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Robert Leslie (sometimes conflated with his namesake [SSNE 4695]) joined Swedish military service in the 1620s. Robert Leslie of Kinclaven was the third son of Patrick Leslie, 1st Lord Lindores, and Jean, a daughter of Robert Stewart, Earl of Orkney and one of the seven known illegitimate sons of King James V (1512-1542). His birth-date is unclear; however, as most sources agree on his youngest brother David’s [SSNE 2920] birth dating from around 1601, Robert Leslie must have been born before 1600, probably around 1590. Of his youth and early adulthood there are no records. However, it appears that sometime after his father’s death in 1608 and before 1620 Robert Leslie had taken up military service under the Swedish King as a man with his name is listed as being colonel of a regiment from Södermanland in 1620. 

It may well have been that Sir James Spens [SSNE 1642] and Sir Robert Stewart of Middleton [SSNE 529] who in the years after 1610 had played conspicuous parts in the recruitment of soldiers between Britain and Sweden, both had been conducive to Robert Leslie’s entering the Swedish army. The former had been involved in the unsuccessful Plantation of Lewis of 1599-1600 together with Patrick Leslie, 1st Lord Lindores, the latter being Robert Leslie’s uncle. By March 1625, when Charles I ascended to the throne of Great Britain, Robert Leslie had quit Swedish service. In July 1626 we find him as “one of the King’s Pages of the Field” who “by order of the Lord Duke of Buckingham” was granted “a fee of £100 per annum during pleasure, with an annual allowance of £20 for the purchase of horses.” Although no records have been left of his activities during the following months, it is not unlikely that he like his brothers, Sir James Leslie (probably [SSNE 395]), 3rd Lord Lindores (after 1649) and Ludovick Leslie [SSNE 396], was busy, perhaps even together with one of the two brothers, in transporting levies to the continent, at that time. In 1628, when many other Scottish officers and troops were seeking employment in the Swedish army, Robert Leslie re-entered Swedish military service. 

Probably, due to a temporary shortage of adequate positions caused by this influx, Leslie had to content himself with positions of lower rank, for the time being. After a brief stint as a captain in James Ramsay’s [SSNE 3315] Scottish regiment, he quickly rose to the ranks of major and colonel. From October to December 1629 Leslie acted as Swedish governor of Memel having his former chief James Ramsay as his successor. Thereafter, Leslie became a colonel for his own recruited infantry regiment in 1630. Certainly in March 1630 Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna had noted that two companies of Leslie’s regiment were dispersed one in Riga, and the other in Stralsund, and he wanted them united as quickly as possible. In his letter from 28 June 1630 Spens points to a royal order following which colonel Robert Leslie and his major John Leslie of Otterston [SSNE 2928] were supposed to go “with their companies from Prussia to Stralsund while Spens’ son William arriving with levies from England was join with Leslie’s companies at Stralsund.” 

On 10 July 1630 his regiment consisted of four companies with 366 men. These forces together with three companies under the command of Captain William Douglas (probably [SSNE 2380]) sailing from Riga to Stralsund should be united to form a new, complete regiment. General James Spens [SSNE 1624] asked Oxenstierna “the favour of taking care of the payment of the aforementioned 2 companies as soon as possible since he had paid Robert Leslie’s regiment for the most part and up to more than ten thousand daler from his own money.” In July, Oxenstierna informed Gustav II Adolf that he had paid Leslie’s two companies until August and sent them to join the rest of their regiment. Leslie also took over James Spens’ regiment in 1631, although Fischer notes him as colonel of a newly recruited battalion that year. Although by 24 June 1631 lieutenant colonel Francis Ruthven [SSNE 3404] was recommended to replace Leslie as colonel of the regiment, (and this recommendation was repeated in August), Leslie remained chief of his regiment until 11 June 1632. In the battle of Breitenfeld on 17 September 1631, Leslie’s “old Regiment of Scots” suffered badly. Its remnants, together with other decimated Scottish regiments, were subsequently incorporated in the army of Swedish field-marshal Âke Tott near Lüneburg. The command of the subsequent formation had apparently been given to Robert Leslie. This is confirmed both by Leslie’s own assertion to Amalia Elisabeth (1602-1651), Countess of Hessen-Kassel, six years later and by the observation of the Imperial field-marshal Gottfried Heinrich Graf zu Pappenheim (1594-1632) who during the siege of Hildesheim in June 1632 saw Robert Leslie commanding “a brigade composed of 3 weak Scottish regiments led by Lord Forbes and the colonels Monro and Robert Leslie” operating on the right wing of the Swedish troops under the command of Duke Georg of Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1582-1641). Heavy debts, caused in part by irregular payments by King Charles I, forced Leslie to return to London a few weeks later. 

After having been granted royal protection for another year on 29 October 1632, Leslie was back in Germany. There, he was given the command of all infantry in the army of the Swedish field-marshal Wolf Heinrich von Baudissin (1579-1646). Since Baudissin left Swedish service in March 1633, it can be assumed that Leslie’s engagement had ended about the same time and he returned to London due to the loss of his first wife (of which, more below). 

Soon after, Leslie again joined the Swedish army in Germany, but only briefly. When, after the treaty of Prague (30 May 1635), Johann Georg of Saxony and the Duke of Lüneburg left the alliance with Sweden, their retreat had disastrous effects on the Swedish military budget. Without means to pay their troops, Leslie is reported to have left the Swedish army in protest. 

Upon his return to London, Robert Leslie’s position among the courtiers at Whitehall seems to have improved considerably. Now, a member of the inner circle of gentlemen of the king’s bedchamber, Leslie was granted the royal privilege of collecting fines in execution of the Jacobean statute of 1624 against swearing, on 26 July 1635. Still, Leslie’s interest in military activities abroad was unchanged as is confirmed by a “Safe conduct” issued on December 16, 1635 “for Alexander Annand, Robert Lesley, James Wardlaw, John Innes, and divers others, officers and voluntaries, to go to Persia”. 

In 1637, nearly two years after this Persian adventure the outcome of which is unknown, Robert Leslie had returned to Germany. Like other Scottish officers, e.g. captains John Skene [SSNE 3535], John Kerr [SSNE 2779], John Finlayson [SSNE 1192] and Patrick Lumsden [SSNE 1188], he was eager to levy new troops for service in Germany. However, his offer to raise 4-5 regiments in England was declined by Amalia Elisabeth, the ruling Countess of Hessen-Kassel, on 1 November 1637. 

In 1638 Leslie was again back to London. During the second half of that year, he acted as messenger for the king and his favourite, Marquis of Hamilton, during the latter’s negotiations with the Covenanters in Scotland. Probably with the Duke of Hamilton’s support in the spring of 1639, Leslie tried to obtain a royal privilege for hackney-coaches together with Sir Edmund Verney (1590-1642), the royal knight marshal. However, due to strong resistance, especially from Thomas Coventry, 1st Baron Coventry (1578-1640), the lord keeper of the great seal, coupled with the ongoing military preparations, the hackney-coach project was abandoned before summer 1639. 

After the conflict between the king and the Covenanters had escalated to the “First Bishop’s War” in 1639, Robert Leslie joined the king’s campaign against the Covenanter forces under General Alexander Leslie [SSNE 1], later 1st Earl of Leven. On 7 June 1639, four days before official treaty negotiations would start at Berwick, Robert Leslie, encouraged by Charles I and Hamilton, met with Alexander Leslie trying to persuade the Covenanters to petition the king for talks to be opened. 

It appears that in the following months of 1639 and during the “Second Bishop’s War” of 1640 Robert Leslie remained with the king. Shortly after the banishment of Episcopacy from the Scottish Kirk (in the treaty of London) and the king’s visit to Edinburgh, Charles I rewarded Leslie’s loyalty, on 2 September 1641, by granting him a lease of the now vacant bishopric of Orkney for “two nineteen years” and a yearly pension of £200 sterling. 

After this, we find Robert Leslie pursuing a new military career in the German earldom of Hessen-Kassel. From 1641 he is listed as colonel in the service of Hessen-Kassel commanding two regiments of horse (in 1641 a regiment of 10 companies later called “Regiment Graf von Wied”; in 1642 a regiment of 10 companies later called “Regiment Landgraf Ernst”). Leslie, whom Countess Amalia Elisabeth held in great esteem “because of his good character and being short of colonels of horse”, seems to have been still in the service of Hessen-Kassel on 21 February 1645 when he was mentioned as commander of a Hessen-Kassel regiment in Lieutenant General Johann von Geyso’s (1593-1661) army. 

Before May 1646, as the First English Civil War came to a close with Charles I’s surrender to the Scottish forces at Newark (among whom we find Robert’s younger brother, General David Leslie serving under Alexander Leslie's command) and the king’s ensuing semi-captivity at Newcastle, the ever-loyal Robert Leslie was back in Britain. Robert sought to aid the King by raising and coordinating support from both Scottish royalists and France. Twice that summer he travelled to France, acting both as the King’s messenger to the Queen and the Prince of Wales in their exile at St. Germain-en-Laye and as contact to Jean de Montereul (1614-1651), Mazarin’s ambassador in London, whom King Charles I had sent to France as his agent to plead for military help at the end of May 1646. Accompanied by the King’s poet and playwright, Sir William D’Avenant, Leslie returned to Newcastle on 19 October 1646 delivering messages from Queen Henrietta at St. Germain urging the king to sign the Covenant. 

On 4 November 1646, Charles I “under his secret seal” granted Leslie the office of constable of Kinclaven Castle with all rights and privileges plus the annual sum of £286 11s Scots in perpetuity. Shortly after this, on 12 November 1646, Charles I sent Robert Leslie (or Robert Leslie of Kinclaven, as he was now styled) with a brief message to the hesitant Duke of Hamilton since “a short letter and brevity is the more convenient for me who have much to doe, and but few helpers”. A new mission on the King’s behalf followed in December 1646, when Leslie delivered messages to George Gordon (1592-1649), 2nd Marquis of Huntly, asking him to remain in arms in Scotland. The year 1647 had Robert Leslie wheeling and dealing with many parties in order to rescue the King whom the Covenanters had handed over to the English Parliament on January 30, 1647. 

From Montereul’s correspondence with Mazarin, one gets a good picture of Leslie’s untiring efforts to raise an army in support of the King during the following months. Leslie’s covert activities came to a stop when the Marquis of Huntly was arrested in December 1647 and a letter from the King was found in Huntly’s pockets proving Leslie’s involvement in the plot with Huntly. It is unclear, whether Robert Leslie (whom Montereul called “a person altogether depending on the Duke of Hamilton”) like his brothers Sir James and Ludovick Leslie had joined Hamilton’s Engager army in 1648. Perhaps, he had returned to Germany following calls from Hessen-Kassel where he stood a good chance of becoming Major-General of the cavalry in 1648. Certainly, he had left Britain with his family after the regicide in 1649. 

In 1650, Leslie together with other refugees like Sir John Berkeley (1602-1678) [SSNE 2870] lived in exile at the court of William II (1626-1650), Prince of Orange, and Mary Henrietta Stuart (1631-1660) in The Hague. Probably because of unpaid debts, Leslie had to leave The Hague in 1652. Asking for protection, he arrived at the Heidelberg court of the Elector Palatine Charles-Louis (1617-1680) in August 1652. For the next seven years, Leslie stayed at the Elector’s court, frequently acting as messenger to Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, the Elector’s mother who had been living in exile near The Hague since 1620. For his faithful services, the Elector granted Leslie – on a personal, non-hereditary basis (“Mannrechtslehen”) – the lease of Langenzell in December 1655. This was a village near Heidelberg that had been completely devastated and depopulated during the Thirty Years’ War. 

In October 1656, Leslie came to London on a diplomatic mission on behalf of the Elector who intended to regain the pension of ?10.000 formerly granted to him by Parliament by offering Cromwell his support in undermining Charles II’s attempts to form an alliance with German princes. In November 1659 Leslie seems to have left Heidelberg without bidding farewell to the Elector. After the restoration of monarchy in Great Britain, we find him at the court of Charles II, where he was listed as one of the “Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber” in 1661. Now in his seventies, Leslie’s prospects for peaceful retirement were severely harmed when, in 1663, he by accident killed a certain Henry Symboll and was imprisoned being charged with murder. Following urgent petitions by his wife, King Charles II pardoned and released Leslie from prison at the end of July 1663. Five years later, on 28 August 1668, Robert Leslie was rewarded a pension of £40. Another six years later, on 16 December 1674, a money-warrant for £100 was given to Leslie “for half a year on his annuity”. The following year, shortly before 11 November 1675, Robert Leslie had died. 

Robert Leslie married twice. His first was to Dame Frances Pakington [nee Ferrers], daughter of Sir John Ferrers of Tamworth and widow of Sir John Pakington (1600-1624). She had died by died 1633 leaving three sons, Robert, George and James and a daughter Susanne.

On 4 November 1633 Robert remarried, this time to the sixteen year-old Catherine Basset of Fledborough in Nottinghamshire. In 1676 Catherine was granted a yearly pension of £100 with regard to her late husband “who long and faithfully served the late king”. In 1697, she was still alive as their son James appointed “Dame Katherine Leslie, his mother” as sole executor in his testament dative (15 June 1697). 

All three of Robert Leslie’s sons from his first marriage had chosen military careers: 

Sir James Leslie, Robert Leslie’s youngest son, remained unmarried and without children. A temporary diplomat, he was British ambassador in Tangier in 1680. A distinguished officer, he served as major in the Queen’s Regiment of Foot (aka The Old Tangier Rgt. “Kirke’s Lambs”) in 1684. From 1688 until 1695 he was colonel and commander of “The 15th Yorkshire East Riding Regiment”. During the Williamite Revolution and Jacobite backlash in Scotland, he succeeded Sir Thomas Livingston as Governor of Inverness in December 1689. Having stayed in Ireland, he left with his regiment for Flanders in 1690 together with the “Scots Guard” and the regiments of Buchan, Argyll and Hill. Sir James Leslie died in 1703. 

The second-born son George, an officer in the army, seems to have died before his father. The oldest son, Robert Leslie the younger, held the rank of captain. He was married to a certain Anna Uttenhof, perhaps an offspring of Jan Utenhove (~1520-1565), one of the founders of the reformed Dutch community in London. Robert Leslie the younger died after 5 August 1709 having fathered only one child, a daughter Margaret, who in 1694 had married Andrew Johnson of Knockhill. 

Susanne, Robert Leslie’s daughter from his first marriage, married Major-General George Arnot of Grange. Charles, from his second marriage with Catherine Basset, married William Dick (~1649-1694), 2nd Baron of Grange in 1674. She was mother to four sons, William, James, Andrew, Thomas, and a daughter Katherine. 


Sources: R. Monro, His Expedition with a worthy Scots Regiment called Mac-Keyes (2 vols., London, 1637), II, The List of the Scottish Officers in Chiefe, list 1; Swedish Krigsarkiv, Muster Roll, 1628/6-15; 1629/5-10,12,16,19; 1630/23; 1631/22-27; Swedish Riksarkiv, P. Sondén, Militärachefer i svenska arméen och deras skrivelser; Kungl. Vastgota Regimente Personhistoria 1540-1723, p.79; The Swedish Intelligencer: The Fourth Part (London, 1633), p.142; Rikskansleren Axel Oxenstiernas Skrifter och Brefvexling, first series, V, pp.176, 179, 446, 447; ibid, VI, p.375, 405; T. Fischer, The Scots in Germany (Edinburgh, 1902), p.89; Northern Ireland Public Record Office, Kildare Letter Book, D.3078/3/1/5, p.59. James Frey to Kildare; Jan Glete, Den svenska armén i Tyskland 1630-1632: Storlek, sammansättning, geografiskt ursprung och förbandens ålder (http://www2.historia.su.se/jan_glete/Glete-sv_armen_Tyskland 1630-1632.pdf), pp. 1, 2, 3; 

National Archives of Scotland (NAS), GD 41 (Papers of the Dick-Lauder family of Fountainhall 1507-1863) 55 (15 Jun 1697); 62 (3 Aug 1703); 72 (5 Aug 1709); 104 (20 Nov 1694); 172 (21 Feb 1655); GD 406 (Papers of the Douglas Hamilton Family, Dukes of Hamilton and Brandon 1563-1712) 1/2498 (July 28, 1650); 1/10511 (October 15, 1638); The Records of the Parliament of Scotland to 1707, K. M. Brown et al. eds. (St. Andrews, 2007), (1641/8/345), (1641/8/485), (1681/7/89) (http://www.rps.ac.uk/); Calendar of Treasury Books 1667-1668, pp. 603-614 (“Entry Book: August 1668“, Treasury Order Book XXXVI p. 19); ibid. 1672-1675, pp. 632-642 (“Entry Book: December 1674, 16-31“, British Museum Additional MS. 28,076, p. 403) (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/).

Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe, GLA 229/58417, 72/Lehen- und Adelsarchiv (6132); Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg, M 26 (Gustav Siegel: Manuskripte, Karteien: Hessische Truppen im Dreißigjährigen Krieg); Calendar of State Papers: Domestic 1925-26, pp. 368 (July 7, 1626), 370 f. (July 8, 1626), ibid. 1631-1633, pp. 426 (October 15, 1632), 431 (October 29, 1632); ibid. 1635, pp. 245 (July 4, 1635), 287 (July 21, 1635), 293 (July 26, 1635), 565 (December 16, 1635); ibid. 1663-1664, p. 219 (July 29, 1663); ibid. 1676-1677, p. 428 (November 19, 1676); Calendar of the Clarendon State Papers Preserved in the Bodleian Library 1655-1657, pp. 193 (October 18, 1656), 195 (November 1, 1656); The Swedish Discipline. The Third Part (London, 1632), p. 24; L’Histoire et la vie merveilleuse du comte de Lesley, gentilhomme escossais. Edition nouvelle, etc. (Paris, 1682), p. 2; James Orchard Halliwell, Letters of the King of England (London, 1848), II, p. 307 f.; John Bruce, ed., Letters and papers of the Verney family down to the end of the year 1639 (London, 1853), pp. 219 f., 225, 231, 234, 237; Johann Eduard Heß, ed., Gottfried Heinrich, Graf zu Pappenheim (Leipzig, 1855), p. 210; J. G. Fotheringham, ed., The Diplomatic Correspondence of Jean de Montereul and the Brothers de Bellièvre, French Ambassadors in England and Scotland, 1645-1648 (Edinburgh, 1898), II, passim; Friedrich Wilhelm Strieder, Grundlage zur Militär-Geschichte des Landgräflich Hessischen Corps (Cassel, 1798), p. 49; Nicholas Carlisle, An Inquiry into the Place and Quality of the Gentlemen of His Majesty’s Most Honorable Privy Chamber (London, 1829), pp. 172, 333 ff.; George Robert Gleig; Chelsea Hospitals and Its Traditions (London, 1838), pp. 58 ff.; Patrick Gordon, A short abridgement of Britane’s distemper, from the yeare of God 1639 to 1649 (Aberdeen, 1844), p. 196; Arthur von Sodenstern, Die Anfänge des stehenden Heeres in der Landgraftschaft Hessen-Kassel und dessen Formationen bis zum Ende des dreißigjährigen Krieges (Cassel, 1867), p. 27 f.; Charles Leslie, Historical Records of the Family of Leslie from 1067 to 1868-9 (Edinburgh, 1869), II, p. 186; Joseph L. Chester, Allegations for Marriage Licences issued by the Bishop of London 1520 to 1828 (London, 1887), p. 214; Jane Stewart Smith, The Grange of St. Giles, the Bass: And the Other Baronial Homes of the Dick-Lauder Family (Edinburgh, 1898), p. 66; Walter MacFarlane, James Toshach Clark, eds., Genealogical Collections concerning Families in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1900), II, p. 77; Arthur H. Nethercott, Sir William D’avenant – Poet Laureate and Playwright-Manager (New York, 1967), p. 228; Johannes Sembritzki, Geschichte der Königlich preussischen See- und Handelstadt Memel (Hannover-Döhren [repr.],1977), p. 206; David Stevenson, Revolution and counter-revolution in Scotland, 1644-1651 (Edinburgh, 1977), p. 79; Peter Donald, An Uncounselled King: Charles I and the Scottish Troubles 1637-1641 (Cambridge, 1990), p. 152; Alexia Grosjean, An Unofficial Alliance. Scotland and Sweden 1569-1654 (Leiden/Boston, 2003), pp. 92 f., 99 f.; Matthew Glozier, Scottish Soldiers in France in the Reign of the Sun King: Nursery for Men of Honour (Leiden et al., 2004), p. 240 f.; Jan Glete, Värvade Regementen i Svensk Tjänst 1618-1631 (http://www2.historia.su.se/personal/jan_glete/Glete_Varvade_reg_1618-31.pdf), p. 7; 

Rainer Bunz, ‘Kürfurst Karl Ludwig, Prinz Rupert und die Herren Leslie von Langenzell’ in Zeitschrift für die Geshichte des Oberrheins, 159. Band (Der neuen Folge 120. Band), Stuttgart, 2011, pp.355-387.


With thanks to Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, Kurt Bontius, Dr Bernd Warlich for many of the references above used in the original article.

This article was revised on 16 October 2008 and 3 February 2012 by Rainer Bunz. 

Dr Angus Fowler provided supporting evidence for Leslie's service in Hesse-Kassel from  Hermann Völker, Frankenberg: Geschichte der Stadt im Dreißigjährigen Krieg (Frankenberg, 1935), pp.58-59.

The following additional information relating to Leslie's first wife, Dame Frances Pakington [nee Ferrers] was kindly provided by Nick Molyneux of Historic England, 02 September 2020). We thank him for this useful update.


"William A Shaw, ed, 1904, Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 1, 1660-1667, HMSO: London (available via British History online) pp 490-497, 23 January 1663.

Money warrant for the annuity of 200l. to Robert Lesley from 1660, Xmas, as by letters patent of 1626–7, Feb. 19. which granted same to said Lesley and Dame Frances Packington, his wife. Early Entry Book, IV, p75


They were married as follows:

‘Mr Robert Leasly, gent, & the Lady Frannces Packington’, married on 29 December 1626, at St Antholin, Budge Row, London (parish register online)

She was the widow of Sir John Pakington (c1600-1624) who has a brief biography in the relevant History of Parliament volume available on line (he was MP for Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire) and he was buried there on 29 October 1624. They had been married in c1618, and she was the daughter of Sir John Ferrers (1560s-1633) of Tamworth Castle (he also has a brief biography in the History of Parliament).

It was almost certainly she who was buried in Surrey: St Mary’s, Addington, Surrey (parish register online) Francis Lesly sepult 12 August 1633


Bishops Wars; English Civil War; British Civil Wars

Service record

Arrived 1620-01-01, as ENSIGN?
Departed 1629-12-31, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1630-01-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1631-12-31, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1632-07-26
Arrived 1633-11-04
Arrived 1635-12-01
Departed 1637-12-31
Arrived 1638-01-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1641-11-01
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1641-11-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1646-01-01
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1646-05-01
Arrived 1650-01-01
Departed 1652-12-31
Arrived 1652-01-01, as COURTIER
Departed 1659-12-31
Capacity COURTIER, purpose COURTIER
Arrived 1656-01-01
Departed 1656-12-31
Capacity DIPLOMAT, purpose DIPLOMACY
Arrived 1660-01-01
Departed 1675-11-01
Departed 1632-10-01