A patch, depicting the shield of Clan Leslie.

One of the older items in the Collection is a beaded patch depicting the shield of Clan Leslie. On the shield are the defining elements of the Leslie’s three buckles and the Abernethy’s red lions.

The element of the three buckles that comprise the Leslie shield have remained largely unchanged as they originate with the story of the founding of Clan Leslie.

The traditional shield is silver with three gold buckles on a diagonal blue stripe. The three buckles represent an event that is said to have occurred while Bartholf served as Chamberlain to Saint Margaret, Malcolm Canmore’s wife and Queen of Scots. Bartholf is said to have aided Margaret’s passage across a dangerous river on his horse. When she almost slipped from his horse he encouraged her to “Grip Fast” to his belt.

To ensure her future safety Bartholf added two more buckles to his belt, resulting in the three gold buckles on the Leslie shield and the Clan Motto of “Grip Fast”.

The shield (or escutcheon in heraldic terms) is the foundation component of a Coat-of-Arms.

XS1 MS A318 leslie postcard arms over tartan-001.jpg

Edwardian postcard depicting the Coat-of-Arms.

Since the Middle Ages a Coat-of-Arms has been retained by the Chief of the Clan Leslie. The arms evolve with the succession of each new Clan Chief to reflect his achievements and alliances.

Three elements that endure are the three buckles, the lion and the griffin. The three buckles originate with Bartholf ensuring Saint Margaret’s safety. The rampant red lions joined the Leslie shield around 1314 with the marriage of Sir Andrew Leslie to Mary, an Abernethy heiress.

There are three griffins on the Coat-of-Arms of the Chief of the Clan Leslie, Earl of Rothes. Two griffins are supporters of the shield that contain the three buckles. The third, a demi griffin, forms the crest that holds the motto “Grip Fast”. It is unknown why a Leslie (possibly Norman de Leslie in the late thirteenth century) adopted the symbol of the griffin. It could be because griffins are thought to symbolize wisdom, strength and vigilance.

A note on etiquette: Under Scots Law, a Coat-of-Arms is protected by law and issued to an individual, such as the Chief of the Clan Leslie. They are regulated by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. There is not a “family Coat-of-Arms”. What can be used as a display of identity to Clan Leslie is the crest badge.

XS1 MS A318 stamp blue badge-001.jpg

American Clan Leslie Society letterhead depicting the crest badge.

The crest badge is derived from the crest in the Clan Chief’s Coat-of-Arms, surrounded by a circlet on which the Chief’s motto is inscribed.

The Leslie crest features a griffin described in heraldic terms as a demi-griffin segreant proper.  This is depicted as the  griffin’s top half shown in profile with traditional colours in a rampant position, a position of a predatory animal. It is an ancient mythological creature of eastern origin that is half lion and half eagle that is thought to symbolize wisdom, strength and vigilance. The griffin has watched over the Leslies for centuries.

To indicate allegiance to the Clan Chief, followers wear badges. A strap and buckle circlet indicate the rank of clansman and clanswoman. It is unknown when crest badges were first worn. Some historians believe they are a more recent device.

A more ancient emblem to denote a member of Clan Leslie is the plant badge which is a sprig of foliage worn in the bonnet or attached to a spear or staff. The plant badge for Clan Leslie is the rue plant (Ruta Graveolens).


The library is committed to ensuring that members of our user community with disabilities have equal access to our services and resources and that their dignity and independence is always respected. If you encounter a barrier and/or need an alternate format, please fill out our Library Print and Multimedia Alternate-Format Request Form. Contact us if you’d like to provide feedback: lib.a11y@uoguelph.ca