Mystery of the remains of Scottish Chief of Clan Fraser "the Old Fox" moves closer to being solved

The mystery of the final resting place of Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, Chief of Clan Fraser, known as "the Old Fox" could be moving closer to being solved. He lived from about 1667 to 9 April 1747. Beheaded in London as a supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie, his headless body is said to lie in a lead casket at Wardlaw Mausoleum at Kirkhill, near Inverness. A body, minus the head is in the casket but is it that of Simon Fraser? After he was beheaded, some say his body remained in England, others that it was taken to Scotland and ended up in Wardlaw Mausoleum. 

Leading forensic anthropologist from Dundee University, Professor Dame Sue Black, is at this time leading the exhumation of the remains at Wardlaw Mausoleum.  It is hoped that a study of the skeleton will reveal the truth. Needless to say a facial reconstruction is out of the question. With no living descendants so is positive proof by DNA. So it will be about ensuring that the remains are male, of the right age, the same height and that there is evidence from the remains of physical conditions he may have had whilst in life. Then there will be the evidence of dismemberment cuts on the remaining neck bones consistent with execution by a heavy bladed implement. It is hoped to be able to match cuts on the neck bones with the blade of the axe, stored in the Tower of London, used in Simon Fraser's execution. The results of the forensic examination are to be released later this year.

The notorious 18th Century clan chief was a Jacobite sympathiser but was known as "the Old Fox" as he tried to do deals with the cause's enemies in the British government. During the 1715 Jacobite uprising, he remained on the sidelines, contacting both sides to see which might offer him the best advantage. During the 1745 Jacobite Uprising, Simon Fraser again tried to back both horses. He stated his support to the Jacobites and sent his son and a force of his Frasers to help the Jacobite cause. However, he then wrote to the Government claiming that he supported them and that his son's actions were against his wishes. 

Everything caught up though with "the Old Fox" after the final Jacobite defeat at the Battle of Culloden. He had to flee for his life, but was eventually captured hiding in a hollow tree on an island in Loch Morar, near Mallaig. Simon Fraser was taken to London, put on trial and executed by beheading on 9 April 1747. It is said that a number of people watching the beheading died after the scaffold they were on collapsed. At the point of his own death Simon Fraser is said to have found this incident very funny and was executed with a smile. This led to the expression "laughing your head off".


Dame Sue Black studies remains. Image from BBC.

Wardlaw Mausoleum image from Wardlaw Mausoleum


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