David Leslie, 1st Baron Newark, 1601-82

Scottish army officer who was victorious against the Marquis of Montrose in 1645 but was defeated by Cromwell at the battle of Dunbar in 1650.

Portrait of David LeslieThe fifth son of Patrick Leslie, Lord Lindores, and Lady Jean Stewart, David Leslie joined the army of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden around 1630 as a captain in the regiment of Alexander Leslie. By 1634, he was colonel of a cavalry regiment. Leslie returned to Scotland in 1640 to join the Army of the Covenant raised for the Bishops' Wars but did not take part in any fighting.

When the Covenanters made an alliance with the English Parliamentarians in 1644, Leslie was appointed lieutenant-general to Alexander Leslie, now styled the Earl of Leven. The Covenanters marched into England against the Royalists in January 1644. At the battle of Marston Moor, Leslie led a brigade of Scottish horse in support of Cromwell's Ironsides on the left wing of the Allied army. His flank attack tipped the scales in Cromwell's favour in the struggle between the Ironsides and Prince Rupert's cavaliers.

In 1645, Leslie was active against the Royalists in Cheshire, the Midlands and north-western England. He besieged Carlisle, which surrendered to him in June. In September he was recalled to Scotland to deal with the Marquis of Montrose, who had occupied Glasgow in the King's name and was terrorising the Covenanters. At the head of 4,000 horse, Leslie moved swiftly to cut off Montrose before he could withdraw into the Highlands. Intercepting him at Philiphaugh, Leslie inflicted a crushing defeat that brought Montrose's spectacular campaign in Scotland to an end.

Returning to England in 1646, Leslie took command at the siege of the Royalist stronghold of Newark when Lord Leven retired to Newcastle. King Charles surrendered to Leslie at Newark in May 1646 and was held in semi-captivity at Newcastle. Upon returning to Scotland in 1647, Leslie joined forces with the Marquis of Argyll to drive out the renegade Alasdair MacColla and defeat the last Royalist resistance to the Covenanters.

In 1648, Leslie refused to support the Engager invasion of England on behalf of Charles I because the Kirk pronounced against it. In 1650, however, Scotland united behind Charles II and Leslie was appointed lieutenant-general of a new Covenanter army to support Charles in his attempt to regain the throne of England. In July 1650, Oliver Cromwell led the New Model Army in a pre-emptive invasion of Scotland. The Earl of Leven skillfully manoeuvred to avoid a pitched battle, intending to let sickness and attrition wear down the invaders first. With Cromwell's army trapped at Dunbar, Leslie took over effective command of the Covenanter army from the aged Leven. Probably influenced by the committee of Presbyterian elders that accompanied the army, Leslie threw away his advantage and was decisively defeated at the battle of Dunbar. He was exonerated of blame for the defeat because the committee had insisted on interfering in his strategy.

Charles II was crowned King of Scots in January 1651 and took personal command of the army, with Leslie as lieutenant-general. Leslie advised against Charles' decision to invade England in August 1651 and became increasingly morose and pessimistic on the march south. At the battle of Worcester in September 1651, Leslie kept his cavalry in reserve and took no active part in the battle. He was captured as he attempted to retreat to Scotland and imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he remained until the Restoration in 1660.

In recognition of his services to the Royalist cause, King Charles II granted him an annual pension and raised him to the peerage as first Baron Newark in 1661. Newark and his wife Jane Yorke had three sons and five daughters. He was succeeded as second Baron Newark by his eldest son, also called David Leslie.


T. F. Henderson, David Leslie, first Lord Newark, Oxford DNB, 2004

Stuart Reid, All the King's Armies: a military history of the English Civil War 1642-1651, (Staplehurst 1998)