by Marie Fraser, Genealogy/Newsletter Editor, Clan Fraser Society of Canada
This article started out as an examination of the documentation with respect to natural children. However, the research somehow led to the discovery of information concerning the Lovat Peerage case following the death, without legitimate surviving issue, of Archibald Campbell Fraser of Lovat [1736-1815], youngest son of Simon Fraser 11th Lord Lovat [c1668-1747], which case was eventually settled when Thomas Alexander Fraser of Strichen [1802-1875] proved his claim to the Scottish title in 1857, becoming 14th Lord Lovat, but for the attainder.
I was interested in the following observations on illegitimate children, expressed by a member of a prominent Fraser family living in Scotland:
"It is perhaps worth pointing out that in Scottish law (as opposed to English and no doubt Canadian law) there is no such thing as illegitimate children. Children born out of wedlock in Scotland have legitimate rights equal to other siblings in all respects except in regard to a title. Those born to a married woman by a different father from her husband also share equal rights."
Unfortunately, in many instances records of children born out of wedlock [natural in Scotland or illegitimate in Canada] have shed little light on this delicate subject. In fact, very few of the early records of birth (legitimate or otherwise) gave the names of both parents, leaving historians and genealogists to record: So and so married three times, with issue followed by: He also had two natural sons.
Some of these natural sons became famous and their
descendants have been recorded for posterity, while others spawned branches of their own
which have either died out or been lost sight of. Hugh
Fraser 6th of Lovat, 1st Lord Lovat had two natural sons: Thomas, progenitor of the
Frasers of Fairfield & Merkinch; and Hugh, progenitor of the Frasers of Aberchalder,
Foyers, Kinmonavie, Dunchea & Garthmore. Thomas
Fraser 2nd Lord Lovat had a natural son, by a Miss Macdonald of Morar, named Hugh Bayne
Fraser of Bunchrew, who was the progenitor of the Frasers of Reelig & Ballindoun. These families are mentioned in the History of the Frasers of Lovat (1896) by Alexander
One of the most intriguing figures was Alexander Fraser, natural son of Sir Alexander Fraser 3rd of Cowie & Durris, 1st of Philorth. This natural son was the progenitor of the Frasers of Durris, Forest, Findrack & Tornaveen, mentioned in The Frasers of Philorth, Lords Saltoun (1879) by Alexander Fraser, 17th [now 18th] Lord Saltoun.
In Clan Fraser, A history celebrating over 800 years of the Family in Scotland (1997), Lady Saltoun writes:
The family continued here at the Castle, the old Manor Place of Philorth, until the late sixteenth century. In the last quarter of that century, Sir Alexander Fraser, 8th of Philorth, built the town of Fraserburgh, improved the Harbour and founded a University there and built another Castle to which he moved [which was until recently the Kinnaird Head Lighthouse]. As a result, he got heavily into debt and in 1613 was obliged to sell this Castle and a great deal of land. The Castle was sold to Alexander Fraser of Durris, on condition that should he or his descendants ever wish to sell it, they would first offer it to Sir Alexander or his descendants. The agreement was not honoured and the Castle passed from one family to another until 1934 when the late Lord Saltoun bought it back and modernised it.
Burkes Landed Gentry from 1886 through 1925 gives the following lineage for the Frasers of Findrack:
This family descends from Sir Alexander Fraser, Lord High Chamberlain of Scotland, who m. Lady Mary, sister of King Robert the Bruce, from whom he got many grants. He had a charter of the Lands of Cluny, with fishings in the Loch of Skene, 1309; Barony of Strachan, 1315 &c., &c. The lands of Durris were erected into a free barony by King David Bruce, 1369.
Sir Alexander Fraser, of Cowie and Durris, granted the Barony of Durris by Charter, dated 20 Sept 1400Alexandro Fraser filio meo delecto, of whom descended Thomas Fraser of Durris, who m. Helen, dau of Sir Alexander Gordon, of Midmar, 2nd son of George, Earl of Huntly, by whom he had several sons; 1. Alexander, d.s.p.; 2. Adam; 3. George, d.s.p.; and 4. John, of whom afterwards. Alexander sold the estates of Durris in 1630 to Andrew Fraser, of Muchalls, afterwards (1633) Lord Fraser. Adam, the 2nd son, m. a dau of Duff of Drummuir, by whom he had a son Alexander, afterwards Sir Alexander Fraser. This Alexander became heir male of the family, and purchased Durris from his cousin Andrew, Lord Fraser (Crown Charter of Durris in his favour, 6 March 1665; Barony of Strachan, 21 Aug 1668). He was appointed 1st Physician to King Charles II, knighted 1669, created a bart. 2 Aug 1673
Francis Fraser, of Findrack, son of John Fraser, 4th son of Thomas Fraser, of Durris, before mentioned, m. Agnes Adam, by whom he had an only son,
Francis Fraser, of Findrack, b. 1669; m. 1764, Janet, dau of John Fraser, Esq. of Cooperhill, by whom he had issue
Although technically correct, the above genealogy does not mention that Sir Alexander Fraser [eldest son of Sir Andrew Fraser 3rd of Touch-Fraser], who married Robert the Bruces widowed sister, Lady Mary, had issue: John Fraser 4th of Touch-Fraser [whose daughter and heiress Margaret, married Sir William Keith, Marishall of Scotland]; and Sir William Fraser of Cowie, whose grandson Sir Alexander Fraser of Cowie & Durris, acquired the Manor Place (later to become Cairnbulg Castle) and lands of Philorth by marriage with Lady Joanna Ross. Sir Alexander married secondly, Lady Elizabeth Hamilton, without issue.
I was privileged to gain access to the genealogy entitled Account of the Family of Fraser, more particularly of the house of Durris, in the county of Kincardine, and of Findrack, in the county of Aberdeen, by William N. Fraser of Tornaveen.
There is a charter from Sir Alexander, 20th Sept 1400 - to my well beloved son Alexandro Fraser, filio suo dilecto, terras de Kneclowies, provides him in the whole Barony of Durris, which actually happened. Dated 8th day August, 25th year of the Kings Reign (1431). Confirmed 1436.
Since this Account is in private hands, I will only deal here with the Frasers of Findrack. According to Epitaphs & Inscriptions from Burial Grounds & Old Buildings in The North-East of Scotland (1875) by Andrew Jervise:
FRANCIS FRAZER OF PITMVRCHIE VHO DEPARTED
Near this stone, with the remains of many of his
ancestors, is interred the body of Francis Fraser, Esquire of Findrack, a commander in the
British, and Past Captain in the Portuguese Navy, eldest son of Francis Fraser of
Findrack, and Henrietta, daughter of William Baird of Auchmedden. He served his country with distinction for a long
series of years, and was present at many memorable engagements. Born 22nd August 1762, died 24th April 1824.
Photos courtesy of Mr. Stan Howe
Francis Fraser, of the family of Durris, bought Findrack from Sir Robert Forbes of Learnie, about 1670. He also possessed Pitmurchie. The father of the present laird sold the last of these estates to Mr Harry Lamond about 1812 The lands of Tolmads and Ennets, acquired from Lord Forbes in 1705, are still possessed by the laird of Findrack, whose brother, Wm. N. Fraser, Esq., is proprietor of Tornaveen in Kincardine ONeil, which last, and other properties, were previously held by the Frasers.
In consequence of their descent from Henrietta Baird, the Frasers of Findrack are the representatives of the Bairds, also the male representatives of the Frasers of Durris.
A chart of the Frasers of Findrack is included with the
article in the December 2000 issue of Canadian Explorer.
Based on the number of people who have claimed descent from the 11th Lord Lovat, it is surprising that he had any time left to become involved in the political intrigues which led to his execution for treason in 1747.
Some writers have even suggested that the current Lord Lovat descends from Simon 11th Lord Lovat [c1668-1747] when, in fact, he descends from Thomas Alexander Fraser of Strichen [1802-1875], who was descended from Thomas Fraser of Knockie, second son of Alexander 4th Lord Lovat [1527-1557].
We know of several ladies who were romantically linked with Simon Fraser of Beaufort (later 11th Lord Lovat). These stories surfaced about the time of the Lovat Peerage case in the 19th century. According to Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, His Life and Times (1908) by W.C. Mackenzie:
His first recorded love-episode was with the dowager Lady Lovat; but it is only too apparent that whatever love there was, lay on one side onlyand it was not on Simons side. But when he was a hunted outcast in the wilds of Stratherrick, he formed a liaison with a girl of the neighbourhood, one Mary Cameron, who afterwards went to Wales with her child. She was there known as Mary Cameral [sic], and her son, named Alexander, became a miner on attaining manhood. From this miner was descended the John Fraser who, in 1885, unsuccessfully laid claim to the Lovat title and estates. There may have been a Scotch marriage between Simon and Mary, but in that case, Simon must have committed bigamy, for his marriage with the dowager had not at that time been annulled.
When a match with the daughter of Hugh Fraser, the rich London merchant, was broken off, he turned for consolation to a lady named Lucy Jones, whose first letter pour Monsieur, dated May 2, 1702, expresses the confusion into which she had been thrown by the surprising ill news which your Lordship has sent methe news in question being apparently his imminent departure from England, owing to his depressed circumstances.
Simon had apparently confided to her a proposal for getting his brother, John, married. "I have taken into consideration, Lucy replies in one of her letters, what you said to me about your desiring to marry your brother, and do think it is the only thing you have left to do, to ruin your own fortune past redemption. Therefore, pray defer those thoughts till we are so happy as to meet again, and then I will deliver my opinion to your more refined judgement, and give you my reasons against his marrying, which may be better done in a discourse than a letter. She concludes by assuring him that she will take abundance of care of his heart, and will not suffer it to seek after a new love.
A similar account is given in The Old Lords of Lovat and Beaufort (1934) by Rev. Archibald Macdonald, who obtained access to the Lovat family archives at Beaufort before the fire in 1937 destroyed much of the present castle built in the 1880s, including the library.
Early in April of the same year  Lovats brother, John, died of an illnessaccording to Simonbrought on partly by excess in the use of intoxicants. As the last rites of the Roman Church were administered to him, he seems, like Simon, to have adopted while in France the tenets of that body. He had been Simons companion during much of the latters adventurous life, and there was a warm attachment between the brothers.
About this time Lovat, whose position was on the way to being firmly established, resolved once more to try his luck in the matrimonial market. In earlier days he had been something of a gay Lothario. During his troubled years, before going to France, he formed an irregular alliance with a girl, Mary Cameron, in Stratherrick, who went with her child, whose name was Alexander, to Wales, and from whom descended John Fraser, who some 47 years ago made a claim to the Lovat estates. There was also in 1702 a love affair with one, Lucy Jones of London, with results that did not go beyond a correspondence of more or less animation. Towards the end he had assumed the name of Captain John Campbell, an indication that he was at the time beset by danger, and the association with Miss Jones was broken off, never again to be resumed.
The following entries are taken from early church records:
Cromdale, Decr 1, 1716. Simon Fraser Lord of Lovat, attested from Inverness, was matrimonially contracted with Mrs Margaret Grant, Daur to the Laird of Grant, with consent of all concerned, and were declared married Decr 12, 1716.
March 16, 1693. That day James ffraser,
lawll son to Malcolm ffraser of Culduthel had a son gotten in fornication with --- Coburn,
Servitrix to the Laird of Strechin, named Alexander.
Witnesses, John Baillie burgess in Inverness, John Baillie John son, James Birnie
& Duncan ffraser in Culduthell.
James Fraser of Castleleathers [c1670-1760], who married Janet, daughter of Sir Robert Dunbar, with issue, two sons and nine daughters, would later become known as the author of Major Fraser's Manuscript, a chronicle of his journey to France to bring home the exiled Simon Fraser of Beaufort (later 11th Lord Lovat). In return for his sacrifices in the service of Simon Fraser, he was removed from his wadsett, and forced to take up a publick house at Inverness, with his numerous family, children and grandchildren.
According to Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, His Life and Times:
Lovat was granted a full and complete pardon on March 10, 1716 and was immediately urged by some of his friends to come to London to receive at the hands of the King, what Stanhope cautiously phrased suitable marks of his favour.
Simon got leave from Cadogan on April 7 to go to London, and he was in Edinburgh on April 9. He was in sore trouble at the time, owing to the illness of his brother, John, to whom he was tenderly attached. Dr. Wellwood and Secretary Stanhope could not read your concern for your brother without cryingso wrote to Wellwood on April 3. And towards the end of the month, his brother, then lying at Major Frasers house, received extreme unction, which appears to mark the time of his death. Lovat had previously sent a priest to administer the Sacrament to the sick man, from which circumstance the discovery was made that Simon was a Papist. And his brother had also become a convert at Bourges, notwithstanding Major Frasers assertion that he was a very good man and a sound Protestant, tho he had been some time in France. Lovat attributes his death to his fatigue and drinking this winter, and a sudden quitting of it. This letter was written to the Earl of Sutherland, whose son, Lord Strathnaver, was also killing himself by his hard drinking.
Some 30 years later, Lovat did not want any part of another Jacobite rising and he was furious when he heard of the arrival of the Prince a mad and unaccountable gentleman, he called him. He could not decide what course to take and seriously contemplated going to France for the benefit of my health.
Lovat refused a commission for his second son in the
Earl of Loudouns regiment (which he had desired in 1744) on the extraordinary ground
that the boy was undersized the next degree to what they call a Dwarf. After his treatment by Walpole and Wade, who had
used him like a scoundrell, notwithstanding his brilliant services to the
Crown, all he [Lovat] desired was to retire to some place where living is cheap or
reasonable. According to the
Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, vol. xiv, pp.7, 8: The dwarfish son
(the Brigadier) eventually entered the Dutch service.
It is worth noting that, within a month of Lovats capture, the Major was installed as manager of the whole of the Lovat estates for the Kings government, and supply of the forces. The commission empowering him to act in this capacity was under the Duke of Cumberlands own seal. About five years after Lovats death, it was thought desirable that some really authentic record of Simon Frasers life and times should be written while certain of the actors in the story and eye-witnesses remained. Major Fraser, who must have been 82 years of age, was approached by the Rev. Donald Fraser, Minister of Killearnan, who had been tutor to Lord Lovats children. The Majors reply shows that time, and a loyal nature, had toned down angry thoughts, and the memory of much that had been cruelly felt, but was now best forgotten.
Although not widely known, it is hardly a secret that the 11th Lord Lovats eldest son Simon [1726-1782], in his youth, had an illegitimate daughter who married and settled in Armagh, Ireland, from whence one of her grandsons emigrated to Tottenham, Upper Canada [Ontario] in 1823. We have heard periodically from various members of this extended family, but the most recent communication by email came as a complete surprise.
Please see the attached photo. It is a fine quality print with hand written caption as follows: General Simon Fraser of Balnain killed at Saratoga 1777. The horizontal fading is due to reflection of the glass when taking the photo. Is there any interest in this fine print with antique frame?
I was intrigued to know how he had obtained the print, which looks like a mezzo-tint at one time in the possession of Benjamin Homer Dixon [1819-1899], Dutch Consul at Boston and later at Toronto, who claimed descent from John Fraser, younger brother of Simon Fraser 11th Lord Lovat. It would, of course, be nice to think that Simon Fraser of Lovat kept in touch with his natural daughter through his kinsman, Simon Fraser of Balnain [1729-1777] who had served as Quarter-Master General in Ireland before joining Lt.-General John Burgoynes army in America.
Im afraid that some of the folklore within
the family turns out to be exaggerated. For
example, the family story has been handed down that General Wolfe was a personal friend of
Colonel (later General) Simon Fraser of Lovat and died in his arms (no doubt influenced by
the West painting). As it turns out,
he was just an onlooker and moreover he wasnt even on the Plains of Abraham for the
Battle but paid the ransom to be painted into the scene.
The one thing we have going for us is the story that Colonel Tegart married the
illegitimate daughter of General Simon Fraser of Lovat.
Some people have maintained that he had no issue but it has been proven by parish
records that he indeed had one offspring by fornication, baptized in the
presence of two church elders.
The following incident is described in Memoirs of a Highland Lady the autobiography of Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus afterwards Mrs Smith of Baltiboys 1797-1830 edited by Lady Strachey (London: John Murrray, 1911). Among the regular visitors to Rothiemurchus in 1809 was Archibald Fraser, who was always received for a few days. Archibald Campbell Fraser [1736-1815] was the youngest son of Simon Fraser 11th Lord Lovat, and heir of his half-brother, Lt.-General Simon Fraser of Lovat.
The peerage had been forfeited by the wicked lord in the
last rebellion, the lands and the chieftainship had been left with a cousin, the rightful
heir, who had sprung from the common stock before the attainder. He was an old man, and his quiet,
comfortable-looking wife was an old woman. They
had been at Cluny, the lady of the Macpherson chieftain being their niece, or the laird
their nephew, I dont exactly know which; and their servants told ours they had had a
hard matter to get their master away, for he was subject to strange whims, and he had
taken it into his head when he was there that he was a turkey hen, and so he made a nest
of straw in his carriage and filled it with a large stone, and there he sat hatching,
never leaving his station but twice a day like other fowl, and having his supplies of food
brought to him. They had at last to get Lady
Clunys henwife to watch a proper moment to throw out all the eggs and to put some
young chickens in their place, when Lovat, satisfied he had accomplished his task, went
about clucking and strutting with wonderful pride in the midst of them. He was quite sane in the conversation generally,
rather an agreeable man I heard them say, and would be as steady as other people for a
certain length of time; but every now and then he took these strange fancies, when his
wife had much ado to bring him out of them. The
fit was over when he came to us. It was the
year of the Jubilee when George III had reigned his fifty years. There had been great doings at Inverness, which
this old man described to us with considerable humour.
Simons younger half-brother Archibald was devastated when his five sons by Jane Fraser of Leadclune, all died without legitimate surviving issue. According to A Country Called Stratherrick (1987) by Alan B. Lawson:
When Lovat died in 1815 his children had predeceased him
so that the estate passed by entail to Thomas Fraser of Strichen, descendant of the
Frasers of Knockie. However, there was a
grandson, T.F. Fraser, born on the wrong side of the blanket, as the phrase goes. To this boy the old man was much attached and to
him he left the unentailed part of the estateAbertarff; property in Inverness and
the old glebe, etc. at Boleskine. Strichen
contested thisvery ungenerously, considering the magnificent inheritance fate had
brought himbut after much unseemly litigation the young lad gained the property as
his grandfather intended. There is a portrait
of him as a boy in the Town House, Inverness, the artist being Thomson of Duddington. Fraser of Abertarff, as he was generally known,
only occasionally used his grandfathers cottage and on his death in 1884
it passed to the new Frasers of Lovat who presently sold it. If not a memorial it is a reminder of the last of
the old Frasers of Lovat, for long the Lords of Stratherrick.
Was John Fraser of Carnarvon, whose unsuccessful claim was based on descent from Alexander Fraser [eldest son of Thomas Fraser of Beaufort], really descended from the youngest son, John? Simon Fraser of Beaufort (later 11th Lord Lovat) always maintained that John died in 1716, but it is interesting to note that John Fraser, Master of Lovat, was listed as a witness to a baptism in 1723 in Inverness.
This point of view
is explained in the December 2000 issue of Canadian Explorer. Also
included are a series of letters, dated 1879-86, exchanged between Wm. Nathaniel Fraser of
Tornaveen, Persifor Frazer of Philadelphia and B. Homer Dixon of Toronto, the latter two
claiming descent from the brothers of Simon Fraser 11th Lord Lovat. Obviously, old
legends and "family traditions" live on.
Marie Fraser, Clan Fraser Society of Canada,
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