John Leslie, 6th Earl of Rothes, c.1600-41

Scottish nobleman who opposed King Charles' interference in the government of Scotland and was a leading figure in the emergence of the Covenanter movement.

John Leslie succeeded his grandfather as the sixth Earl of Rothes in 1611 and married Lady Anne Erskine (d.1640), daughter of the Earl of Mar, in 1614. Influenced by the devoutly Presbyterian Lady Anne, Rothes emerged as a leading opponent of attempts to impose Episcopacy upon the Church of Scotland. He was also prominent among the Scottish peers who protested at King Charles I's arbitrary interference in the government of Scotland during the 1630s. When opposition to the King's policies in church and state crystallised around the National Covenant of 1638, Rothes was regarded as one of the leading Covenanter noblemen, along with Lords Loudoun, Balmerino and Lindsay.

In November 1638, Rothes successfully led the opposition to the Marquis of Hamilton's attempt to dissolve the Glasgow Assembly where the Covenanter movement emerged as the major power in Scotland. When King Charles threatened the Covenanters with military intervention, Rothes appealed to his kinsman the veteran soldier Alexander Leslie, who agreed to recruit and train a Scottish army to resist the King. After the First Bishops' War, Rothes was the leading Covenanter spokesman at the treaty negotiations at Berwick where King Charles angrily denounced him for his refusal to compromise.

In July 1640, Rothes was appointed to the newly-formed Committee of Estates. He marched as colonel of a regiment in the Army of the Covenant on its invasion of England in 1640, which culminated in the defeat of the English army at the battle of Newburn and the occupation by the Scots of the city of Newcastle.

In November 1640, Rothes was one of the Scottish commissioners who went to London to finalise the treaty between England and Scotland. He apparently found life at the English court congenial and was soon on good terms with King Charles. Rothes' wife having died in May 1640, he courted the wealthy Countess of Devonshire and hoped to secure an office in the royal household in exchange for acting as the King's unofficial emissary to the Covenanters. His motives were beginning to be called into question by members of the Scottish government, but all speculation ended when Rothes died suddenly of a fever at Richmond in August 1641.


David Stevenson, The Scottish Revolution 1637-44 (Newton Abbott 1973)

Vaughan T. Wells, John Leslie, sixth earl of Rothes, Oxford DNB, 2004