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The origin of the name Fraser
The Frasers of Philorth, Lords Saltoun
The Frasers of Lovat, Lords Lovat
The Frasers of Muchalls, Lords Fraser

The origin of the Frasers

The origin of the name Fraser

The Frasers probably came from Anjou in France, and the name probably derives from Fresel or Freseau. Some have suggested that they descend from the tribe called Friselii in Roman Gaul, whose badge was a strawberry plant. The truth of these stories is unknown, but it is generally believed that the name Fraser traces its origins to the French provinces of Anjou and Normandy. The French word for Strawberry is fraise and the plants are called fraisiers. The Fraser arms are silver strawberry flowers on a field of blue. Only the Chief is entitled to use these arms plain and undifferenced.

The beginning of Clan Fraser

They first appear in Scotland around 1160 when Simon Fraser made a gift of a church at Keith in East Lothian to the monks at Kelso Abbey. These lands eventually passed to a family who became Earls Marischal of Scotland, after adopting Keith as their name. The Frasers moved into Tweed-dale in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and from there into the counties of Stirling, Angus, Inverness and Aberdeen. About five generations later, Sir Simon Fraser (the Patriot) was captured fighting for Robert the Bruce, and executed with great cruelty by Edward I in 1306. The Patriot's line ended in two co-heiresses: the elder daughter married Sir Hugh Hay, ancestor of the Earls of Tweeddale, and the younger daughter married Sir Patrick Fleming, ancestor of the Earls of Wigton.

Sir Andrew Fraser of Touch-Fraser (d. 1297), cousin of the patriot, was the father of Sir Alexander Fraser of Cowie (ancestor of the Frasers of Philorth), Sir Simon Fraser (ancestor of the Frasers of Lovat), Sir Andrew Fraser, and Sir James Fraser of Frendraught, whose line ended with his great-granddaughter, Mauld Fraser, who married Alexander Dunbar of Moray. Sir Alexander was killed at the Battle of Dupplin in 1332 and his three younger brothers were killed at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333.

Cadet Branches

Families descended from the early Frasers were of Touch-Fraser, Drumelzier and Hales, Oliver Castle, Corntoun, Fruid, Frendraught, Cowie, Forglen and Tulifour. From the Frasers of Fruid descended the Frasers of Daltullich, Dunballoch, Fanellan, Kingillie, Munlochy, Newton, Phopachy and Tain.

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The Frasers of Philorth, Lords Saltoun

The senior line is descended from Sir Alexander Fraser, who took part in the victory at Bannockburn in 1314. In 1316, he married Robert the Bruce's widowed sister, Lady Mary, who had been imprisoned in a cage by Edward I. Sir Alexander was appointed Chamberlain of Scotland in 1319, and his seal appears on the letter dated 6th April 1320 to Pope John XXII, seeking recognition of the country's political independence under the kingship of Robert Bruce, which became known as the Declaration of Arbroath. He received lands in Aberdeen, Kincardine and Forfar to compensate for the lands confiscated by Edward I in 1306.

His son, Sir William Fraser of Cowie, was killed at the Battle of Durham in 1346, and in 1375 his grandson, Sir Alexander Fraser of Cowie and Durris, acquired the Manor Place (later to become Cairnbulg Castle) and lands of Philorth by marriage with Lady Joanna, younger daughter and co-heiress of the Earl of Ross. According to a prophecy of Thomas the Rhymer: While a cock craws in the north, there'll be a Fraser at Philorth.

The founding of Fraserburgh- 1546-1592

Several generations later, following the building of the harbour in 1546 by his grandfather Alexander Fraser, 7th laird of Philorth (c. 1495-1569), Sir Alexander Fraser, 8th laird of Philorth (c. 1536-1623), had built in 1570, Fraserburgh castle, later the Kinnaird Head Lighthouse. In doing so he bankrupted himself and had to sell the castle of Philorth, which passed out of the family for over 300 years until the 19th (now 20th) Lord Saltoun bought it back in 1934.

Sir Alexander received from King James VI in 1588 & 1592 charters creating the fishing village of Faithlie, which he had transformed into a fine town and harbour, which he had much improved, into a Burgh of Regality and a Free Port, called Fraser's Burgh, and authorising him to found a University, which was short lived. The 8th laird was succeeded by his eldest son, Alexander Fraser, 9th laird of Philorth

Lords Saltoun - 1592-1697

Information has come to light that on the death of Alexander Abernethy, 9th Lord Saltoun (1611-1668), his sister Margaret succeeded him as 10th Lady Saltoun, according to the old Scots system of succession, but she only survived him by 2 months. Thereafter the title passed to the Frasers. The 9th Lord Saltoun's aunt, also Margaret Abernethy (daughter of George Abernethy, 7th Lord Saltoun), in 1595 had married Alexander Fraser, 9th laird of Philorth (c. 1570-1636), and their son, Alexander Fraser (1604-1693), in 1636 succeeded as 10th laird of Philorth, and in 1669 became 10th (11th) Lord Saltoun. Unfortunately, this information has affected the numbering system for each successive heir to the title, and it will likely take some time before the revised numbers are reflected in published accounts of Fraser history. To facilitate this process, the old and new numbers are given when describing the chiefly line from the time that the old title, dating from 1445, passed from the Abernethies to the Frasers.

The 10th laird, later 10th (now 11th) Lord Saltoun, was severely wounded at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, but survived, thanks to his servant, James Cardno, who rescued him from the battlefield, hid him and nursed him, and got him home to Fraserburgh. In 1666 he built a house about a mile from Fraserburgh which he called Philorth House, where the family lived until it was burnt down in 1915. The family took no part in the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745.

The 10th (now 11th) Lord's son and heir, Alexander Fraser, Master of Saltoun (c. 1630-1682), married three times, Lady Anne Kerr, Lady Marion Cunningham and Lady Sophia Erskine. The Master died in his father's lifetime, leaving his only surviving son William, by his first wife, to succeed his grandfather.

William Fraser, 11th (now 12th) Lord Saltoun (1654-1714/5) married Margaret Sharp, daughter of the Archbishop of St. Andrew's, who was dragged from his carriage and murdered in front of another of his daughters. Margaret, although not the Archbishop's sole heir, brought a very considerable tocher (dowry) with her. This retrieved the family fortunes, which were in a very bad way after the death of the Master, who was a kindly chap, but no businessman!

Skulduggery - 1697-1793

Following the death in 1696 of Hugh Fraser, 9th Lord Lovat, without male issue, his young widow arranged a marriage for their eldest daughter Amelia with Alexander Fraser, Master of Saltoun, later 12th (now 13th) Lord Saltoun (1685-1748).

When the Master's father, 11th (now 12th) Lord Saltoun, was travelling to Castle Dounie to discuss the details with Lady Lovat, Amelia's uncle, Thomas Fraser of Beaufort and his son Simon, later 11th Lord Lovat, kidnapped him, held him prisoner and threatened to hang him unless he agreed to cancel the proposed marriage, which he did. Therefore, in 1707, The Master of Saltoun married Lady Mary Gordon, daughter of George, 1st Earl of Aberdeen, and her dowry enabled him to restore the family fortunes still further.

He was succeeded by his eldest son, Alexander, 13th (now 14th) Lord Saltoun (1710-1751), who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his next brother, George, 14th (now 15th) Lord Saltoun (1720-1781). He was succeeded by his eldest son, Alexander Fraser, 15th (now 16th) Lord Saltoun (1758-1793), who married Marjory, only daughter and heiress of Simon Fraser of Ness Castle.

A great Soldier 1793-1853

He died young and was succeeded by his eldest son, Alexander, 16th (now 17th) Lord Saltoun (1785-1853), who at the age of 17 was commissioned into the army. Later to become a Lieutenant General, he spent most of his time on active service during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1815 he commanded the Light Companies of the First Regiment of Guards (later the Grenadier Guards) in the Orchard at Hougomont on the morning of the Battle of Waterloo; and it was he who, later in the day, first noticed the Imperial Guard emerge from the hollow where they had been hiding all day, and drew the Duke of Wellington's attention to them. He died without legitimate issue.

The family History - 1853-1886

He was succeeded by his nephew, Alexander Fraser, 17th (now 18th) Lord Saltoun (1820-1886), who wrote "The Frasers of Philorth, Lords Saltoun". In the preface (written in 1879), he makes the following observation:- "The representatives of the respective lines of Philorth and Lovat were nearest of kin to each other in 1464, with the exception of the six sons of the Philorth of that date, and such has been the extinction of male descendants in the various branches of the line of Philorth, that at the present time, with the exception of my own two sons, my two brothers and their four sons, numbering eight persons in all, Lord Lovat is my nearest legitimate male connection of the Fraser name. With the exception of Lady Saltoun's two first cousins, their sons and grandsons, her own grandson, and the Frasers in Finland, that statement is still true."

Two world wars - 1886-1979

The 17th Lord was succeeded by his eldest son, Alexander Fraser, 18th (now 19th) Lord Saltoun (1851-1933). He in turn was succeeded by Alexander Fraser, 19th (now 20th) Lord Saltoun (1886-1979), who served with the Gordon Highlanders as a Captain in the 1st Battalion in the First World War, and was awarded the Military Cross. He was a P.O.W. in Germany for most of the war. In 1934 he was Grand Master Mason for Scotland, and became a Scottish Representative Peer in 1936. At the time of his death in 1979, he had served in the House of Lords for longer than any other living Peer. Latterly he devoted himself to working for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. His son, Alexander, Master of Saltoun, born 1921, served in the Grenadier Guards and was killed in action in 1944. He was awarded the Military Cross.

The present day

His daughter, Flora Fraser, 20th (now 21st) Lady Saltoun, an elected hereditary member of the House of Lords, is now CHIEF OF THE NAME OF FRASER. An Episcopalian, she married Captain Alexander Ramsay of Mar, a great-grandson of Queen Victoria. They had three daughters, of whom the eldest, Katharine, The Hon. Mrs. Nicolson, has one son (Alexander Fraser) and two daughters. Captain Ramsay died in December 2000.

Cadet Branches

Families descended from the Philorth line are of Ardglassie, Durris, Findrack, Forglen, Forest, Fraserfield, Hospitalfield, Lonmay, Memsie, Park, Quarrelbuss, Rathillock, Techmuiry, Tornaveen, and Tyrie, and the Frasers in Finland. Except for the Finnish Frasers almost all the cadet branches of the Philorth line are, as far as is known, extinct.

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The Frasers of Lovat, Lords Lovat

Early days

The Frasers of Lovat descend from Sir Simon Fraser (brother of Sir Alexander, the Chamberlain) who married Lady Margaret, whose father was Sir William Sinclair, and whose mother, Isabel was daughter of Malise, Norse Yarl of Orkney (d. 1350), sister of the Earl of Caithness. Documents, dated 12th September 1367, connect a Fraser with the lands of Lovat and the Aird. About 1460, Hugh Fraser, 6th laird of Lovat (c. 1436-1501) became the 1st Lord Lovat. He was the son of Thomas Fraser, 5th laird of Lovat (c.1417-1455) and Lady Janet Dunbar, daughter of Thomas, Earl of Moray.

Skulduggery - 1501- 1702

Several generations later, Hugh Fraser, 9th Lord Lovat (1666-1696), who had four daughters but no son, willed his estates to his great-uncle, Thomas Fraser of Beaufort, instead of to his eldest daughter, Amelia. Thomas Fraser's second son Simon, later 11th Lord Lovat (1668-1747) had planned to marry the heiress, Amelia.

When the plan failed, Simon, with his Fraser clansmen, besieged Castle Dounie, took possession of the lands, and forcibly married Amelia's mother, the dowager Lady Lovat. For this lawless behaviour, Simon and his accomplices were tried in 1698 by the Court of Judiciary on a charge of High Treason, and other offences and condemned to death. To make matters worse, in 1702, Amelia married Alexander Mackenzie of Prestonhall, who took the name of Fraser of Fraserdale, and the Court decided in favour of her claim to the rights and dignities of her father's house. These claims were challenged by Thomas Fraser of Beaufort, who eventually assumed the title of 10th Lord Lovat, in succession to his great-nephew.

Attainder - 1702-1747

In the summer of 1702, Simon ("the Fox") escaped to France and there began organising a Jacobite Rising in Scotland. He also became a Roman Catholic. He plotted with both Government and Jacobite forces, his support being given where he thought it most to his advantage. By then 11th Lord Lovat, he was the last nobleman beheaded on Tower Hill in London in 1747 for his role in the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion which had ended in the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The Lovat title was attainted by Act of Parliament, and the estates forfeited to the crown.

Regiments - 1747-1815

His eldest son, Simon Fraser (1726-1782) was pardoned and raised 2 regiments: in 1757 the 2nd Highland Battalion or 63rd Regiment of Foot [changed to the 78th Regiment of Foot after the siege of Louisbourg] or Fraser's Highlanders, who fought with Wolfe at Louisbourg and Quebec; and in 1775 the 71st Regiment of Foot, or Fraser's Highlanders to serve with the British armies in the American Revolution. In 1774 the Lovat estates were restored to him, but not the title.

His younger half-brother, Archibald Campbell Fraser (1736-1815), was Consul General in Algiers in 1776, and in 1794 raised the Fraser Fencibles for service during the Irish Rebellion. Col. Archibald succeeded General Simon in the Lovat estates, and in representing Inverness-shire in the House of commons. On his first appearance there in 1782, he was a prominent supporter of the Marquess of Graham's motion for repealing the Unclothing Act, so as to legalise the wearing of Highland dress.

Peerage restored - 1815-1933

On his death in 1815, the original line died out and the Lovat estates passed to the nearest heir-male, Thomas Fraser of Strichen, who was descended from 4th Lord Lovat. In 1837, he was created Baron Lovat in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, and in 1857 the attainder on the old Scottish title was removed and he became 14th Lord Lovat. He was for many years Lord Lieutenant of Inverness. He was succeeded by his eldest son Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat, who held the same post from 1872 to his death, and commanded the Inverness-shire Militia.

He was succeeded by his eldest son Simon Fraser, 16th Lord Lovat (1871-1933) who served in the 1st Life Guards. In 1899 he raised the Lovat Scouts, who fought in the South African War. In the 1st World War, he commanded the Highland Mounted Brigade and was awarded the D.S.O..

Modern Times - 1933-2002

His eldest son, Brigadier 17th Lord Lovat (Shimi to his friends), was legendary commando leader in the 2nd World War, and shortly after the D-day landing was severely wounded. He received the D.S.O. and Military Cross. After the War he served as Churchill's personal emissary to Stalin in Moscow, before returning to civilian life and becoming a distinguished cattle breeder. He died in 1995, his eldest son having died the previous year.

He was succeeded by his grandson, Simon Fraser, born 1977 as 18th Lord Lovat and 25th MacShimi, CHIEF OF CLAN FRASER OF LOVAT.

Cadet Branches

Families of the Lovat line are of Aberchalder, Abersky, Achnagairn, Ardochy, Balnain, Balloan, Belladrum, Boblanie, Bochrubin, Brae, Bught, Castleleather, Cleragh, Clunevackie, Culbokie, Culduthel, Culmiln, Dromdoe, Erchitt, Errogie, Eskadale, Fairfield, Farraline, Fingask, Foyers, Guisachan, Golford, Gortuleg, Inverallochy, Kiltarlity, Kinneries, Knock, Kyllachy, Leadclune, Merkinch, Moniack, Muilzie, Reelig, Ruthven, Strichen, Struy and Teanakyle.

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The Frasers of Muchalls - Lords Fraser

In 1366 Thomas Fraser, a descendant of Sir Alexander Fraser of Corntoun (brother of Sir Richard Fraser of Touch-Fraser), exchanged lands in Petyndreich, Stirlingshire for those of Kinmundy, Aberdeenshire. His grandson, Thomas, exchanged the estate of Corntoun for Stonywood and Muchalls in Aberdeenshire.

His descendant, Andrew Fraser (1574-1636), who was created Lord Fraser by Charles I in 1633, completed Castle Fraser in 1636. The title became extinct following the accidental death in 1716 of Charles, 4th Lord Fraser, a Jacobite, while trying to escape from Government troops.

The 4th Lord died without issue, and his stepson by his wife's first marriage, William Fraser of Inverallochy (1672-1716/7), succeeded to the Castle Fraser estates, followed by Charles Auld Inverallochy (1701-1787), also a Jacobite, who died in his 80s. The latter's eldest son, Lt. Col. Charles (1725-1746), who commanded the Frasers of Lovat at Culloden, was murdered on the orders of the Duke of Cumberland. His 3rd son, Captain Simon (1732-1759) was killed while serving with the 78th Fraser Highlanders at Quebec in 1759. When the second and only surviving son, William (1730-1792) died unmarried, the estates were split between his two sisters, Martha (1727-1803), who married Colin Mackenzie, 6th of Kilcoy, and Elyza Fraser (1734-1814), eventually passing out of the family.

For detailed genealogies of the above lines of Frasers, see:

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