By: McKenna Corey, ARB 2018-2019 NEH Intern
Simon Lord Lovat (a title of Scottish reverence) was known in his time as “the Fox,” and for good reason. He was well-known to be sly and duplicitous.Within the context of the Jacobite uprisings, he played a special role. After his execution, it was apparent that it was up to interpretation whether he was a traitor or, as he would call himself, “a patriot.
Born into the clan Fraser to Thomas and Sybilla in Scotland, Simon Lord Lovat was a brilliant student in his younger years. After graduating with a Master of Arts in 1695, Simon’s life was full of uncertainty. After the loss of his older brother in his younger years, Simon was declared the heir to his father, Thomas. The Lord Lovat at this time was Hugh Fraser, though his leadership skills weren’t excellent, and it was for this reason that Simon knew that he had to assure that his father would gain the title of Lord Lovat. To do this, he decided to create an army.
It was clear that Simon would stop at nothing to secure the role of Lord Lovat. He raised an army himself, and got himself into trouble frequently. His first crime was forcibly wedding the dowager Lovat, which created a long and bitter feud between the two families, and placed multiple charges on his head. However, Simon was able to cash in a favor, and was able to avoid the death penalty. After his exile in the aftermath of this crime, he spent some time in London and France before eventually returning to Scotland in 1703.
By this time, Simon had allied himself with the Stuarts, and by extension, the Jacobite cause, in an effort to maximize his status if the Jacobites were to prevail; however, his loyalty to the Jacobites was also tentative, and in 1703 he gave away some of their plans to the Scottish government. As a result of his treachery, he was held captive in France for a decade, before escaping and running back to Scotland, and for his service to the Scottish government, he was granted another pardon. And, finally, he was able to hold the title of Lord Lovat.
His flip-flopping did not end here, however, and he returned to the Jacobite cause. James Edward, the Old Pretender, even went so far as to declare him the duke of Fraser. But, again, Simon’s loyalties were all in the wrong place, and after the Jacobites’ horrible defeat at Culloden, he was tried and eventually executed for the rebellion, and executed on Tower Hill, in London.
Simon Lord Lovat is perhaps one of the most interesting characters in the Jacobites’ story, precisely because he aligned himself with whoever would create the most reward for him in the long run. Unfortunately, his strategy did not work in the long run; however, his personality shines through in the transcripts of his trial, as well as his memoir, which we have here at the Archives and Rare Books Library. Stop in and give them a read!