A Celtic Cross

circa 1527

JOHN LESLIE was born on the 29th September 1527 in Morayshire Scotland and died at the Monastery of St Augustine near Brussels on the 31st May 1596. He was the son of Gavin Leslie, an eminent lawyer, and Judge Official of the Diocese of Moray. A dispensation of legitimation under Papal authority was granted to him on the 19th July 1538, enabling him, despite the defect of his birth to receive holy orders. His father Gavin Leslie was the brother of Sir Beroald Leslie, vicar of Elgin whose daughter married John Leslie of Aikenway, who was granted the lands of Bridge of Spey on his marriage, by his wife's uncle, Gavin Leslie, Judge Official or Commissary of the Diocese of Moray and Parson of Rothes.

This makes John Leslie Bishop of Ross, my 1st cousin, 11 times removed. [Col Leslie Historic Records say that she was a sister to Gavin Leslie] John Leslie, Bishop of Ross, of the family of Cults, was descended from Andrew Leslie 3rd Baron of Balquhain.

John Leslie was educated at the University of Aberdeen, Paris and Poitiers and showed early signs of his academic genius. He taught canon law at King's College Aberdeen, and took his degree as Doctor of Laws.

In 1558 he received holy orders and was appointed official of the diocese of Aberdeen. At this time the doctrines of the reformation were spreading throughout Scotland, and the Rev Dr John Leslie was detained in Edinburgh, and ordered not to preach again.

With the troubles increasing in Scotland, it was thought necessary to invite Queen Mary home from France. John Leslie was sent to Paris, by the Earls of Huntly and Athole to bring her back to Scotland, and he became her trusted advisor, holding judicial office, a privy councillorship and from 1566 the Bishopric of Ross. When Queen Mary was forced to abdicate, John Leslie remained loyal to her. He defended her at the enquiry convened on the 4th October 1568 at York, and was her accredited representative at Queen Elizabeth's court.

John Leslie was engaged in many schemes to return Mary to the throne, one of which was to depose Elizabeth in 1571with the help of Spanish troops, and another to marry Mary to the catholic, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. Norfolk was executed for treason, and Leslie was imprisoned in the Tower of London. In 1573 John Leslie was released and ordered from England. He went to the Netherlands where he tried without success to obtain help for Mary.

While in Rome to see the Pope in 1578 he published, in Latin, his history of Scotland titled, "De Origine Moribus et Rebus Gestis Scotorum". When the news of the execution of Queen Mary on the 8th February 1587 reached Brussels where John Leslie was then residing, he was filled with horror and retired to the Monastery of St Augustine in Brussels, where he carried out his devotions until he died in 1596 aged seventy years, survived by three daughters.

Barrie Leslie. Gordon NSW.
Photograph:- Courtesy Sebastian Leslie, "Warthill" Aberdeenshire, Scotland

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