William Leslie, 9th Baron of Balquhain

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About William Leslie, 9th Baron of Balquhain


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"William Leslie,

"Ninth Baron of Balquhain.

"William Leslie, son of John Leslie, eighth Baron of Balquhain,by his wife Elizabeth Leslie of Ardoyne, succeeded as ninth Baron of Balquhain, on the death of his father, in 1561.

“William Leslie was a man of great abilities, and acquired so much influence that he was held in great esteem by all the great nobility. Indeed, by his means the Earls of Huntly and Atholl, between whom serious feuds existed, were brought to a reconciliation. Hollinshed, in his Scottish Chronicles, vol. ii. P. 306, writes, ‘Great troubles were in divers parts of the realm, and openly betwist the Earl of Huntly and the Earl of Atholl. There was taking of prisoners and overthrowing of houses on either part, and great preparations made and arms in readiness to invade either other’s countries. But this business was pacified by the good mediaton of Mr. Alexander Gordon, Postulat of Galloway; Mr. John Leslie, Official of Aberdeen; and William Leslie the young Laird of Balquhain, who agreed them in all matters of controversie, and caused them to go to either other’s houses.’

“William Leslie had the honour of receiving and entertaining Queen Mary in his catle of Balquhain. The queen being at Aberdeen on her progress to the north, William Leslie invited her to visit him at his castle of Balquhain, which is situated about eighteen miles north-west of Aberdeen, near the great north road to Huntly and Strathbogie. Queen Mary accepted the invitation, and passed the night at Balquhain Castle, 9th September 1562. During her stay there she attended Mass in the chapel of the Blessed Virgin of the Garioch.

“It was on this occasion, and in the catle of Balquhain, that it is said the Earl of Huntly designed to sacrifice his rival, the newly-created Earl of Moray, Lord James Stewart, the queen’s natural brother, who was one of the guests. But William Leslie would not on any account consent to become accessory to such a deed, and by his influence he dissuaded the Earl of Huntly from the design. The different writers of the period give different versions of the story, each relating it according to his difference of party and religious feelings. The facts seem to be as follows:--

“George, fourth Earl of Huntly, who succeeded to the earldom in 1524, was made Lord Chancellor of Scotland on the death of Cardinal Beaton, and got the Great Seal in 1546. He also got a grant of the earldom of Moray from Queen Mary, 13th February 1548, and was appointed the queen’s Lieutenant in the North. During the queen’s absence in France, Huntly had been deprived of the chancellorship, which the queen, on her return, restored to him, but at the same time took from him the earldom of Moray, which she gave to her natural brother, Lord James Stewart, Prior of St. Andrews, who had recently been created Earl of Mar. This gave rise to implacable enmity between the two earls, of which the enemies of Moray, and of his friend the Earl of Morton, took advantage to plot his ruin. Huntly being at the head of the Catholic party, the queen’s maternal relations of the house of Guise had great expectations that he would restore that religion, and they held out hopes to him that the queen would marry his second son, Sir John Gordon of Findlater. It is possible that Huntly entertained this project proposed to him, although he never intended to seize the queen, or to force her to it against her will, as his enemies gave out. If this had been his design, he might easily have executed it, as the queen was frequently in his power, had he been disposed to use force.

“In a History of the Douglas and Angus family, we are told that Huntly gathered a force under pretence of receiving the queen in her journey north, but really with a view of cutting off Moray and Morton; and that the queen went from Aberdeen to Bowhane in August 1562, the house of one Master Leslie, a gentleman, twelve miles off, and that his was thought by Huntly and his friends to be a fit place to execute their designs on Moray and Morton; but Leslie, although he was Huntly’s friend, would upon no terms give way to have it done in his house.

“David Scott, in his History of Scotland, book vi, p. 394, says that Queen Mary, in her progress to the north, arrived at Aberdeen about the 15th of August 1562, and on proceeding on her journey towards Inverness, she lodged the first night with John (William) Leslie of Balquhain at his castle; the next night at Rothiemay; and the third day was invited by the Earl of Huntly to his castle at Strathbogie. But the Queen denied this, or any favour to him, until his son, John Gordon, had given obedience to her command. So she kept on her journey, and the next day she arrived at Inverness.

“Another account states that the queen being at Aberdeen in August 1562, she was there met by the Countess of Huntly, who interceded in behalf of her second son, Sir John Gordon, who had been taken prisoner for having wounded Lord Ogilvie in a fray, and, having made his excape, had been declared an outlaw. The countess begged that the queen would grant his pardon, and allow him to come into her presence and kiss her hand. The queen replied that she could not admit him into her presence until such time as he should surrender himself to justice; where upon the countess promised that he would surrender, and Lord Glammis was appointed to conduct Sir John to Stirling Castle. On his way, however, Sir John altered his resolution, and made his escape, and retired to the north, and collected a large body of follwers, which much incensed the queen. In the meantime, the queen had proceeded on her journey northward, intending to go to Huntly’s house in Strathbogie, where great preparations had been made to receive her. The Earl of Huntly met her on the way, at Balquhain Castle, and he there besought her to pardon his son, Sir John, but she remained inexorable; and the earl having pressed her more solicitously than was proper to go to his castle, she determined not to go. Others say that Mary came to this resolution at the instigation of the Earl of Moray. Be it as it may, the queen proceeded to Inverness without visiting Huntly, and on her arrival there she found, to her surprise, that the Earl of Huntly’s deputy-governor refused to admit her into the castle without the order of Lord Gordon. The queen, having raised the forces of the country, prepared to cary the place by assault, which was rendered unnecessary by the surrender of the governor, who was hanged, and the queen returned to Aberdeen.

“Whether Huntly’s ambition, which had spurred him on, now necessarily drove him forward as he had gone too far to retrace his steps, and he resolved either to procure a full pardon, or to seize the queen; or whether he dreaded Moray’s influence with the queen to effect his ruin; he determined to collect troops to protect or to avenge himself. With his followers he moved towards Aberdeen, threatening to attck Moray, who was there with the queen. It is said that he received secret intelligence from his fiends, the Earl of Sutherland, the Laird Balquhain, Black Arthur Forbes, and others, then within the city, who informed him of all that took place there, and assured him that the town’s people, being his kindred or allied to him, neither would not dared oppose him. But the letters of the Earl of Sutherland and of the Laird of Balquhain were intercepted, and the designs of Huntly upon the town were discovered and defeated.

“Moray and Morton resolved to attack and disperse the force which Huntly had collected. They had only one hundred men with them, but, armed with the queen’s authority, they issued a proclamation calling upon allwho could bear arms to attend the queen. About 2000 men answered the summons, and amongst these were a considerable number of Leslies, under their chief, the Laird of Balquhain; Moray trusting that, though they were inclined to favour Huntly, yet their duty and allegiance to their queen would not suffer them to betray her. On the 28th October 1562, Moray marched with these forces from Aberdeen to attack Huntly, who was lying at the Loch of Skene, about ten miles distant, with a force which had melted away to about 500 men. The principal leaders of Moray’s army were the Earl of Errol, Lord Forbes, the Laird of Balquhain, in the vanguard; and John, Prior of Coldingham, with some horsemen: the main body being commanded by the Earls of Moray, Morton, and Atholl. The vanguard drove Huntly from the Loch of Skene to Corrichie, a place on the Hill of Fair, about six miles distant, where they skirmished with him, and sent word to the Earl of Moray to come up with the southern men. When Moray came up the vanguard prepared to engage, and began to attack. But, as the chronicler says, ‘incontinent thereafter thae fled back upon the gentlemen of Louthian; and, as some say, purposing to have causet them to flee also, and to be overrun to the effect that the Earl of Huntly might have obtinet the victory. But the gentlemen of Louthian stand firmle still, and the said Erles company coming upon the Louthian men, was put upon their bakes with speiris and thereafter fled, quhan followit great slauchter’.

“The truth seems to be that these unwilling enemies of Huntly marched boldly up as if to attack him, and then turned and fled, calling out, Treason ! Huntly, thinking to drive Moray before him during the confusion caused by the retreat of the vanguard, too hastily left his strong ground and advanteagous positon, and was attacked on the low ground by Moray, Morton, and Atholl, with the horse, and suffered a complete defeat. The Earl of Huntly himself was slain, and his son, Sir John Gordon, was taken prisoner, and was immediately executed. The immense estates of the family were seized by the crown, and the title was forfeited.

“David Scott, in his History of Scotland, book vi. Pp. 294, 295, gives the following account of the defeat of the Earl of Huntly:--

“ ‘After the castle of Inverness was taken, the queen remained in it a few days, and then set out for Aberdeen, where she arrived in four days. The Countess of Huntley came with offers of submission from her husband, but was denied access. Huntly, finding matters turn out contrary to his expectations, assembled his friends and approached the town of Aberdeen, he having great hopes to attain the queen’s pardon for his being in arms, by the intercession of the Earl of Sutherland and the Baron of Balquhain, who were with the queen and kept close correspondence with the Earl of Huntly. But their letters being intercepted, the Earl of Sutherland made his escape, and Leslie of Balquhain being brought before the Council and examined, confessed what he knew, whereupon he was pardoned, and continued in the queen’s service. Huntly upon this would have dismissed his forces, and returned home; but hearing that the Earl of Moray was approaching with a party of the Queen’s forces raised in Lothian, Fife, Angus, Strathern, etc., he resolved to give them battle. The Earl of Moray, with the Earl of Morton and Lord Lindsay, advanced. Finding Huntly resolved to fight, Moray seemed to retire by bringing his men to some ground of greater advantage, which retreat being mistaken for a flight by Huntly’s party, they advanced precipitately, and coming disorderly to an engagement, were soon worsted with great slaughter.’

William Leslie was Sheriff of Aberdeen under the queen’s Lieutenant of the North, the Earl of Huntly. In this capacity he afforded the utmost assistance in protecting the catherdral of Aberdeen from the ravages of the Reformers, and he preserved that ancient edifice from being demolished by the furious zealots in 1560. As a magistrate he defended from the attacks of the Reformers the Bishop of Aberdeen, William Gordon, brother of the Earl of Huntly, and supported him in his diocese by force of arms when all the other bishops of Scotland were persecuted. The bishop, as a mark of his gratitude for the kindness and services shown to him in those trying times, bestowed on William Leslie the barony of Fetternear, with the palace, which was the bishop’s summer-residence, the tower and fortalice of the same, with the salmon-fishing in the river Don, and all other pendicles; the lands of Talzeaucht, lying in the shire of Fetternear; the lands of Bonyngton, with the mill, multures, and crofts of the same; the lands of Lowesk, and the third part of the town and lands of Ledintusche; the lands of Custestoun, in the shire of Rayne; the lands of Auchlyne, with the mill of the same; the croft of Blairdinny, in the shire of Clatt, with all their pendicles, lying within the county of Aberdeen. The bishop granted to William Leslie a charter of all these lands, dated 8th June 1566, which charter was confirmed by a Royal charter, dated 10th May 1602, and by a Papal charter granted by Pope Clement X, dated 20th Septermber 1670.

“William Leslie got from his father, John Leslie, eighth Baron of Balquhain, a charter, dated 17th January 1550, of the fourth part of the east half of the west town of Syde, in the regality of the Garioch, in favour of himself, and Janet Forbes his wife, which charter was confirmed by a royal charter under the great Seal, dated 19th June 1554. William Gordon, Bishop of Aberdeen, granted a charter of the lands of Auchlyn, in favour of William Leslie of Kirkhill, and Janet Forbes his wife, 28th May 1556; sasine thereon followed, 26th March 1558. William Leslie of Kirkhill is a witness to a bond of manrent between Duncan Forbes of Monymusk, and George, Earl of Huntly, who had leased to the said Duncan Forbes for nineteen years the town and lands of Delab and Kemboig; 2d February 1559. John Leslie, fifth Baron of that Ilk, and superior of the lands of Aquhorties, Aquhorsk, and Blairdaff, granted a precept for infefting William Leslie, yonger of Balquhain, in the sunny halves of the lands of Aquhorties, Overtown, Netherbeggery, Woodhill, and Blairdaff; 4th October 1560. William Leslie, fiar of Balquhain, entered into a contract with Thomas Gordon, son of James Gordon of Lesmore, and his curators, whereby he obliged himself to infeft the said Thomas Gordon in two parts of the lands of Wraes, and the said Thomas Gordon obliged himself to renounce in favour of the said William Leslie the wadsett rights which he had on the lands of Erlesfield and Seggyden; 6th September 1561. William Leslie entered into a bond of Manrent with George, Earl of Huntly, 20th August 1562. George Mortimer of Aquhorties, and Janet Leslie his wife, granted a letter of reversion of the sunny half of the lands of Aquhorties, in favour of William Leslie of Balquhain, 22d February 1563. Queen Mary issued a precept, directed to John, Archbishop of St. Andrews, to receive and admit William Leslie of Balquhain and his heirs-male as hereditary tenants and feuars of the lands of Seveedlie, lying in the barony of Keig and Monymusk, and regality of St. Andrews, as the same were formerly held by George, Earl of Huntly, attainted; dated 22d June 1563. John Leslie, dwelling in Meikle Durno, granted a letter of reversion of the town and lands of Newlands, in favour of William Leslie of Balquhain, 16th August 1563. Duncan Forbes of Monymusk granted a letter of reversion of the lands of Abersuethok and Mill of Ramstone, in favour of William Leslie of Balquhain, in 1563. William Leslie of Balquhain and Duncan Forbes of Monymusk entered into a contract, whereby Duncan Forbes obliged himself torounce the lands of Talzeaucht, lying in the parish of Clatt, which had been wadsett to him by John Leslie, eighth Baron of Balquhain; dated 1st January 1564. William Leslie of Balquhain and Thomas Ker of Coclarachy entered into a contract of excambion, whereby William Leslie got rights to the ploughland of the Hauch of Bogie or Blairdinny, 8th Decemer 1564; and William Gordon, Bishop of Aberdeen, granted a charter of the same in favour of William Leslie, 9th December 1564: sasine thereupon 18th December 1564. Thomas Ker of Coclarachy granted a letter of reversion of the sixth part of the lands of Begeshill and others, in favour of William Leslie of Balquhain, 9th December 1564. William Leslie of Balquhain entered into a contract with Alexander Leslie of Pitcaple, whereby, in respect of the said Alexander having become cautioner for the said William Leslie to James Dempster of Auchterless for 600 merks, the said William Leslie obliged himself to infeft the said Alexander Leslie in the lands of Pitbee for his security; 18th September 1565. William Leslie of Balquhain redeemed the lands of Craigtown and Craigmill from George Gordon of Lesmore, 26th May 1566. Patrick Leith of Harthill, and William Leith, his son, granted a letter of reversion of the lands of Newlands, Craigtown, and Craigmill, in favour of William Leslie of Balquhain, 11th June 1566. George Leslie of Tocher granted a charter of the shadow half of the town and lands of Drumdurno in favour of William Leslie of Balquhain, 20th June 1566; sasine followed thereupon 11th July 1566. Thomas Ker of Coclarachy granted a letter of reversion of the lands of Begeshill, containing the sum of 300 merks, in favour of William Leslie of Balquhain, in November 1566. John Leslie, Bishop of Ross, received a gift under the Privy Seal, of the escheat of Barbara Leslie, wife of Mr. William Con, which the bishop assigned to William Leslie of Balquhain; 20th July 1567. John Leslie, Bishop of Ross, with consent of the dean and chapter, granted a feu-charter of the lands of Learney, the mill of avach, the lands of Craighead, and other lands, lying within the bishopric of Ross, in favour of William Leslie of Balquhain, 16th October 1567; sasine followed thereupon 18th October 1567: also a charter of the lands of Tulliquiddon, Farnes, and others, within the bishopric of Ross and shire of Inverness, 16th October 1567; which two charters were confirmed by a charter granted under the Great Seal, 29th November 1567. William Leslie of Balquhain wadsett to James Arbuthnot, burgess of Aberdeen, three quarters of the town and lands of Logydurno, redeemable for 1000 merks, 6th September 1568; and received a letter of reversion of the same, 25th October 1568. William Leslie of Balquhain gave to Stephen Leslie, the second Laird of Warthill, about 1570, the other half of Warthill in wadsett, and for ninetten years after its redemption, for the payment of 20 mersk yearly. William Leslie redeemed the two parts of the lands of Wraes from Thomas Gordon of Lesmore, 8th October 1571; and the said Thomas Gordon renounced the said lands, in favour of the said William Leslie, on the same day.

“William Leslie, ninth Baron of Balquhain, married, first, Janet Forbes, daughter of John, sixth Lord Forbes, and widow of John, Earl of Atholl, and by her had issue -

“ I. John, his successor.

“ II. William, who was a courtier in the service of King James VI. He was a Privny Councillor in 1592, and died in London without issue.

“ III. Arthur, who fell from his horse while crossing the Don near Fetternear, and was drowned.

“ IV. Jean, married to Thomas Dempster, Baron of Muiresk, 1588, as appears by a charter, dated 6th January 1592, giving to their second son, Robert, the barony of Auchterless. They had a third son, the learned and renowned Thomas Dempster. Their eldest son, James, succeeded his father as Baron of Muiresk. The line is now extinct.

“ V. Margaret, married to Alexander Abercrombie of Birkenbog, It is said that she got as her dowry the barony of Fetternear, about 1593, subject to its being redeemed. But whether this was the case, or William Leslie, ninth Baron of Balquhain, wadsett it to Abercrobmie on these conditions, it is certain that the second son by this marriage suceeded to Fetternear.

“ VI. Isabella, married to James Arbuthnot of Lentusk.

“William Leslie married, secondly, Margaret Leslie, daughter of the Baron of Bonnymoon, or Balnamoon, by whom he had -

“ I. Andrew, who died abroad.

“ II. Gilvert, who was killed in a quarrel by young Dempster at Muiresk.

“ III. Christian.

“ IV. Elizabeth.

“It is stated in the genealogy of the house of Drummond, that Margaret Drummond, daughter of Andrew Drummond, second Laird of Belliclene in Perthsire, and Janet Dickson his wife, daughter of John Dickson, Laird of Ballachaster, married, about 1550, Leslie, Laird of Bouchain in Aberdeenshire. If this is correct, it would appear that William Leslie was thrice married.

“William Leslie, second son of William Leslie, ninth Baron of Balquhain, got a charter of the lands of Balquhain, from his brother, John, tenth Baron, and declared the same redeemable by the said John, on payment of a rose noble of gold; 1st December 1573. He also got a charter of certain lands which formerly belonged to the order of Friars-preachers, and the the White Friars, dated 14th March, James VI, anno regni 19; also a charter of the barony of Fetternear, 4th March 1597.

"William Leslie, ninth Baron of Balquhain, died in 1571, and was succeeded by his eldest son, John Leslie, tenth Baron of Balquhain."