BADGE: Iubhar (taxus baccata) the yew-tree
SLOGAN: Caisteal Downie; and more anciently Morfhaich
PIBROCH: Spaidseareachd Mhic Shimi, and Cumhadh Mhic Shimi
The race of the Frasers, as purely Highland in character and Celtic in instinct to-day as any clan in the North, must be regarded as undoubtedly of Norman descent. The roll of Battle Abbey contains the name of the ancestor who came over with the Conqueror, and no long period of time appears to have elapsed before the earliest of the Scottish Frisells or Frasers obtained a settlement north of the Border. It is true that MacIan in his Clans of the Scottish Highlands suggests that the name Frisell, now Fraser, may be a corruption of the Gaelic Friosal, for which he suggests as a derivation Frith, a forest, the "th" being silent, and siol, "a race", which would make the word Frissel, to mean "the race of the forest"; and he cites the traditions in the lower parts of Inverness-shire, which, he says, detail forays by the inhabitants of the Fraser country as having been carried out by cearnich na coille, or "warriors from the woods". But this theory appears to be demolished by the fact that the earliest Frissels known in Scottish history belonged, not to the Highlands, but to East Lothian and the upper valley of the Tweed. Their removal into the North of Scotland, like that of the Gordons, appears likely to have been a comparatively late affair.
According to the family tradition, the earliest settlement of the Frisells was in East Lothian and the earliest whose name is found in charters is believed to be Gilbert de Fraser who lived in the time of Alexander I, in the early years of the twelfth century. Very soon the family diverged into Tweeddale, and there, on High Tweedsmuir, near the sources of the river, Oliver Fraser, Chief of the name, built the stronghold called after him, Oliver Castle, which continued for several generations to be the chief feudal Seat of the family. The Fraser territory included Biggar on the west, with its castle of Boghall, and probably stretched thence to the other Fraser stronghold of Neidpath near Peebles, on the east.
The first of the name who played a great part in Scottish history appears to have been William Fraser, Bishop of St. Andrews and Primate of Scotland. After the death of Alexander III Fraser was appointed one of the six guardians and regents of the realm. In strong contrast to Robert Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow, who was the other churchman appointed regent, Fraser favoured the interests of Baliol and Edward I of England. He was indeed the first to solicit the interference of the English king in Scottish affairs. In striking contrast appears the character of the next of the race to figure in national history. Edward I had defeated Wallace at the battle of Falkirk in 1298, but, incensed that the Scots continued to resist his usurpation, he appointed John Segrave governor of Scotland, and early in 1303 sent him into the country at the head of twenty thousand men. With his army in three separate camps, Segrave lay near Roslin, when on the morning of 24th February a boy rushed in, shouting that the Scots were upon them. The news was true. Sir John Comyn, the Scottish governor, and Sir Simon Fraser had gathered a force of eight thousand horse in the Fraser country at Biggar, and by a night march fell upon the English unaware. They rapidly defeated the first English army under Segrave himself, and were dividing the booty, when they were attacked by the second army under Ralph the Cofferer, This they also defeated, and again thought their work done, when they were assailed by the third army under Sir Robert Neville. Though worn out by the long night march and the two first fights, they attacked and totally defeated this third array, and were accordingly able to make the proud boast that in one day they had defeated three English armies.
Sir Simon was one of the truest and bravest of the Scottish patriots. After the death of Wallace, and the defeat of Bruce at Methuen and Dalrigh, he made a last effort for the freedom of Scotland with a small force at Kirkencliff, near Stirling, but was defeated and taken prisoner. Carried to London in heavy irons, he was led through the city crowned with periwinkle, and after a similar trial to that of Wallace, suffered the same horrible death as a traitor.
Meantime Sir Simon's brother, Sir Alexander Fraser, had been one of the first to join Bruce, and had been among the prisoners captured at Methuen, but had been ransomed and soon again joined the king.
After the death of Sir Simon Fraser his estates were divided. Through the marriage of one of his daughters, Boghall and Biggar passed to the Chief of the Flemings, while by the marriage of his other daughter, Neidpath passed to the Hays, afterwards Earls of Yester and Marquesses of Tweeddale. But the race of the Frasers continued to play a striking part in Scottish history. At the battle of Halidon Hill in ]333 the fourth division of the Scottish army had among its chief captains James and Simon Fraser, who were then "veteran leaders of approved valour". They were both killed in the battle.
Meanwhile the family had made its way into the North. According to Anderson's History of the Lovat Family, Sir Andrew Fraser appears about 1290 as a Highland proprietor, the first of his name to do so. The uncle of Sir Simon of Biggar, Sir Andrew, married the daughter of the Earl of Orkney and Caithness, and through her mother, daughter and heiress of Graham of Lovat, came into possession of the territory of that name. The family settled in the district known as the Aird, between Loch Ness and the Beauly Firth in Inverness-shire. From Simon, the eldest son and successor of Sir Andrew Fraser, the succeeding chiefs took their Celtic patronymic of MacShimi, or MacKemmie, as the "sons of Simon", and the race seems to have rapidly increased and grown in power, for before long the Fraser chief could count upon the support of "a good number of barons of his name in Inverness- and Aberdeenshires". In 1416, in an indenture, Hugh Frisoll, or Fraser, is styled "Lord of the Aird and Lovat", and fifteen years later he was summoned as a baron to attend the Scottish Parliament. By his marriage with Janet, sister and co-heir of William Fenton of that Ilk, he materially increased the wealth and power of his family, and his son and grandson, the second and third Lords Lovat, did the same by marrying respectively a sister of David Wemyss of that Ilk, and a daughter of the Earl of Glamis.
It was yet another Hugh Fraser, the fifth Lord Lovat, shown to have sat in the Scottish Parliament of 14th March 1540, who took part in one of the most famous conflicts of the Scottish clans, that known variously as the battle of Lochlochy and as Blar-na-Ieine the Battle of the Shirts, in 1544.
Queen Mary was an infant two years old when, through a kindly act of the Fraser Chief, a large part of the West Highlands suddenly burst into flame. The trouble began with the deposition and execution by his own clan of Dugal, Chief of Clan Ranald, for certain acts of cruelty and oppression. Alastair, his uncle, who was declared chief, died in 1530, whereupon the latter's natural son, Iain Muidartach, who had been legitimatised, managed to secure the estates and the chiefship. Meanwhile Dugal's eldest son, Ranald, had been fostered by his uncle, Lord Lovat, and on his becoming a man, Lovat determined to put him into possession of his father's lands and honours. Ranald, however, was ungenerous and unpopular with his clansmen, who scornfully nicknamed him Gallda, the Stranger or Lowlander. Joined by the Camerons, they chased him out of their country, raided some of the Fraser territory, and captured the strong castle of Urquhart on Loch Ness. In turn they were driven back by the Queen's lieutenant, the Earl of Huntly, who, with the Laird of Grant, had come to the aid of Lovat. Thinking they had dispersed the MacDonalds, Huntly and Grant marched homeward up Glen Spean, while Lovat, with Ranald Gallda and some four hundred Fraser clansmen, set out by the side of Loch Lochy towards the Aird. They had not gone far when the MacDonalds suddenly appeared descending the hills on front and flank, in seven columns, with pipes playing and banners flying. Immediately a terrific battle began, without quarter or mercy on either side. It was a hot day in July, and, in order to fight the better, both sides stripped off their clothes, from which circumstance the fight takes its well-known name. Traditions of the warlike deeds performed are to be found in Gregory's and other histories of the Highlands, and so fatal was the issue that of the Frasers it is said only one sorely wounded gentleman and four followers remained alive, while on the MacDonald side there were only eight survivors. Lord Lovat himself and his protege, Ranald Gallda, were among the slain.
For the next two hundred years the Chiefs of the Frasers played their own part in the affairs of the Highlands, and the race again came into the limelight of general Scottish history in the person of the notorious Simon, thirteenth Lord Lovat, of the time of "the forty-five".
Upon the death of Hugh Fraser, eleventh Lord Lovat, in 1696, Amelia, the eldest of his four daughters, co-heirs, proceeded to assume the title. She had, however, reckoned without her second cousin, Simon Fraser. Simon was the eldest surviving son of Thomas Fraser of Beaufort, third son of the ninth lord, and this Thomas, being still alive, and the nearest heir-male, was now, as a matter of fact, the twelfth Lord Lovat. Simon Fraser had no intention to allow the title and chiefship to go past him, but the method he took to secure them was that of an African savage. His father had been a follower of Claverhouse and had intrigued in the cause of the exiled Stewarts and his chances of a peaceful succession to the peerage were not a little doubtful. Simon, however, proceeded to make the matter certain in his own way, so far at any rate, as he was himself concerned. First of all he made an attempt to carry off his second cousin, Amelia, but the attempt did not succeed. Then, gathering a band of desperadoes, he broke into the bed-chamber of Amelia's mother, the dowager Lady Lovat, and brutally effected a forced marriage with her, drowning her shrieks with the uproar of a band of pipers, and carrying her off to an island where she was entirely in his power. The lady was a daughter of John, first Marquess of Athol, and, her family taking action regarding the outrage, Simon Fraser was condemned to death. He and his father then took to the woods, and lived for several years as outlaws. In course of time he induced the Duke of Argyll to procure a pardon for his political offences from King William; but, being summoned before the High Court of Justiciary for his outrage against Lady Lovat, he did not appear, and was accordingly outlawed. Plunging thereat into Jacobite intrigues, he went to France. There, by his own account, he was imprisoned for three years in the castle of Angouleme, but other evidence shows that he was thrown into the Bastille, and only obtained release by taking holy orders. Ten years later, when the Jacobite rising of 1715 took place, he appeared in London, and secured favour by offering his services to the Government against the Stewarts; then, proceeding to Scotland, raised a band of freebooters, with whom he made such a show of loyalty to the House of Hanover that he obtained a free pardon. Meanwhile, on the plea that his marriage with Lady Lovat had been "merely a joke", he made a marriage with Janet, daughter of the Laird of Grant, by whom he had two sons and two daughters, and in 1733 he had his title to the barony confirmed by the House of Lords. In that year, having become a widower, he proceeded to kidnap Primrose Campbell, sister of John, fourth Duke of Argyll, and on securing pardon for this new offence, he had the audacity to ask for a dukedom. This being refused by George II, Simon Fraser again turned his coat and began to look to the House of Stewart as a more likely furtherer of his ambition. Upon the landing of Prince Charles Edward, he held out the hope that he would join the rising if given the strawberry leaves, and it is said that the patent was actual1y made out. At the same time he endeavoured to impress on the Government that he was acting loyal1y in the Hanoverian interest. He had the misfortune of many such schemers, however, to fall between two stools. The Jacobite dukedom never reached him, he failed to give effective help to the prince at the right time, and after the battle of Culloden his treason was so, evident, that he was one of those upon whom the Government's chief displeasure and punishment fell. After skulking for a time on an island in Loch Morar and elsewhere, he was at last captured in a hollow tree, where his bloated body was wedged so tightly that he could not have extricated himself. At St.Albans, on the way to London, he was sketched by Hogarth, a mass of fat and cunning. At the trial in Westminster Hall he defended himself with great skill, but the "old fox" had come to the end of his career. Eighty years of age, he was convicted and sent to the Tower, and was beheaded on 9th April 1747, being the last to die by the axe at that historic stronghold. A popular rhyme puts his case in a nutshell:
Lord Lovat's fate indifferent we view,
True to no king, to no relation true.
The brave regret not, for he was not brave;
The honest mourn not, knowing him a knave.
Strange to say, the son of this "wicked Lord Lovat" became one of the most distinguished soldiers of his time. As leader of the clan at Culloden, where the Frasers joined at the last moment, he behaved with great valour, and on the Highlanders being forced to give way, he marched off his clan with banners flying and pipes playing, in the face of the enemy. Afterwards, on the plea that he had been forced by his father to support the Jacobites, he obtained pardon, and in 1757 raised 1,800 Frasers to take part in the war against the French. At Louisberg and Quebec he and his clansmen played a most distinguished part, and in the attack on the latter city, in the difficult landing and the battle afterwards on the Plains of Abraham, the Frasers covered themselves with glory, and vitally contributed to the famous victory which gave Canada into our hands. General Simon Fraser also took part in the defence of Portugal in 1762, and may be held to have redeemed by his valour and loyalty the good name of his house. On his death childless in 1782, he was succeeded in the chiefship by his half-brother Colonel Archibald Campbell Fraser whose mother was Primrose Campbell above referred to. He was British Consul at Tripoli and Algiers from 1768 till 1774, Member of Parliament for Inverness-shire from 1782 till 1796, and, author, of a work, Patriots of the Family of Fraser, Frisell, Simson, or Fitz Simon in 1795. He set up a monument in Kirkhill kirkyard, on which his services were duly detailed. His son, who died before him in 1803, was a barrister, commanded the Fraser Fencibles in Ireland at the crucial period of 1798, and was Member of Parliament for Inverness-shire from 1796 till 1802.
Upon the death of Archibald Campbell Fraser without surviving issue in 1815, the line of the wicked Lord Lovat came to an end. There have been several claims to the title, but the chiefship, it has been decided, passed to Thomas Fraser of Lovat and Strichen, great-greatgrandson of Thomas Fraser of Knockie and Strichen, second son of the sixth Lord Lovat and Janet, daughter of Campbell of Cawdor. Thomas Fraser of Knockie and Strichen had married Amelia, only surviving child of James, Lord Doune, eldest son of Alexander, Earl of Moray, and exactly 227 years from the time when he acquired the estate of Strichen, his descendant became representative of the main line. Thomas Alexander Fraser of Lovat and Strichen was the twenty-first chief. He was created Baron Lovat of Lovat in the peerage of the United Kingdom in 1837, and established his right to the fifteenth century Scottish barony of Lovat in the House of Lords twenty years later. He married the eldest daughter of the Marquess of Stafford, and was Lord Lieutenant and Sheriff Principal of Inverness-shire. His son, the twenty-second chief, was also Lord Lieutenant, and' the present chief, who succeeded in 1887, is his second son.
The present Lord Lovat is the sixteenth Baron of the old Scottish creation, and has brilliantly upheld the warlike and patriotic traditions of his family. He began his military career as a lieutenant in the First Life Guards and continued service as a major in the 1st Volunteer Battalion Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. At the outbreak of the South African War he raised from among his own clansmen and other Highlanders a mounted force known as the Lovat Scouts, which from the experience of its members as ghillies, stalkers, and the like, in the Highlands, and mounted on serviceable active ponies, proved most useful during the campaign, and afforded a suggestion which has been taken up since in the organisation of the British Army. Lord Lovat was himself mentioned in despatches during the campaign, and was made Successively D.S.O., C.B., C.V.O. and K.C.V.O. On his return from South Aftrice he raised two yeomanry regiments to form part of a Highland Mounted Brigade, of which he became Lieutenant-Colonel. When the war of 1914 broke out, he at once went upon active service again, raised further units for his brigade, and proceeded to the front as its commander. In time of peace his Lordship took a most distinguished part in furthering the most vital interests of the Highlands, and in the matter of the war his name and fame were an inspiration to every Highlander in the field.
The family seat, Beaufort Castle, occupying a beautiful situation near the river and town of Beauly, is a modern mansion built on the site of an earlier one of the same name razed to the ground after the battle of Culloden in 1746, and this in turn superseded the still more ancient Castle of Lovat near the same spot.
The chief cadet line of the family is that of Fraser of Philorth, which now holds the ancient Scottish barony of Saltoun. Sir Alexander Fraser of this branch, who lived in the time of James V and Queen Mary, having inherited from his grandfather the baronial burgh of Philorth, founded on it the town of Fraserburgh, and established there in 1597 a short-lived university. He represented Aberdeenshire in the Scottish Parliament in 1596, and was knighted by King James VI. In 1669 Alexander Abernethy, ninth Lord Saltoun, having died without issue, this peerage devolved upon his heir of line, a later Sir Alexander Fraser of Philorth, whose mother had been eldest daughter of the seventh lord, and who thus became tenth baron. He was a zealous Royalist, and commanded a regiment on the side of Charles II at the battle of Worcester in 1651. His grandson, William Fraser, eleventh Lord Saltoun, married a daughter of Archbishop Sharp, murdered by the Covenanters on Magus Muir. He wrote a fragment of family history, and planned to bring the succession to the Chiefship and the Barony of Lovat into his family by marrying his eldest son to Amelia Fraser, eldest daughter and heiress of Hugh, eleventh Lord Lovat. For this he was seized and imprisoned on Eilean Aigas in the Beauly by Simon Fraser, the "wicked lord" already referred to, who at that time was anxious to marrv Amelia himself. In the sequel the Master of Saltoun married a daughter of the first Earl of Aberdeen. The sixteenth Lord Saltoun, who married a natural daughter of the famous Lord Chancellor Thurlow, served with distinction in the Napoleonic wars. At Quatre Bras he commanded the light companies of the 2nd Brigade of Guards and at Waterloo he held the chief point of French attack in the battle, the garden and orchard of Hougomont, and led the final charge against the French Old Guard. Among his other honours he was K.C.B., K.T., a military Knight of Russia and of Austria, and a Scottish Representative Peer. His grand-nephew, the present Lord Saltoun, eighteenth Baron, is also a Scottlsh Representative Peer. He has been Lieutenant-Colonel of the and Battalion Grenadier Guards, and major of the 3rd Battalion Gordon Highlanders. It may be noted that Saltoun estate itself, in Haddingtonshire, has never belonged to the Fraser line of peers, having been sold by Alexander, ninth Lord Saltoun, in 1643, to Sir Andrew Fletcher, grandfather of the famous Scottish patriot, the opponent of Lauderdale, the Duke of York, and the Union with England.
There are also, among other branches, the Frasers of Ledeclune and Morar, represented at present by Sir Keith Alexander Fraser, Baronet. The family is descended from Alexander, second son of Hugh Fraser, an early Lord Lovat. A daughter of the house married the fifteenth chief, and the baronetcy dates from 1806.
Other notable members of the clan have been the covenanting divine James Fraser, known as Fraser of Brae, who suffered imprisonment on the Bass Rock, in Blackness Castle, and in Newgate; James Baillie Fraser, the famous Asiatic explorer and writer, whose rides from Semlin to Constantinople and from Stamboul to Teheran were notable events in their time; James Stewart Fraser, General and Commissioner in India in the early years of last century; Patrick Fraser, a Lord of Session and author of various legal works; John Fraser, the botanist, who introdyced pines, oaks, azaleas, and other plants from America, and Tartarian cherries from Russia and went to America as Collector to the Tsar Paul in 1779; Louis Fraser, Curator to the Zoological Society, naturalist to the Niger expedition in 1841, and author of Zoologia Typica; and Sir William Fraser, LL.D., the famous Scottish genealogist and antiquary, writer of learned accounts of many Scottish families, and founder of the Chair of Ancient History and Palaeography at Edinburgh University. From first to last the Frasers have made a mark in history as romantic, varied, and useful as that of any family in the country.
SEPTS OF CLAN FRASER