The standard narrative only has two main proponents with Simon Fraser, the Old Fox, being a truly evil man, who lied, cheated, connived, raped and stole, whereas John Murray was a righteous man protecting his country and family from depredation. John Murray was 4th Earl of Tullibardine at the start of this story, while his father was 1st Marquess of Atholl, and one of the three most politically powerful men in Scotland, but getting on in years so that his son had taken up the reins of power. Simon Fraser, on the other hand, was an indirect descendant of an earlier Lovat, with essentially no political or legal clout. It is then no surprise that Murray won the calumny battle.
    This narrative proposes that the Dowager Lady Lovat was also a major player in what came effectively to be a war between the Murrays and the Fraser clan, mostly fought in politics and law, but with some real skirmishing.
Amelia Murray
    Lady Amelia Murray was the sixth child and second daughter of John Murray, later 1st Marquis of Atholl, and his wife, Lady Amelia Ann Sophia Stanley, daughter of the 7th Earl of Derby. They had twelve children in thirteen years, four of which died young. [WM01]
    Amelia was an intelligent and affectionate child and became her father’s favourite, much to the jealous outrage of her brother John, who was the eldest, and heir to Atholl. After a family dinner she would climb onto her father’s knee for a hug, and get a small joy from the resentment of her brother, who treated her as a very unimportant person the rest of the time. The Marquis was often away on political business, and then brother John became the lord and master, at least in his own eyes, and made Amelia’s life a misery. She spent much time restricted to her room in Blair Castle, which had a small window with a window seat, where she would sit and read. She being a person of warmth and understanding, the servants would smuggle books to her from the castle library.
    Other than from her extensive reading, she also listened attentively to her father regaling his political exploits at the dinner table, mostly to educate his eldest son into the practical arts of politics, such as ensuring that one’s allies always profit from being so. Mainly this was only while Amelia was young, for, when son John was old enough, he would go with the men retiring after dinner to discuss manly things.
    Amelia was very influenced by the stories of her maternal grandmother, Charlotte, Countess of Derby, who was born into French Huguenot aristocracy and a grand-daughter of William of Orange. She was famous for defending her castle from Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War, in the absence of her husband. [WM02]
    Charlotte died two years before Amelia was born, but the legend of strong and courageous women was part of the family story, as was the connection with France and the Huguenots.
    When Amelia was 19, her father arranged for her marriage to Hugh Fraser, 9th Lord Lovat, who was some months younger. Hugh was orphaned at an early age and raised by his maternal uncle, Sir George Mackenzie of Tarbat. Hugh was neither physically or mentally strong and was easily controlled by Tarbat. As was the culture of nobility of the time, this marriage was not of her choosing, but was an opportunistic alliance, with possibilities for the acquisition of Fraser lands by Atholl and Tarbat.
    As was expected of her, and honouring her father’s wishes, she put on a brave face and moved into Castle Dounie, with a maidservant from Atholl. There were many challenges, with the first being the move from a luxurious baronial castle, Blair Castle, to Dounie, which was little more than a clan stronghold. Dounie was also is need of some attention. Hugh had spent little time there, being mostly lodged at Castle Leod with his uncle, while the Fraser estates were managed by the Earl of Seaforth, chief of Clan Mackenzie. Following her mother’s example as a domestic manager, Amelia started the process of putting things back into order.
    A more unexpected challenge was the difference between the baronial culture of Atholl and the clan culture of the Frasers. The Murrays of Atholl were not highlanders at that time, the Marquess’ grandfather having acquired the Atholl title and estates through marriage. The original clans included the Stuarts and Robertsons, but the Murrays considered themselves to be baronial nobles and ran their estates to support their status. The servants of the castle and the inhabitants of the estates were treated as feudal subjects, whereas the Frasers were still a clan so that there were strong ties of kinship at all levels of their society.
    In practical day-to-day terms, this meant that the baronial servants were dressed in uniform and required to behave as suited their lowly position in life, with orders from above being given with little consideration to their humanity, whilst, on the other hand, the clan servants were more casually and individually dressed and in general treated with the respect of kinship. This change was a relevation to Amelia, and she found the cohesion of the clan system appealing.
    She quickly learned that her husband, while being a perfectly good man, was not highly intelligent nor physically robust, and was also strongly influenced by his uncle, George Mackenzie of Tarbat. Since the death of Hugh’s father, the Mackenzie clan had extended its influence into the Fraser lands, resisted as much as possible by the lairds of the Clan protecting their own livelihoods. Amelia found that her sympathies were with the Clan, and developed considerable influence over her husband, helping to minimise the impact of Tarbat. She had to proceed with a great deal of circumspection, as a complaint from Tarbat to her father and brother about her interference could make things even more difficult.
    It was a great joy to become an important member of a family and clan, even if less grand than Atholl, rather than a junior female constantly under the thumb of her brother. She blossomed in the clan culture.
    Most importantly she developed close relationships and friendships with the women of the Clan. She saw that part of her job as the wife of the chief was to provide support on the occasions that women were under stress. Often this was to do with childbirth, which was a hazardous process in those times, with many children dying young and some mothers dying in childbirth. The women’s side of the clan was a largely unrecorded part of kinship, and a foundation stone of the ancient tribal culture.
    She was repaid for her kindnesses when her fourth child, and first son, also Hugh, died before his third birthday. He was a bonny baby when born, but did not thrive and finally succumbed to illness. The loss of a child is almost unbearable at the best of times, but the loss of a potential heir to the chieftainship added to the poignancy. The women of the clan mourned with her.
    Then double disaster struck. Her second son, John, again did not thrive and died a little more than a year old. Some months later, her husband fell ill on his way back from a trip to London, and died before making it home. She was now a widow with three daughters but no sons, and about to become central to a battle for the Lovat estates.
John Murray
    Lord John Murray was the eldest son and child of John Murray, later 1st Marquess of Atholl, and his wife, Lady Amelia Ann Sophia Stanley. He was created 4th Earl of Tullibardine, then briefly 2nd Marquess of Atholl, and finally 1st Duke of Atholl.
    Like his father before him, he had a strong sense of entitlement, considering himself to be superior as a member of the nobility and having scant regard for those of lesser standing, expecting instant acknowledgement of his status and immediate obedience to his wishes, and displaying a violent temper when disobeyed.
    The 1700’s were an interesting time with both England and Scotland in a state of political flux, further complicated by the process of union between the two nations, providing fertile ground for opportunists to increase their political power and wealth. There was also a pressing desire for Scottish nobles to establish themselves in the eyes of the nobility of England. Lord John, Tullibardine until he became Duke, was, if anything, more astute at intrigue than his father. One does not become elevated to a Duchy in one’s early forties by barracking for the underdog.
    The Marquis, Tullibardine’s father, negotiated with Sir George Mackenzie of Tarbat, for the marriage between Hugh Fraser, 9th Lord Lovat, and his daughter, Amelia. Tarbat had been the guardian of Hugh since his parents death when he was five years old. By negotiation, the marriage contract included provisions for negating the usual clan practice for the title and estates to go to the heir male of a cadet branch in the event of a chief dying without a male heir, and instead specifying that the eldest daughter would become the heiress. The intent was that a marriage of the heiress would lead to the full ownership transferring to her husband. Neither Hugh nor Amelia were part of this negotiation, it being between the Marquis and Tarbat. Hugh was present during some of the negotiations, but the implications were beyond his understanding. Amelia was excluded as this was obviously men’s business. Tullibardine, then 24 years old, was present sufficiently to be fully aware of the plans afoot.
    Being a great believer in the value of contacts, Tullibardine chose to take advantage of his father’s French cousins as a reason to set up a small residence in Paris for occasional visits. This also provided the opportunity to discreetly keep on friendly terms with the Jacobite court at St Germains, just in case James VII & II was successful in regaining the throne of Scotland, and perhaps England as well. These were uncertain times, and he was far from being the only one with a foot in one camp, but at least a big toe in the other.
Simon Fraser
    Simon of Beaufort was not as high born, being the second son of a cadet branch of the highland Frasers. The Beauforts were the first cadet branch, followed by Inverallochy, Brea and then Strichen. After many years of struggle and manoeuvring, he eventually achieved the chieftainship of his clan and the right to the titles and estates of Lovat, but finally to be executed when about 80 years old. He had the dubious honour of being the last person to be beheaded at the Tower of London.
    He was a person of charm and good with words, both spoken and written, with a great need to be liked, particularly by the members of his clan, so that listening to other’s viewpoints was part of his style of leadership.
    As a young man he had no expectation of becoming of the heir male lineage, as he had an elder brother, Alexander, and his cousin Hugh, 9th Lord Lovat, was married and producing children. As a member of a cadet branch, he set out to make as much of his life as he could, including a time in the Atholl militia, with some Fraser clansmen as his contribution.
    He displayed great audacity and was not readily held down by authority or by the superiority of nobility. The combination of charm, good communication skills and audacity led to him having audiences with the ruling monarchs of  France and England, as well as the Scottish royalty in exile in France.
    He also had a need to do things with flair and panache. Never the quiet achievement, but always with a much splash as possible.