9 April 1747 – Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat

Simon Fraser, Lord LovatA Scottish toff put his neck on the block in the mid-18th century after being found guilty of treason. Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat was the last person to be executed at Tower Hill after he was sentenced for a string of crimes.

Well he wasn’t called the ‘most devious man in Scotland’ for nothing. Loyalty obviously didn’t even feature on his list of attributes – he was an opportunist, switching his support from the House of Hanover to the Stuarts depending on what was in it for him. Indeed it was in support of the Young Pretender – Charles III – that Lovat was caught.

A right Charlie

Better known as Bonny Prince Charlie, Charles represented the Stuart line and just as his father James had pitted himself against George I as the successor to the throne following the death of Anne in 17141, so Charles put himself up against George II who was struggling amid dissension with his family and in Europe.

As with James, Charles wouldn’t have got a look in because he was a confirmed Catholic, even though he would have probably been the monarch of choice from across the Channel – France, Spain and the Papal states would have all bigged him up, naturally, as fellow Catholics, had they not been wholeheartedly ensconced in the War of the Austrian Succession.

All for one

All very interesting, but what’s all this got to wily old Lovat? Well he was only interested in amassing more wealth and he did whatever he could to consolidate his lineage. He’d laid low up to this point, only interested in clawing back family lands that had been lost over time. First he’d kidnapped the widowed Lady Lovat, who’d been born to the opposing Atholl clan by birth. He then forced her into marriage as a means of cementing his bloodline and claim to the Lovat heritage. He then eventually gained back the 11th Lord Lovat title in 1733.

Georgie’s boy

He kept one step ahead of trouble throughout his life, hotfooting it over to France, then to Scotland and even London at the first sign of trouble. Miraculously though, he managed to ingratiate himself with George I, who even agreed to be godfather to Lovat’s son. But that loyalty certainly didn’t last and he continued to hedge his bets when George II ascended to the throne.

Meanwhile, the Scots were keen to support their heritage over the German House of Hanover any day. So with Europe at war, and England thus diverted, Bonnie Prince Charlie seized the opportunity in 1745.

Of course, Lovat wasn’t stupid, he didn’t steep himself in the uprising. Nevertheless, he was found guilty by association. So when the uprising failed following at battle at Culloden, and the ailing man was found stashed inside a hollow tree, even his gift of the gab couldn’t save him.

He was taken down to London, where his life of duplicity finally caught up with him. Lovat was found guilty of treason at Westminster Hall, on the basis of evidence from a man who legally should not have been able to testify. And, of course, the titles he’d devoted his life to reaping back were stripped away from him.

Lovat’s was the last execution to take place on Tower Hill and the public turned out in their droves to watch the spectacle. They had even put up viewing galleries, one of which, in days before health and safety, collapsed killing 20 spectators. But that didn’t stop events proceeding. Lovat was beheaded at the grand old age of about 70 – he is even said to have tipped the bloke who moments later was to take his head off.

Footnotes

1 As a Protestant country, England was just not interested in returning to the Catholic old days and as Anne was prepared to renounce the Papal faith, she thus became England’s preferred choice. To further establish their Protestant stance, Parliament passed the 1701 Act of Settlement, which stated that if Anne died childless, as was likely, the throne would pass to the House of Hanover. Cue Scotland, who came back with the Act of Security, so if Anne died childless, they could choose their own Scottish successor. For a time, this was the trump card…

That is until England played a blinder – they pulled the Alien Act of 1705 out of the bag, which deemed that England could impose sanctions on Scotland and the Scots would be foreigners and therefore unable to own land in England.

These culminated in England demanding that Scotland renounce the Act of Succession and unite with England. The Scots agreed, however, the situation sat uneasy with them.

They saw their chance in 1714 when Anne passed away childless. James III, Charles’s dad, had tried to gain the throne for himself, leading an uprising in 1715 followed by a pitiful excuse for one in 1719.
Bonnie Prince Charlie’s ’45 uprising was aimed at continuing in his father’s footsteps by trying to realise his dad’s dream.

Also on this day

9 April 1918 – Louis Van Der Kerkhove

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5 Responses to “9 April 1747 – Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat”

  1. Alan Lemon Says:

    Is this the same Simon Fraser as the Simon Fraser pipe band

    • If you mean the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, sadly not quite.

      The band (and the Uni) are named after a British Columbian fur trader and explorer of the same name, who lived during the 18th and 19th centuries.

      Our Scottish Lord Lovat predated him by a few decades and I reckon he could have been his grandfather.

      When it all went pear-shaped for our Lord, his son sharply hot-footed it over to Canada and promptly reinvented himself as a Scottish general in the army.

      Simon Fraser of Lovat raised an army stationed in New York from 1757 onwards.

      And the Simon Fraser you mention was the 9th son of one Simon Fraser and he was born in New York in 1776.

      Uncanny, isn’t it?

      If I’m right, his dad was captured a mere year later and died in custody in 1782. His dad ‘s half-brother took on the mantle of Lord Lovat, while Simon Fraser the younger stayed in Canada and forged a whole new role in life, which led to a University being built in his honour (as well as the pipe band).

      Of course, this is conjecture and we’ll update once we’ve investigated this further.

  2. JACQUELINE BAILEY Says:

    I have been interested in the story of the Lord Lovat you mention for some time, as I think I might be a descendant of his on my maternal grandmother’s side.(her maiden name was Clover, a descendant of Thomas Clover 1809-1861).I have a copy of a letter from a John Mayhew,written to my aunt, stating that his grandmother Louisa Mary Clover (my grandmother’s sister) had the details of Simon Fraser Lord Lovat and how he was disinherited of some houses hwere King’s Cross station now stands.Unfortunately there are missing links inbetween, which I would love to find if this is my ancestor. Is this the same Lord Lovat that was executed at the Tower?

  3. richard vipan Says:

    I have just discovered a engraving by T.COOK DEC 1st 1800 of SIMON LORD LOVAT is this of any importance !

  4. Having read the very good book on the infamous Lord Lovat,it seems everybody is happy with the title of traitor. He offered his services to King James and was rebuffed. You have to look close at home to see why he chose the path he did, it seems plenty men were after his titles and land and in trying to regain what was rightfully his he had to change who he followed to make sure his lands were acquired. In the end the treachery that got him killed was that of others and was guilty by association.Why after so long fighting for his families future would he join in a scheme he felt at best would fail. had he been a gentleman throughout he’d have died in his early years.

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