Lovat, Simon Fraser, 12th Baron
LOVAT, SIMON FRASER, 12TH BARON (c. 1667-1747), Scottish chief and Jacobite intriguer, was born about 1667 and was the second son of Thomas Fraser, third son of the 8th Lord Lovat. The barony of Lovat dates from about 1460, in the person of Hugh Fraser, a descendant of Simon Fraser (killed at Halidon Hill in 1338) who acquired the tower and fort of Lovat near Beauly, Inverness-shire, and from whom the clan Fraser was called " Macshimi" (sons of Simon). Young Simon was educated at King's College, Aberdeen, and his correspondence afterwards gives proof, not only of a command of good English and idiomatic French, but of such an acquaintance with the Latin classics as to leave him never at a loss for an apt quotation from Virgil or Horace. Whether Lovat ever felt any real loyalty to the Stuarts or was actuated by self-interest it is difficult to determine, but that he was a born traitor and deceiver there can be no doubt. One of his first acts on leaving college was to recruit three hundred men from his clan to form part of a regiment in the service of William and Mary, in which he himself was to hold a command, his object being to have a body of well-trained soldiers under his influence, whom at a moment's notice he might carry over to the interest of King James. Among other outrages in which he was engaged about this time was a rape and forced marriage committed on the widow of the zoth Lord Lovat with the view apparently of securing his own succession to the estates; and it is a curious instance of influence that, after being subjected by him to horrible ill-usage, she is said to have become seriously attached to him. A prosecution, however, having been instituted against him by Lady Lovat's family, Simon retired first to his native strongholds in the Highlands, and afterwards to France, where he found his way in July 1 702 to the court of St Germain. In 1699, on his father's death, he assumed the title of Lord Lovat. One of his first steps towards gaining influence in France seems to have been to announce his conversion to the Catholic faith. He then proceeded to put the project of restoring the exiled family into a practical shape. Hitherto nothing seems to have been known among the Jacobite exiles of the efficiency of the Highlanders as a military force. But Lovat saw that, as they were the only part of the British population accustomed to the independent use of arms, they could be at once put in action against the reigning power. His plan therefore was to land five thousand French troops at Dundee, where they might reach the north-eastern passes of the Highlands in a day's march, and be in a position to divert the British troops till the Highlands should have time to rise. Immediately afterwards five hundred men were to land on the west coast, seize Fort William or Inverlochy, and thus prevent the access of any military force from the south to the central Highlands. The whole scheme indicates Lovat's sagacity as a military strategist, and his plan was continuously kept in view in all future attempts of the Jacobites, and finally acted on in the outbreak of 1745. The advisers of the Pretender seem to have been either slow to trust their coadjutor or to comprehend his project. At last, however, he was despatched (1703) on a secret mission to the Highlands to sound those of the chiefs who were likely to rise, and to ascertain what forces they could bring into the field. He found, however, that there was little disposition to join the rebellion, and he then apparently made up his mind to secure his own safety by revealing all that he knew to the government of Queen Anne. He persuaded the duke of Queensberry that his rival, the duke of Atholl, was in the Jacobite plot, and that if Queensberry supported him he could obtain evidence of this at St Germain. Queensberry foolishly entered into the intrigue with him against Atholl, but when Lovat had gone to France with a pass from LOVE-BIRD LOVEDALE Queensberry the affair was betrayed to Atholl by Robert Ferguson, and resulted in Queensberry's discomfiture. The story is obscure, and is complicated by partisanship on either side; but Lovat was certainly playing a double game. His agility, however, was not remunerative. On returning to Paris suspicions got afloat as to Lovat's proceedings, and he was imprisoned in the castle of Angouleme. He remained nearly ten years under supervision, till in November 1714 he made his escape to England. For some twenty-five years after this he was chiefly occupied in lawsuit? for the recovery of his estates and the re-establishment of his fortune, in both of which objects he was successful. The intervals of his leisure were filled up by Jacobite and Anti-Jacobite intrigues, in which he seems to have alternately, as suited his interests, acted the traitor to both parties. But he so far obtained the confidence of the government as to secure the appointments of sheriff of Inverness and of colonel of an independent company. His disloyal practices, however, soon led to his being suspected; and he was deprived of both his appointments. When the rebellion of 1745 broke out, Lovat acted with characteristic duplicity. He represented to the Jacobites what was probably in the main true that though eager for their success his weak health and advanced years prevented him from joining the standard of the prince in person, while to the Lord President Forbes he professed his cordial attachment to the existing state of things, but lamented that his son, in spite of all his remonstrances, had joined the Pretender, and succeeded in taking with him a strong force from the clan of the Frasers. The truth was that the lad was unwilling to go, but was compelled by his father. Lovat's false professions of fidelity did not long deceive the government, and after the battle of Culloden he was obliged to retreat to the Highlands, after seeing from a distant height his castle of Dounie burnt by the royal army. Even then, broken down by disease and old age, carried on a litter and unable to move without assistance, his mental resources did not fail; and in a conference with several of the Jacobite leaders he proposed that they should raise a body of three thousand men, which would be enough to make their mountains impregnable, and at length force the government to give them advantageous terms. The project was not carried out, and Lovat, after enduring incredible hardships in his wanderings, was at last arrested on an island in Loch Morar. He was conveyed in a litter to London, and after a trial of five days sentence of death was pronounced on the 19th of March 1747. His execution took place on the gth of April. His conduct to the last was dignified and even cheerful. Just before submitting his head to the block he repeated the line from Horace " Dulce et decorum est pro patria tnori."
His son SIMON FRASER, Master of Lovat (1726-1782) (not to be confused with another Simon Fraser who saw somewhat similar service and was killed in 1777 at the battle of Saratoga), was a soldier, who at the beginning of the Seven Years' War raised a corps of Fraser Highlanders for the English service, and at the outbreak of the American War of Independence raised another regiment which took a prominent part in it. He fought under Wolfe in Canada, and also in Portugal, and rose to be a British major-general. The family estates were restored to him, but the title was not revived till 1837. On his death without issue, and also of his successor, his half-brother Archibald Campbell Fraser (1736-1815), the Lovat estates passed to the Frasers of Strichen, Aberdeenshire. The 16th Baron Lovat (b. 1871) raised a corps of mounted infantry (Lovat's Scouts) in the Boer war of 1899-1902.
See Memoirs of Lord Lovat (1746 and 1767); J. Hill Burton, Life of Simon, Lord Lovat (1847); J. Anderson, Account of the Family of Frizell or Fraser (Edinburgh, 1825); A. Mackenzie, History of the Frasers of Lovat (Inverness, 1896); Mrs A. T. Thomson, Memoirs of the Jacobites (1845-6); and W. C. Mackenzie, Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat (1908).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)