl of Middleton and to press for the immediate establishment of episcopacy (Burnet, p. 81); and when the synod of Fife was engaged the same year in preparing an address for an act establishing their government, he, in the king's name, dissolved the synod and commanded the ministers, under pain of treason, to retire (ib.) On the fall of Middleton in 1663 he was appointed to succeed him as lord high commissioner to the parliament which met at Edinburgh on 16 June, but Lauderdale, accompanied him, was supposed to be the person in whom the real authority was vested. In the same year he succeeded his father-in-law as lord high treasurer, was sworn a privy councillor of England, and was appointed Captain of the troop of lifeguards and general of the forces in Scotland. On the death of the Earl of Glencairn in the following year he was, on the recommendation of Archbishop Sharp, also appointed the keeper of the privy seal 'till the King should pitch on a proper person' (ib. p. 142). On 14 Oct. of this year he was nominated commissioner to a proposed national synod, which, however, never met (Wodrow, Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, i. 419). In November of the following year be made a tour in the west country with great pomp, the king's guard attending him, in order to enforce the persecuting measures against the covenanters (ib. p. 428). Gradually, according to Burnet, he allowed matters to be directed by Sharp, and 'abandoned himself to pleasure' (Our Time, p. 143). He caused considerable scandal by taking his mistress. Lady Anne, sister of the Duke of Gordon, along with him in his progresses through the country. Ultimately he was through the intervention of Lauderdale, deprived on 16 April 1667 of all his offices, but in October was consoled by being made lord chancellor for life. Through the intervention of the Duke of York he was on 29 May 1680 created Duke of Rothes, Marquis of Balleobreich, Earl of Leslie, Viscount of Lugton, Lord Auchmutie and Caskiebery, limitation to the heirs male of his body. Intemperate habits—which had been confirmed by his extraordinary power of withstanding the immediate effects of liquor — had, however, completely undermined his constitution, end he died of jaundice at Holyrood House 27 July 1681. He was buried at night with great splendour in the cathedral church of St. Giles, Edinburgh, but subsequently the body was removed to Leslie, Fifeshire. The funeral pageant is the subject of an engraving. Rothes had two daughters: Margaret, married to Charles, fifth earl of Haddington, and Christian. The former became at his death countess of Rothes.

[Burnet's Own Time; Sir George Mackenzie's Memoirs; Sir James Balfour's Annals; Lauder of Fountainhall's Historical Notices; Wodrow's Sufferings of the Church of Scotland; Cal. State Papers. Dom. Ser., during the Commonwealth and reign of Charles II; Col. Leslie's Historical Records of the Leslie Family, ii. 106–10; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 4312; Crawford's Officers of State, pp. 223–6.]

T. F. H.