Colonel James Leith

James Leith ticks many of the boxes for a traditional Scottish Episcopalian. By his father, his family were long-standing gentry in the north-east of Scotland, and by his mother he was descended from the Royal Stewarts. It was in his own military career, however, that he made his name and fortune. It was a similar role to the lawyers in Edinburgh: defending and administering the wealth of Empire and industry was an acceptable profession for the elite, so long as the business of amassing it had been left to others.

Lived
8 August 1763 - 16 October 1816
Origin
Leith Hall, Kennethmont, Aberdeenshire. Educated at Marischal College, Aberdeen, and the military school at Lille.
Address
James Leith does not appear to have had a house in Edinburgh. The connection in 1798 appears to be with his aristocratic wife's family: her sister also had a child baptised in Charlotte Chapel that year. Her father, George Forbes fifth Earl of Granard, was probably the 'Lord Forbes' residing at 28 George Street.
Father
John Leith (d.1763) of Leith Hall (his third son)
Mother
Harriot Steuart, daughter and heir of Alexander Steuart of Auchluncart. He was one of the Royal Stewarts, tracing his ancestry back to Sir Alexander Stewart, wolf of Badenoch, the fourth son of Robert II. (4)
Profession
1780 joined the army. October 1794 commissioned as a colonel to raise the Aberdeen Fencibles, embodied in July 1795 as the Princess of Wales' or Aberdeenshire Highland regiment of fencible infantry. He commanded the regiment in Ireland in 1798 and until it was disbanded there in 1803. In 1804 he was given commands in Europe and distinguished himself in the Peninsular war. In 1813 he became lieutenant-general. In 1814 he was made commander of the forces in the West Indies and governor of the Leeward islands. He implemented the restoration of the French West Indian islands to the Bourbons, but when Bonaparte returned from Elba most re-hoisted the tricolour, so he reconquered them for Louis XVIII in August 1815, after sharp fighting in Guadeloupe. He died of Yellow Fever in Barbados and is buried in Westminster Abbey. (3)
Chapel connection
1798 (baptism)
Married on
14 February 1798
Spouse
Augusta Forbes
Children
Mary Elizabeth Anne (b. 17 November 1798 baptised 25 December 1798)

Sources

  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. H.M. Chichester, rev. Roger T. Stearn, 'Sir James Leith' in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  4. G. Harvey-Johnstone, The Heraldry of the Stewarts (Johnstone Ltd, Edinburgh 1906) p.37-38

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