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Articles by Marie Fraser of Canada
Margaret Fraser of Lovat – Whose Baby?

As noted in a previous issue of Canadian Explorer, one discovery can show how someone’s ancestry can change if you take into account the wrong female link in the genealogy of any family, based on the lack of conclusive evidence as a common feature of Fraser genealogy and, in fact, most family history.  According to the accepted genealogy of the Viscounts of Arbuthnott, Sir Robert Arbuthnot of Arrat, who succeeded his uncle, married twice, and his second wife, Margaret Fraser of Lovat, was the mother of his eldest son and heir, Sir Robert, 1st Viscount of Arbuthnott.  However, Mrs P.S-M. Arbuthnot, in Memories of the Arbuthnots of Kincardineshire and Aberdeenshire (1920), writes that information sent to her by Mr Alfred Arbuthnot-Murray, late owner of Fiddes Castle, suggests that Robert, first Viscount of Arbuthnott, was the son of Sir Robert of that Ilk by his first wife, and not his second wife.

   In order to understand Margaret Fraser, it may be helpful to recap the story of her father, Simon, 6th Lord Lovat (1570-1633).  The boyhood of young Simon was passed under the eye of his uncle and Tutor, who by that time had married Isobel Forbes, widow of Thomas Fraser of Strichen [of the Philorth family] in the Buchan district of Aberdeenshire.  In 1586 Simon was placed under the care of [David Rait] the Sub-Principal of King’s College, where he proved to be stubborn and unruly, and ran away to Ireland for two years.  By 1589 it was the opinion of his mother and his other curators that young Lovat should take himself a wife, and he eventually settled on Margaret, daughter of Colin Cam Mackenzie of Kintail.  In April 1590, he was served heir to his father and grandfather.  At the same time, his Tutor, Thomas Fraser of Knockie and Strichen (1548-1612), rendered an account of his stewardship during the minority, showing the extensive land interests of Lovat to be in a highly satisfactory financial condition.  However, Lady Lovat passed away in 1593, having produced an heir, Hugh, 7th Lord Lovat (1591-1645).

   On a visit by Lord Lovat to Court in 1595, the King announced that he was proposing to arrange a match for him, and suggested that he should frankly “pick and chuse without ceremony or delay which of the ladies at Court he fancied.”  His lordship, after thanking his Majesty, fixed upon Jean Stewart, daughter of James 1st Lord Doune, a maid of honour to the Queen.  The lady, when approached by the King, admitted that to wed a Lord of Lovat was an honour, but that he was not “bonny”.  Her scruples may have been overcome when it was represented to her that if his lordship was not gifted with beauty, the Lovat acres were fair as well as broad. In April 1596 Lovat married his second wife, Jean Stewart, by whom he had Sir Simon Fraser of Inverallochy and Sir James Fraser of Brae.   Lord Lovat married, as his third wife, Dame Katherine Rose of the Kilravock family, a match disapproved of by his friends as it placed a large burden upon the estate for a period of 30 years.

    Now, back to Margaret Fraser, and the account of her life, as described in The Haldanes of Gleneagles.

    Sir John Haldane first married Catherine Wemyss, daughter of Sir John Wemyss of Wemyss, whose wife was Mary, daughter of Sir James Stewart, afterwards created Lord Doune.  Sir John then married Margaret Fraser, widow of Sir Robert Arbuthnot, and daughter of Simon, 6th Lord Fraser of Lovat by Jean Stewart, youngest daughter of Sir James Stewart and sister of Mary Stewart, the mother of Sir John’s first wife.  Both wives were thus nieces of James Stewart, Master of Doune, who is described as being tall and of handsome appearance, which procured for him the epithet of ‘bonnie Earl,’ for he became Earl of Moray in virtue of his marriage with the Regent Moray’s eldest daughter. His end was tragic, for he was slaughtered on the night of 7 Feb 1591-2 in circumstances of great barbarity.

   There is an account of Margaret Fraser’s first courtship and marriage which states that “in the summer 1617 the Lord Arbuthnot coming here designedly carried his design and married Miss Margaret, Lord Simon of Lovat’s only daughter of the first marriage; the wedding was held at Lovat.  The good woman lived most comfortably with this nobleman, and heired his family; and after his death was married to Gleneggis Haldane, and heired his house; and after his death lived most comfortably, a happy, fortunate woman.  I had occasion to see her in her hospitable house at Arrats mill in the Mearns.” [Scot. Hist. Soc., Wardlaw MSS, 24]

[Ed: Simon, Lord Lovat married 1st Margaret Mackenzie, 2nd Jean Stewart and 3rd Katherine Rose, widow of James Grant of Ardneidlie.]

   At the time of her marriage to Sir John Haldane she was about thirty-three years old, and she was alive in 1666 [note on her portrait].

Margaret Fraser

   There is at Gleneagles a portrait of this lady which represents her at the age of sixty-six.  It might be supposed that she would have inherited a share of the good looks for which her uncle, the ‘bonnie Earl,’ was famed.  But Margaret Fraser’s appearance is distinctly plain.  The painter has depicted her as a sagacious-looking, dark-eyed, strong-featured dame, with a rather large and slightly bulbous nose.  She is attired in mourning with a wimple of sombre hue upon her head, and from her shoulders hangs a short cape with a broad white edging.  Round her throat and over her high white collar is a necklace of beads, and on her breast a large brooch resembling a Holbein jewel, which is partly formed of three large pear-shaped pearls.  Altogether she presents a somewhat grim aspect, and one might picture her as the abbess of a religious house calmly viewing preparations being made to immure within the wall of a dark dungeon some frail sister of her flock.

Sir John Haldane

   Although the representation of Sir John Haldane’s second wife may show no trace of beauty in her old age, she possessed charms enough to win the admiration of the two men whom she married.  But what is more interesting is that her features have been transmitted to some of her male and female descendants. 

    On her behalf Sir John engaged in legal proceedings against her eldest son by her first marriage.  He obtained letters of Chancery for serving her to a terce of certain subjects pertaining to her first husband.  The Lords of Session, after a lengthy debate, held on 22nd March 1636, decided that she was only entitled to the conjunt fee lands in the contract of marriage.

   By Catherine Wemyss, Sir John Haldane had issue:

1.  John, his heir who succeeded as 12th of Haldane
2.  Jean            
3.  Marie         
4.  Isabel

   By Margaret Fraser, Sir John Haldane had issue:

5.   Munro, who succeeded his half-brother as 13th of Haldane
6.   Patrick of Lanrick

   According to The Haldanes of Gleneagles (p. 91), Margaret Fraser is shown as a daughter of Simon Fraser 6th Lord Lovat by his 2nd wife Jean Stewart, sister of James, Lord Doune, ‘Bonnie’ Earl of Moray.  Obviously, Margaret and other daughters of Simon, Lord Lovat [by his various wives], deserves further research, since half of Margaret’s ancestry is derived from her mother, her maternal and paternal grandmother, et al…

Chart of the descendants of Margaret Fraser

© Article by Marie Fraser, Clan Fraser Society of Canada

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