Shane Leslie
Born Sir John Randolph Leslie, 3rd Baronet
24 September 1885(1885-09-24)
Castle Leslie, County Monaghan, Ireland
Died 14 August 1971 (aged 85)
Castle Leslie, County Monaghan, Ireland
Occupation Writer, Diplomat, Literary critic, Public Speaker
Nationality Irish
Genres Novel, Biography, Translation, Criticism
Notable work(s) The Cantab

Sir John Randolph Leslie, 3rd Baronet, generally known as Shane Leslie, (24 September 1885 – 14 August 1971), an Irish-born diplomat and writer.[1] He was a first cousin of the British war time Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. In 1908, John Randolph Leslie converted to Roman Catholicism and supported Irish Home Rule.


He was born in Glaslough, County Monaghan, into a wealthy Anglo-Irish landowning family (49,968 acres). His mother, Leonie Jerome, was the sister of Winston Churchill's mother, Jennie. Both were daughters of Leonard W. Jerome, for whom Jerome Avenue, The Bronx, is named. His ancestor John Leslie, Bishop of the Isles, moved from Scotland to Ireland in 1633 when he was made Bishop of Raphoe in Donegal and was subsequently made Bishop of Clogher in 1661[2]. He was a vocal opponent of Oliver Cromwell.

He was educated at Ludgrove School, then Eton College and King's College, Cambridge. While at Cambridge he converted to Roman Catholicism and became a supporter of Irish Home Rule. He adopted an Anglicised Irish variant of his name ("Shane"). Not overly impressed by Eton, as a lower boy he and his roommates occupied "an old battered warren betwixt the chapel cemetery and Wise's horse yard ... [T]he food was wretched and tasteless ... As for thrashings which tyrannised rather than disciplined our house, they were excessive. Bullying was endemic and Irish boys were ridiculed, especially at St Patrick's Day."

His early education began at home - a German governess, Clara Woelke, was the first teacher of Shane and his brother Norman[3]. The children had more contact with servants than they had with their parents. His own daughter, Anita, claimed that "In my parents' view schools performed the same functions that kennels did for dogs. They were places where pets could be conveniently deposited while their owners travelled".

He refused to send his own sons to Eton but they were educated at English Roman Catholic Benedictine schools: Jack at Downside and Desmond at Ampleforth.

Adult life

Before World War I he travelled extensively [4] and in 1912 he married Marjorie Ide, the youngest daughter of Henry Clay Ide, the United States ambassador to Spain and Governor-General of The Philippines. His parents and other family members moved temporarily to London at the outbreak of war.

During the war he was in a British Ambulance Corps, until invalided out; he was then sent to Washington, D.C. to help the British Ambassador, Sir Cecil Spring Rice, soften Irish-American hostility towards England and obtain American intervention in the war in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and the execution of its leaders. But he also looked to Ireland for inspiration when writing and edited a literary magazine that contained much Irish verse. He became a supporter of the ideals of Sinn Féin though not of its militant policy.

In the 1918 election the Irish Parliamentary Party lost massively to Sinn Féin, putting an end to Shane Leslie's political career, but as the first cousin of Winston Churchill he remained a primary witness to much that was said and done outside the official record during the negotiation of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. Disappointed, he felt unwanted in Ireland and abandoned by the British.

Like many members of the landed gentry from the 1880s who were obliged to turn to other occupations, Shane could no longer rely on income from landholdings. He wrote extensively, in a wide range of styles, in verse and prose, over several decades. In his unpublished memoirs, Shane wrote, 'a gentleman's standing in his world was signalled by his list of clubs and it was worth paying hundreds of pounds in subs'.

Finding the business of running an estate uncreative and boring, Shane transferred the estate entailed to him to his eldest son, John Norman Leslie who became the 4th Baronet. He also transferred St Patrick's Purgatory on Lough Derg to the Catholic Bishop of Clogher, Most Reverend Dr.Eugene O'Callaghan.

The wealth of the Leslies had waned by the 1930s following the Wall St crash and a farm that was loss-making. But the Leslie's continued to maintain their lifestyle - attendance at the London season and entertaining distinguished visitors, including Anthony Eden at Glaslough. At the outbreak of war in 1939 he joined the Home Guard. He spent the remainder of his life between Glaslough and London. He was a passionate advocate of reforestation.


He was the elder son of Sir John Leslie, 2nd Baronet and Leonie Blanche Jerome. He married, firstly, Marjorie Ide, daughter of General Henry Clay Ide, on 11 June 1912 and had two sons and one daughter:

  • Anita Theodosia Moira Rodzianko King (21 November 1914 – 5 November 1985), novelist & biographer; was married (secondly) to Commander Bill King, World War II submarine commander and yachtsman; had two children; friend of Hazel Lavery who was reputedly a paramour of Michael Collins.
  • Sir John Leslie, 4th Baronet (b. 6 December 1916), has not married or had children.
  • Desmond Arthur Peter Leslie (29 June 1921 – 21 February 2001). One of Desmond Leslie's children or grandchildren will eventually assume the baronetcy.

After his wife Marjorie died on 8 February 1951, Shane Leslie married, secondly, Iris Carola Laing, daughter of Charles Miskin Laing, on 30 May 1958; she died in 1995.

See also


  1. Leslie, Shane (1939). Mrs. Fitzherbert A Life. Chiefly from Unpublished Sources. Burns Oates. ASIN: B0006D99I0. 
  2. Burke's Peerage
  3. Dooley, Terence (2001). The Decline of the Big House in Ireland. Wolfound Press Ltd. ISBN 0-86327-850-7. 
  4. Leslie, Shane (1936). American wonderland: Memories of four tours in the United States of America (1911-1935). M Joseph Ltd. ASIN: B00085VWEU. 

External links

Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Leslie
(of Glaslough)
Succeeded by
John Leslie

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