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Articles by Marie Fraser of Canada
Frasers of Lovat at Culloden - April 16, 1746
by W. Neil Fraser, Chairman, Clan Fraser Society of Canada

More has been written about the Battle of Culloden than any other event in Scottish history, with the possible exception of the Battle of Bannockburn. The 17th Lord Lovat’s brother-in-law, Sir Fitzroy Maclean, K.T. (1911-96) in the Epilogue to Highlanders, A History of the Scottish Clans (1995) noted: "The Battle of Culloden is often said to have marked the end of the clan system and the old Highland way of life."

I have read a great many published accounts of Culloden, most of them loaded with myth and fantasy or historically distorted and biased. A common misunderstanding is that Culloden was a battle between the "Highland Scots" and the "English"; rather than between a group of Scots who supported the Jacobite cause and those who supported the Government forces of the reigning Protestant Hanovers. Many Scots, both Highlanders and Lowlanders (assuming such a difference can be accurately defined) supported the British Government forces in the Battle of Culloden, which was clearly a civil war, precipitated by a foolish young Italian-born dreamer seeking to restore his deposed father, a Roman Catholic, to the throne of Scotland and England.

The role of the Frasers of Lovat at Culloden illustrates the confusion surrounding the loyalties of Scots. In the first Jacobite rising in 1715, Simon Fraser of Beaufort (c1668-1747) chose to support the British Government.

There had been a protracted succession battle between Amelia Fraser of Lovat [daughter of Hugh 9th Lord Lovat] and Thomas Fraser of Beaufort [father of Simon] following the death in 1696 of Hugh Fraser 9th Lord Lovat, who left only four daughters, including his heiress, Amelia Fraser. After Simon’s failure to secure the hand of the deceased Lord Lovat’s eldest daughter Amelia, he foolishly raped and forcibly married the mother, Amelia Murray, the dowager Lady Lovat. For this and other acts, Simon was charged with treason and escaped to France, where he converted to Roman Catholicism, to gain favour with the French Court. Simon was eventually pardoned for his crimes, returned to Scotland, supported the Hanovarians in the 1715 Jacobite rising, and succeeded to the peerage as Lord Lovat.

The 1715 rising, which had failed miserably, resulted in many Jacobite prisoners being transported as indentured servants to the British colonies in North America and the West Indies. However, the vision of a Jacobite dukedom was very appealing, and presented a dilemma for the aging but ambitious Simon Lord Lovat in the turbulent times leading to the 1745 Jacobite rising that culminated in the Battle of Culloden.

Much of Culloden Moor, then called Drummossie Muir [Lowlands], about 500 ft above sea level between the river Nairn and the coastal plain northeast of Inverness, has been acquired by the National Trust for Scotland. At the 1881 Memorial Cairn set up by a descendant of Lord Advocate Duncan Forbes (1685-1747), a commemorative ceremony is held every April 16th.

According to Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland (1994), edited by John Keay & Julia Keay:

"Culloden will ever be more shrine than site for many Highland families; also for those nationalists misled by the cairn’s inscription crediting the Highlanders with fighting for Scotland as well as Prince Charlie. In fact, more Scots supported, and fought for, Cumberland."

For the Frasers of Lovat, these tumultuous times created a chain of events that would reach far beyond the shores of Scotland.

Writing about Simon the Fox, whose line ended on the death of his youngest son Archibald Campbell Fraser of Lovat (1736-1815), the 17th Lord Lovat (1911-95) in the Preface to the Frasers of Lovat from Muster Roll of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Army 1745-46 (1984) noted: "By 1730 Simon Fraser was officially recognised as the 11th Lord Lovat. Undeniably vain, bold, bad and ambitious, he was nevertheless a brilliant and understanding chief. To strengthen his position in the Highlands, Lovat enlarged his clan by taking in numerous ‘Boll of Meal’ Frasers - men who changed their name in return for sustenance. Their descendants, all Frasers, are known around Beauly to this day."

Although he had converted to Roman Catholicism while in exile in France, Lord Lovat’s sons Simon and Alexander, by his wife Margaret Grant, were raised as Protestants, as was his son Archibald by his wife Primrose Campbell. In the second Jacobite rising, Lord Lovat, in return for the promise of a Jacobite dukedom under a restored Stuart monarchy, ordered his followers and his eldest son, the Master of Lovat, to ‘come out for Charlie’. Although his son Simon, a Protestant and a Freemason, was hesitant to embrace the Jacobite cause, as were many of the Lovat Fraser families, Lord Lovat eventually succeeded in exerting his authority. After much double dealing the wily Simon the Fox, as he was known, mustered his followers to support Charles, the ‘Young Pretender’.

Colonel Simon Fraser (1726-82), with his contingent of reinforcements, did not arrive in time to join those fighting under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Fraser and, seeing the cause was lost, headed south to Fort Augustus, and surrendered. The 17th Lord Lovat noted:

"Their casualties were severe, reckoned as high as 250 killed. Their colonel, Charles Fraser, Ygr., of Inverallochy, while lying grievously wounded on the moor, was shot in cold blood at the order of Butcher Cumberland, or as some say, of General Hawley."

Lord Lovat and the Master of Lovat did not participate in the battle. In addition to the 178 named in the Frasers of Lovat Muster Roll, 37 are listed as having fought in Other Regiments, making a total of 215 who were present on the field. Therefore, it is quite likely that the approximate number of 400 given in the schedule of those who fought for the Frasers of Lovat at Culloden on April 16, 1746, under Charles Fraser, may have included some of the men in the contingent under the Master of Lovat, who failed to arrive in time to take part in the 45 minute battle, but who later surrendered at Fort Augustus.

Old Simon escaped on a litter from Stratherrick but was finally captured on an island in Loch Morar. He was taken to London, tried, forfeited and executed on April 9th 1747.

Simon [no longer entitled to be called the Master of Lovat] had been cast in prison, where he remained for two years, but was eventually pardoned.

Some ten years later William Pitt advised George II to raise new regiments from the defeated Jacobites. He records: "I sought valour and found it in the mountains of the North." According to that romantic military historian, Major General David Stewart of Garth (1772-1829): "In 1757 Simon Fraser, then possessing neither land nor money, raised a regiment of 1500 men from the Aird and Stratherrick."

As the 2nd Highland Battalion or 63rd Regiment of Foot [changed to 78th Regiment of Foot after the siege of Louisbourg in 1758], Fraser’s Highlanders fought for the British army in the Seven Years War against the French, and helped to secure Canada for the Crown. In fact, Lieutenant Colonel Commandant Simon Fraser (1726-82) only raised about 125 men from the forfeited Lovat lands. About 400 of those raised for Fraser’s Highlanders did not accompany the regiment to Canada, but were held back and sent instead to serve with the 87th or 88th Highland Volunteers in Germany until the end of the Seven Years War in 1763.

With the outbreak of the American Revolution, Simon Fraser of Lovat, by then a Major-General, was again asked to raise a regiment of Fraser’s Highlanders, numbered the 71st Regiment of Foot, although he did not personally accompany the 71st to America. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant-General and for many years served as Member of Parliament representing Inverness.

In A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830, T.C. Smout, Historiographer Royal in Scotland, is more concerned with the social impact of events in the lives of the Scottish people, referring to 1750-1800 as a period of Optimism and Change.

"Long before 1745 there had been tension in the governing circles of the Highlanders between Jacobite clans and Government clans, between Episcopalians and Presbyterians, between proprietors who looked back with affection to the older tradition of the great following and landowners of a new type who were actively responsive to the enthusiasm of ‘improvement’ and hopeful of the prospects of getting more cattle out to the English market… For many decades the forces of change had been gathering momentum.

"Optimism, indeed, was the keynote of those in command of Highland society in the last three or four decades of the eighteenth century: there was atmosphere of expectation of beneficent change about to take place, a hopefulness without parallel in Highland experience, contrasting with the dark stagnation of the past and the darker disillusion that was to come in the future.

"Many villages remain as monuments to the hopes of this generation: Ullapool in Wester Ross, built by the British Fisheries Society with a pier and storehouses at a cost of over 10,000 pounds for settlers who never came in sufficient numbers to occupy all the feus; Beauly in Inverness-shire, reconstructed by the Committee of Forfeited Estates after their agent had reported that, though ‘the common people are generally lazy, ignorant and addicted to drinking’ with ‘many perverse, obstinate fellows of bad characters’, the site itself ‘could not miss to attract strangers of different professions from many corners, and would consequently soon diffuse a spirit of trade and industry’; then there was Grantown in Inverness-shire, Oban in Argyll, and Tomintoul in Banff-shire and many more all designed by Highland landowners in the same spirit of economic zeal and moral reformation that characterises their Lowland counterparts.

"It would have been reasonable to expect, when this programme had been carried through, that the social structure of rural society in the Highlands would come to resemble that of the Lowlands.

"The reasons for the failure are four. Firstly, the coming of the potato as a common field crop in the decades after 1760 provided the means to support a large population on a small area… Secondly, the peasants objected either to moving or to becoming landless… Thirdly, the landowners, who alone had it in their power to check this sub-division, had a very ambivalent attitude towards it… Lastly, the limited initial success of the agrarian change in the north-west seemed to provide its own justification. The tacksmen who in the old system had been intermediate rentiers between the proprietor and the peasants, now appeared to have no function in the new system and were dispossessed by the landlord. Some, anticipating this would happen, had already left and taken local peasants with them to found new clan societies in America… If people perished of hunger in Highland deaths like that of 1782-3, it was most often in those parishes where the potato had not yet been introduced, and where oatmeal was still the staff of life. The landlords were certainly better off with the increase in rents and the profits of kelping.

"The Highland landowners were often both greedy and short-sighted in these circumstances. They seem to have creamed off a larger portion of the total profits into their own hands than did the Lowland lairds with the Lothian or Ayrshire farmers."

The late Lord Lovat knew why so many of his countrymen left Scotland, and the words of Brigadier the Rt. Hon. Lord Lovat, D.S.O., M.C., C.St.J., T.D., LL.D., J.P., D.L., Chief of Clan Fraser of Lovat, ring as true today as they did when he wrote the Introduction to The Fraser Highlanders: "Good luck to Ralph Harper. The Frasers wherever they may be are still a united family and a proud one at that. Touch one and you touch them all. This book I am sure will be a good one - or several thousand broadswords will be out to make the acquaintance of the author to know the reason why."

Lord Lovat, who was justifiably proud of his father’s war record, became even more famous for his bravery in WW II, and later increased his family’s holdings by devoting himself to the land and the people he loved. Which reminds me of his comment that he never considered himself to be a chief of Clan Fraser but a chieftain, a distinction which he felt was worth making when he gently corrected Eamonn Andrews during his appearance on BBC’s "This is your Life," as pointed out in writing by a former Beauly resident who had watched the program. A true gentleman, and a man of integrity, who is missed by us all.

We have great faith that the 18th Lord Lovat will achieve the respect and following of his famous grandfather in his role as Chief of Clan Fraser of Lovat, which is, after all, a significant branch of Clan Fraser.

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