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Articles by Marie Fraser of Canada
Eliza Fraser, Wife of George Arbuthnot


I thoroughly enjoyed Memories of the Arbuthnots of Kincardineshire and Aberdeenshire by Mrs P. S-M. Arbuthnot (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1920). The author, Ada Jane Evelyn, in 1906 married Peter Stewart-Mackenzie Arbuthnot, eldest surviving son of William Reierson Arbuthnot, and a grandson of George Arbuthnot of Eldersley by his wife Eliza, daughter of Donald Fraser, Solicitor, of Inverness.

“5th November 1803. This morning died Robert Arbuthnot, Secretary to the Board of Trustees [for the Encouragement of the Manufactures and Fisheries] in Scotland, - my worthy, beloved and much respected friend. He had a few days before completed his 75th year. Notwithstanding a difference of age (near 20 years) between him and myself, we felt for each other the most perfect affection and the most unbounded and intimate confidence and communication of sentiment. He was my father’s intimate friend, and he took me up as it were by inheritance…” - the Commonplace Book of the late A.J. Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee, sent by his son to Sir William Arbuthnot (1766-1829).

Family of Robert Arbuthnot 2nd Haddo-Rattray (1728-1803) & Mary Urquhart (c1743-1818)

Robert Arbuthnot 1760 - 1809
John Arbuthnot 1762 - 1796
Jane Arbuthnot 1763 - 1819
Mary Arbuthnot 1764 - 1781
Elizabeth Arbuthnot 1765 - 1841 mar 21 Jun 1793 Sir John Hunter
Sir William Arbuthnot 1766 - 1829 mar 13 Sep 1800 Anne Alves
Thomas Arbuthnot 1770 - d yg
George Arbuthnot 1772 - 1843 mar 26 Apr 1810 Eliza Fraser

Robert Arbuthnot 2nd of Haddo-Rattray had in 1759 married Mary Urquhart, daughter of Captain John Urquhart of Craigston, by whom he had five sons and three daughters. Their fifth and youngest son George (afterwards of Eldersley) was born in 1772, the year in which his father’s fortunes were at the lowest possible ebb, through the failure of his firm, Arbuthnot and Guthrie. However, with the help of their Trotter relations and the influence of the Coutts family, George’s elder brother Robert was appointed (1801) to be Chief Secretary to the Hon. Frederick North, Governor of Ceylon (afterwards 5th Earl of Guildford). Ceylon, which was conquered from the Dutch in 1796, was at first placed under the East India Company and administered from Madras, but this led to discontent and friction. In 1798 Ceylon was transformed into a Crown colony, and Mr North was sent out as first British Governor of the island. Mr North’s elder brother George, 3rd Earl of Guildford, was then the husband of Susan, d/o Thomas Coutts, founder of the London firm of Coutts and Co.

Young George Arbuthnot was appointed Deputy Secretary to the Government of Ceylon at a salary of 1,000 a-year. In August 1803 he wrote to his brother William in Edinburgh about a plan to provide their parents with a carriage. Sadly, their father died before his letter even reached William, and George did not learn about it until nine months later. Meanwhile, he had joined the firm of Lautour and Co and Mr Lautour lent him 10,000 as his share of its capital. The conviction of his relatives in Scotland that he was already in possession of a large fortune seems to have disturbed George, when he wrote to his mother in August 1804: “I am anxious that you should not be carried away with the common notion that because I am in the House of Lautour, I should make money by enchantment.” He was trying to pay off his debt to Mr Lautour.

George Arbuthnot remained at Madras, and the firm of Lautour and Co grew and prospered. The youngest partner found himself at the head of the business and in possession of the large fortune his family had anticipated; and the name of the firm was changed to Arbuthnot and Co. He had also married Eliza Fraser, daughter of Donald Fraser, Solicitor, of Inverness. She came out to Madras in 1807 to visit her uncle, Dr William Ord, a surgeon in the East India Company’s service. They were married 26 April 1810 in St Mary’s Church, Fort George, Madras; the bride was given away by Dr Ord.

Family of Donald Fraser (c.1760-1798) & Mary Ord (1768-1842)

Eliza Fraser 1792 - 1834 mar 26 Apr 1810 George Arbuthnot
Alexander Fraser 1793 -
Richard Fraser 1796 -
Catherine Fraser 1794 - 1879 mar 7 Sep 1813 Patrick Vans Agnew
John Fraser, of Bunchrew* 1798 - 1876 mar 26 Nov 1840 Hester Mary Mostyn Lomax

In 1842 John Fraser, Tea Merchant, bought Bunchrew* House for 13,650 from Forbes Trustees

George Arbuthnot was anxious to bring little Mary to visit his mother, and he and his family were home in 1816; when his twin daughters were born in his mother’s house at 47 Queen Street, Edinburgh. His mother died in May 1818, a short time after he had spent a week with her in Edinburgh; she intended to follow him to London, accompanied by his sister and three of his children who had been under her care.

In 1819 he purchased a 55-year lease on his London house in Upper Wimpole Street, where several children were born. In 1820 George and Eliza Arbuthnot were again in Madras, his sister Elizabeth Barbara, second wife and then widow of Sir John Hunter, former Consul-General at Madrid, being left in charge of their children. In 1823 Mr George Arbuthnot retired from business and came home for good. Among his co-partners at that time were his brother-in-law, Mr John Fraser, and Major Patrick Vans Agnew, who had married Catharine Fraser, his wife’s sister.

In 1824 he purchased his Surrey property in the parish of Ockley for 9,000 and started keeping a diary for the benefit of his children. On 4 March 1833 he wrote: “The anniversary of the birth of my excellent wife, who drew her first breath in the year 1792, at Inverness. She came to Madras in 1807, and on the 26th of April 1810 was united to me. She has given birth to thirteen children, of whom eleven are now alive, the eldest near 21 years old, the youngest little more than a month.”

Family of George Arbuthnot 1st Elderslie (1772-1843) & Eliza Fraser (1792-1834)

Mary Arbuthnot 1812 - 1859 mar 2 Jun 1832 John Alves Arbuthnot
Robert Arbuthnot 1813 - 1814
George Arbuthnot 1815 - 1895 mar 28 Mar 1844 Maria Thomas
Anne Arbuthnot 1816 - 1840
Jane Arbuthnot 1816 - 1892 mar 3 Jan 1846 George, 2nd Viscount Gough
Coutts Trotter Arbuthnot 1818 - 1899
Elizabeth G. Arbuthnot 1820 - 1820
John de Monte Arbuthnot 1822 - 1886 mar 29 Jan 1853 Elizabeth Esther Murray
Catherine G. Arbuthnot 1824 - 1837
William Reierson Arbuthnot 1826 - 1913 mar 9 Dec 1858 Mary Helen Anstruther
Elizabeth A. Arbuthnot 1828 - 1895 mar 6 Nov 1850 Gen. Sir John Bloomfield Gough
Laura C. Arbuthnot 1830 - 1917 mar 5 Aug 1856 Sir William Lenox-Conyngham
Eleanor L. Arbuthnot 1833 - 1894

His diary runs on for a course of years, chronicling the simple, uneventful episodes of a country gentleman’s life; the state of the weather being noted every day, and small events carefully and methodically recorded. “In this comparative retirement,” writes Sir Charles Lawson, “with the diversion of occasional visits among friends in the North, and some Continental journeyings in France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, accompanied by members of his family, Mr Arbuthnot passed the remaining two decades of his life. - Memories of Madras (London: Swan, Sonnenschein & Co., 1925)

In 1834 Mr Arbuthnot was in Paris with his son Coutts when he learned of his wife’s illness and, rushing back to London, reached Wimpole Street only to find it was all over. After twenty-four years of happy married life, the shock was terrible, but he was solaced by the fact that his sister, Lady Hunter, had been with Eliza at the end.

In 1836 he visited his brother-in-law, John Fraser, who was then living at Cromarty House, which had formerly belonged to Captain John Urquhart of Craigston and Cromarty, and had been familiar to his mother, Mary Urquhart. At Strathpeffer, he notes: “The Season for the Waters is over and there remain only a few Stragglers. One of these is Lord Castlereagh, who inhabits Castle Leod, and has with him the Hon. Mr Fitzroy.” He refers to “Dr Morison’s house, now the property of John Gladstone, and for sale… We made our return to Strathpeffer by Brahan Castle, where we called on the Hon. Mrs Stewart-Mackenzie” who was not at home, but they were invited in and looked at the house and pictures. Next, they went on to Craigston Castle, Aberdeenshire, to visit his cousins, and were “kindly rec’d by Mr & Mrs (William) Urqhuart and their young Daughter, Mary Bell, aged 10 years, a very sweet and clever little girl,” through whom the estate later passed to the Pollard family.

Mr Arbuthnot died in 1843, and was buried in the family vault at Ockley, built by himself, which had already received the remains of his wife, his daughter Catherine, and his sister, Lady Hunter.

Mr John Rutter Carden & Miss Eleanor Arbuthnot

And now, we come to the strange story of John Rutter Carden (1811-1866) and Eleanor Arbuthnot (1833-1894), youngest daughter of George Arbuthnot of Elderslie and Eliza Fraser. In 1852, their parents being then both dead, Eleanor and Laura were making their home with their sister Jane, who had married (1846) the Hon. George Gough (later Viscount Gough) at Rathronan House, Tipperary.

While the sisters were visiting Eastgrove, the house of a Mr John Bagwell, in County Cork, among the guests was Mr John Rutter Carden of Barnane Castle, a keen sportsman, exceedingly popular, who could not for a moment be classed as a fortune-hunter. He was a landowner, a magistrate and Deputy-Lieutenant of his county, and was already notorious for the number of times he had been unsuccessfully fired upon by his tenants, his extraordinary immunity having earned him the nickname of “Woodcock Carden”. He was 41; Eleanor was 18, but their names became inextricably associated together.

John Carden had been in love before, and cherished a prejudice against heiresses in general, and it was no secret that the two sisters were each in possession of a fortune of 30,000. From the moment Eleanor first crossed his path, he was never to know peace of mind or happiness again. He asked only to be allowed to approach her, to take his chance with the rest. By his own account, it was only when this was refused him that he became desperate and dangerous.

It was clear to John Carden that his next step was to make the acquaintance of Mr George Gough, whom he only knew by name, so he wrote to him and paid two visits to Rathronan. A little later he and the Gough party stayed three nights at Ballinacourte, with Mr George Massy-Dawson, and from there went on to Barnane Castle, where Eleanor became, for ten days, the guest of the man whose career was to be wrecked by this infatuation. Meanwhile, Mr & Mrs Gough, who did not approve of Mr Carden as a prospective brother-in-law, had taken the alarm, and the whole party left Barnane several days earlier than had been arranged.

Undaunted, he next arranged to meet with Mrs Gough, who assured him of her certain knowledge that he had not a chance of success, begged him to put the idea out of his mind, and told him that in any case they did not wish Eleanor to marry for two years.

In a state of despair he wrote to Eleanor and begged her to elope with him. Miss Arbuthnot showed the letter to Mrs Gough, and also wrote to her brother-in-law, who was then a guest of Mr Carden at Barnane, convalescing from an attack of scarlatina, to which she refers in her affidavit, taken before a magistrate in 1858: - “Feeling indignant at such an insulting proposition, for which my conduct towards Mr Carden had not given the least ground or excuse, I immediately communicated the said letter to my brother-in-law at Barnane, informing him at the same time that in the event of his inviting Mr Carden to Rathronan, I would leave the house while he was to be there being determined never to be under the same roof with him.”

Some kind of partial reconciliation must have taken place. According to Mr Carden’s account, on 18th May 1853, Lord Gough (1779-1869), Mr George Gough (1815-1895), and Sir Patrick Grant (1804-1895) who had in 1844 married Lord Gough’s youngest daughter Frances (1825-1892), stayed a night with Mr Carden at Barnane. [Ed: Sir Patrick Grant’s first wife was Jane Anne Fraser Tytler (1810-1838), a daughter of William Fraser Tytler of Aldourie (1777-1853), eldest son of Alexander Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee (1747-1813).]

On 1st September Mr Carden dined at Lord Gough’s house, St Helen’s, near Dublin, and met Eleanor once more. However, she “was guarded all the evening,” and he found it impossible to approach her. Perhaps, motivated by a feeling of pity towards him, Eleanor suddenly crossed the room and shook hands with him, before saying good-night. Mr Carden visited Scotland, and on his way came up accidentally with the Gough party on their way to attend a ball in Inverness, where he annoyed Miss Arbuthnot by following her about the room. The next day he walked to Forres, only to see the party drive past on their way to a Colonel Grant, where they were to stay.

At Inverness, he began methodically buying all those things which he thought would be conducive to the comfort of his expected bride - clothes, shawls, toilet requisites, boots and shoes, and everything he could think of that she might require. He returned to Barnane, but his “shadowing” of Eleanor had offended and alarmed Mr Gough, who on 24th October wrote him a letter from St Helen’s definitely and finally forbidding him the house.

Mr Carden continued his preparations and next proceeded to London, where he concluded his purchases, laying out as much as 500 in one day. He also bought the yacht and had it fitted up with every possible luxury and convenience. Learning that Eleanor and her family were going to Paris, he followed them there and went to dine in their hotel one evening. He returned to Barnane and the party returned to Rathronan House. Then, he heard that Miss Arbuthnot had been thrown from her horse, had injured her ankle, and was suffering a good deal of pain. Weeks passed and it was decided that Mrs Gough should take her to Paris to see a surgeon there. He followed them to Paris, where he refrained from calling, for fear of annoying any of the party. He returned to Barnane by sea, in his yacht, reaching Galway on the 21st June 1854.

By 28th June, his plans were complete, and he was aware that on Wednesdays they were in the habit of driving to church at Fethard, but Eleanor stayed at home with Mrs Gough, while Laura and Miss Lynden, the governess, were driven to church.

On Sunday, 2nd July, Eleanor with her two sisters and Miss Lynden attended service at Rathronan Church. After the service, they climbed into the closed car and drove off towards Rathronan House. All at once the car stopped, three men dashed out from nowhere, two of them seized the horse’s head, while a third severed the reins with a clasp knife. In the meantime, Mr Carden appeared, dismounted, leaned across Miss Lynden and seized Eleanor by the wrist and tried to drag her out. The governess struck him violently and repeatedly in the face, till the blood flowed. Releasing Eleanor, he seized Miss Lynden by the wrist and dragged her from the car. At this point, owing to a mistake of his men, he narrowly escaped abducting the governess. As Mr Gough’s men were running up, Mr Carden sprang on his horse and rode off in the direction of Templemore, but feeling faint, he dismounted and entered the carriage, which proceeded on its way at full gallop. Meanwhile, the news spread like wildfire.

The court room was packed for the trial on 28th July before Judge Ball. The Grand Jury, which consisted entirely of Mr Carden’s neighbours and friends, found him “Not Guilty” of abduction, but “Guilty” of attempted abduction. On 31st July, when the last charge of felonious assault was heard, the jury, after a brief retirement, gave their verdict of “Not Guilty”. The verdict was received with loud cheers, and many of the ladies in the gallery enthusiastically waved their handkerchiefs. While the prisoner was being removed, society in Tipperary was sharply divided into two parties. He was dismissed from the Deputy-Lieutenancy and magistracy of Tipperary. In spite of such public marks of disgrace, his friends made every effort to procure his early release. No remission of the two year sentence could be obtained, but after some months a proposal came from the Government. Mr Carden would be released if he agreed not to “annoy or molest” Miss Eleanor Arbuthnot “in any manner whatever, by word, deed or gesture.” When he discovered that the bond was to endure for 10 years, placing upon him an obligation of 20,000, and his two sureties of 5,000 each, he refused to sign the undertaking.

During the years after his release from prison, Mr Carden systematically followed Eleanor, often appearing unexpectedly in neighbourhoods where she was staying. When they last met in a hotel abroad, she instantly rose and asked him to leave the room, stating that if he did not, she must immediately do so. This put an end to the long and painful misunderstanding. At last undeceived, he retired to Barnane, and there lived his life in the eccentric manner described by Mr Sullivan in his New Ireland. John Rutter Carden (1811-1866) died after a few days’ illness, and was succeeded by his brother, Andrew Carden (1815-1876). Eleanor never married. In her later life she lived in Edinburgh, devoting herself to the sons of her sister Laura (Lady Lenox-Conyngham), who were educated there. She died at Lough Cutra Castle in 1894, after a year’s painful illness.

Mr Carden had judged Eleanor Arbuthnot rightly. “It was a power far higher than superficial beauty that held him enslaved. His fate in life was a terrible one. If, removed from the scenes we have been describing by over six decades, and recognizing that the law had its pound of flesh and something over, we are able to review without rancour scenes that can never be forgotten, we shall surely be allowed at this era to feel little else than pity for one who was himself the principal sufferer from an impetuous act so bitterly regretted and so fully expiated.”

The author has done a fine job of weaving together the intricate relationships of many prominent Arbuthnot alliances, based on old and relatively recent family documents. One discovery shows how someone’s ancestry can change if you take into account the wrong female link in the accepted pedigree of a well-known family like that of the Viscounts of Arbuthnott.

The accepted pedigree of this family states that Sir Robert Arbuthnot (d Sep 1631) was succeeded by his nephew, Sir Robert Arbuthnot (d 15 March 1633), who married first (contract dated 23rd Dec 1615) Lady Margaret Keith, d/o George, Earl Marischal, who died shortly afterwards, without issue; and secondly (contract dated at Aberdeen, 29th April 1617) Margaret Fraser, d/o Simon, Lord Lovat, and had several children. Margaret Fraser then married Sir John Haldane of Gleneagles, and later caused her eldest son a good deal of legal trouble. The author notes that information sent to her by Mr Alfred Arbuthnot-Murray, late owner of Fiddes Castle, suggests that Robert, first Viscount [of] Arbuthnott, was son of Sir Robert of that Ilk by his first, and not his second wife. If so, the legal controversy referred to above becomes more natural as taking place between the Viscount and his stepmother [Margaret Fraser], rather than his own mother [Lady Margaret Keith]. But that’s another story…

  Article by Marie Fraser, Clan Fraser Society of Canada


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