Clan Leslie Society
Australia & New Zealand

(CLANZ)




Balgonie Castle, Fife - George Leslie, of Balgonie was the second son of George Leslie 1st Laird of Drummuir and his wife Margaret Stewart. The Leslie's of Drummuir were descended from Sir William Leslie 4th Baron of Balquhain and his wife Agnes Irvine of Drum. George Leslie of Balgonie was Captain of the Castle of Blair Athol and was held in high esteem for his bravery. He married Sybil Stewart of Ballathan and had several children. He also had an illegitimate son, called Alexander who was later to become, Earl of Leven.

When his wife, Sybil Stewart died, he married Alexander's mother to legitimate Alexander, who was by then a General. Alexander took to the profession of arms very early in life, and served as a Captain in the Regiment of Horatio, Lord Vere, in Holland, and served with the Dutch against the Spaniards. He was recognised as a very good officer and he then entered the service of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden.

In 1628 he took command of the Swedish troops at Stralsund and withstood the siege of the Austrian General, Albrecht von Wallenstein, who was later killed by Walter Leslie, After the death of Gustavus Adolphus, he served Queen Christina, until in 1639 he was invited to Scotland to take command of the Scottish Covenanting Army. In 1639, General Alexander Leslie took the Castle in Edinburgh without the loss of a single man. He commanded the Scottish Army at Dunse Law in 1639 and the Scottish Army was then disbanded. However in 1640 another army had to be raised and General Alexander Leslie was appointed the commander. He marched into England and destroyed the Royal Army at Newburn.

In 1641, General Alexander Leslie was created Lord Balgonie and Earl of Leven by patent to him and his heirs, whomsoever, dated 11th March 1641. In 1642, Alexander, Earl of Leven was appointed General of the Scottish forces for suppressing the rebellion in Ireland from whence he was recalled in 1643, to command of the Scottish Army of 21,000 men, assembled at Berwick. The Scottish Army crossed the Tweed and defeated the Royalist Army at Marston Moor, 2nd July 1644. While at Dunbar 28th August 1651, Alexander, Earl of Leven was captured by the garrison and taken to London where he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Due to the intercession of Queen Christina of Sweden he was released without penalty and returned to Scotland in May 1654.

Alexander, Earl of Leven acquired great landed property, but his favoured property was Balgonie in the Parish of Markinch on the river Leven in Fife. He spent much time and money on improvements to the castle. The property had formerly belonged to the Sibbald family. Sir Henry Sibbald of Balgonie, who died in the reign of James IV, left an only daughter, who married Robert Lundin, a younger son of the Baron of Lundin.

The ancient Baronial Castle of Balgonie stands on a steep bank, overhanging the river Leven. The basement story is dimly lit by a narrow slit in the massive walls; it and the story above are both vaulted. The summit has projecting battlements with turrets at each angle, the roof being flat and laid with slabs of freestone. On the roof is a lodge or watchtower, with a sloping roof. Besides the additions made to it by the 1st Earl of Leven, one of his successors added another wing on the foundations of the former structures, thus forming two sides of a quadrangle, the other two sides being formed by a strong wall.

The main entrance to the court is an arched gateway flanked by two towers. Over the arch was a chamber, which communicated with the main tower or keep, by a passage through the walls.The Castle was formerly surrounded on three sides by an earthen rampart and deep fosse, the inaccessible nature of the position on the side, next to the river, requiring no other defence.

In 1823, David, 10th Earl of Leven and 7th Earl of Melville sold Balgonie, to James Balfour of Whittingham, for £104,000.

The Castle was greatly damaged by vandals in the 1960s and was bought by David Maxwell, from Edinburgh in 1971, who restored the Tower and then in 1985 sold Balgonie to Raymond Morris, who, as the owner of Balgonie Castle, acquired the title of 30th Laird of Balgonie and Eddergoll.