Euphemia Leslie lived from 1508 to 7 September 1570. She was the Prioress of Elcho Nunnery and is primarily remembered for a long running legal dispute over her position. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Euphemia Leslie seems to have been the illegitimate daughter of Walter Leslie, the Parish Priest at Kirkton of Menmuir in what is today Angus. She was brought up in the Nunnery at Elcho, south-east of Perth. The circumstances are unclear, but on 6 November 1526, Euphemia sought Papal dispensation to become Prioress of the Convent. She needed the dispensation because of her young age - she was only 18 - and because of her parentage. Papal dispensation was duly given.
This caused a problem, because there was already a sitting Prioress of Elcho, Elizabeth Swinton, who had no intention of relinquishing her post to Euphemia. Quite how this came about, and why Papal dispensation was given in light of this, is unclear. In 1527, Euphemia pressed her case more strongly by arriving at the nunnery with her brother and a hundred armed supporters, imprisoning Elizabeth Swinton in her rooms until she agreed to resign, which she duly did. The legal dispute between the two rumbled on until 14 January 1529, when Euphemia Leslie finally secured her position as Prioress of Elcho.
Euphemia's first move as Prioress seems to have been to grant leases of land to her brother and to others who had supported her during her dispute with Elizabeth Swinton. Elcho Nunnery was damaged by the English in 1547 and had not recovered by the time of the Reformation in 1560. Elcho seems to have carried on in a diminished form after the Reformation. When she died in 1570, Euphemia left a will (the only will left by a Scottish Prioress to have survived) in which she set out the pension rights of the nuns who remained at the nunnery.