|| || Hearing of the death of Sir Roderick Mackenzie, Simon sent letters to the Fraser Lairds, expressing his desire to be their Chief once more. The Clan was not supportive of their imported chief, Alexander of Fraserdale, and sent Major James Fraser of Castleleathers to Saumur to persuade their real chief to come home. Simon was hesitant, not wishing expose himself to the possible consequences of breaking his parole, but was finally persuaded after the Jacobite Pretender made it clear that Simon would never be accepted as the Fraser Chief. He was never to be forgiven for interfering with the discrete communications between James and his half-sister, Queen Anne.
Then events turned to Simon’s advantage, with the death of Queen Anne and the Parliamentary selection of King George I of Hanover as the new sovereign leading to outrage in Scotland and a revival of Jacobite feelings.
Simon and his party, including Archie, now eleven years old, arrived in London, but were unable to go to Scotland as Simon was still a wanted man and it was necessary to arrange for a pardon from King George, or at least a pass from the authorities. Simon explained to Archie that he could not be acknowledged as his son until things were straightened out with his mother, and that he was to pretend to be Simon’s servant. Archie had no choice but to accept the situation and continued his solitary life, escaping into whatever books he could find.
After many months, Simon and his party, including his little French boy who was his servant, managed to travel first to Edinburgh, then by boat, getting as far as Fraserburgh, on the south entrance to Moray Firth, with a fierce westerly preventing them getting closer to Inverness. This was fortuitous as Inverness had just been taken over by the Jacobite rebels. After years of imprisonment and exile, his luck finally changed, and he was ready to take full advantage. With the west wind on one’s side, anything can happen.
During Simon’s long absence, the Lovat estates were claimed by young Amelia’s husband, Alexander Mackenzie, and his father, Sir Roderick Mackenzie. They had a son Hugh, who was touted as the Master of Lovat. Sir Roderick, a lawyer, used all the legal ploys at his disposal to establish his dynasty as having the rights of Lovat, with opposition from the Clan. The Dowager, with background assistance from her brother, now 1st Duke of Atholl, worked to sustain the Fraser Clan, and not let it become a cadet branch of the Mackenzies.
Young Alexander did his best to be the Chief, but was not generally accepted because he was not a Fraser, and changing his name to Fraser of Fraserdale was more of an insult. The rebellion was an opportunity for him to establish his chiefly credentials, and he gathered a force of Fraser clansmen in support of King James III and VIII, joining the rebel forces in Perth.
Simon, having just escaped from being a prisoner, was more interested in his Clan than in the Jacobites who had treated him so poorly. So he called for clansmen to relieve Inverness, with many of those who had gone with Alexander now coming to his side. In true clan tradition, Inverness was lost and won with much show, but very few lives lost, and those essentially accidentally.
With overwhelming support from the Clan, he returned to Castle Dounie, sending the daughter Amelia and her children to a farmhouse, and set about establishing his rights to the Lovat estates. Then he went to visit Amelia, Dowager Lady Lovat, at her dower house, taking Archie to meet his mother.
She kept them waiting at the door for a good time, and when they were ushered into her presence, finding her sitting upright with hands folded in her lap. She nodded to Simon and smiled at Archie, gesturing that they should sit down. Simon performed a formal introduction,
‘I would like to present Simon Archibald, our son, whom I have raised as best I could in the circumstances.’
Archie looked at his father with surprise, he had not ever been called Simon before. He turned to Amelia and, stuttering a little in discomfort,
He had planned to say “Ma Mère” but his courage failed him. Simon continued, still in a formal manner,
‘We have had many hard times, but he is healthy and well educated, speaks but little Gaelic, but is literate in Latin, English and French, with a wide knowledge of literature and ancient culture. I would like that we can continue to raise him together and resume our marriage.’
Amelia looked down, and then reached for a small bell on the table beside her, and gave it a brief tinkle. A maid came in.
‘Millie, will you take this young man to the kitchen, and ask cook to give him something special? We have some things to discuss.’
Archie looked at his father, not wanting to leave, but Simon gave a nod, and Archie got up and followed the maid. Amelia had been steeling herself for this moment since hearing that Simon had a young French boy with him, knowing that it could only be their son. She and her brother had been sending money for his upkeep for twelve years, and she had some sparse reports on his progress, but never expected to see him again. She looked at Simon, with some sadness,
‘We have never been married. We thought that we were for a time, but it was not valid without the approval of my father.’
‘But we were married twice, and once in a church with witnesses!’
‘There is no record of those events, they have been removed, and the witnesses are no longer with us.’
‘Why are you denying your son?’
She spoke very calmly and quietly,
‘I had a choice. Either to stay in France with you, in poverty and exile, while the Clan was taken over by Mackenzie, or to return to Scotland and persuade my brother to help protect the Clan. The Clan would not still be Fraser if it were not for our efforts. I supported the idea of sending for you to return, even though it meant betraying the interests my daughter and grandson, because it was what the Clan wanted and the best way of thwarting Mackenzie.’
‘But your evil brother had me arrested in London, presumably to stop me getting to Scotland, or at least hang me if I did.’
‘He will never forgive you for using his journeys to St Germain to try and disgrace him through Queensberry. Up to then I had thought that it might be possible to negotiate your return much sooner. But as soon as I heard of your arrest in London, I wrote to John and asked him to back off, explaining that your return was the wish of the Clan, and therefore my wish also.’
Simon made a rueful face,
‘I mightily wish that I had known that he was on the Queen’s business. I managed to betray both the Queen and King James at the same time, even though they were supposedly opposed to each other.’
Amelia shrugged, as if to say that the past was history,
‘I could not become Dowager without denying our marriage, and so it is dead, and has been these last thirteen years. It cannot be revived. So our son cannot be legitimate, and cannot stay in Scotland.’
Simon stood up, much agitated,
‘So Archie becomes the victim of our intrigues. I raised him with the hope that one day he would rejoin the Clan.’
‘Not a victim, but, yes, a casualty of circumstances and politics, and our mistakes, through no fault of his own. We will have to do what we can to support him.’
‘But then he will be an orphan, without mother or father, or any other family for that matter.’
Amelia paused, looking down at her hands, then looking directly at Simon,
‘You could go back to France with him.’
‘And then what would happen to the Clan?’
‘Precisely. I had to make my decision whether to put the Clan first at the time of his birth. Now it is your turn to make your decision.’
Simon sat down, putting his head in his hands, mourning over what he had to do, but not seeing any alternative. If he insisted on making Archie’s parentage known he would put Amelia into disgrace, then making the possibility of Archie becoming the heir to Lovat all the more difficult, as well as re-igniting the enmity of Atholl. He had just had a heady time as Chief, leading his highlanders and rejoicing in their loyalty. He had to put them first.
Amelia felt for him and respected his caring, also wishing that there was another answer, and trying to soften the blow,
‘I will write to my brother and ask him to help with a pardon and the restoration of the estates to your name.’
‘Why will he help, if I have alienated him so much?’
‘He owes me. He will always owe me.’
Simon looked at Amelia with a distraught expression,
‘How will we tell Archie? Perhaps I should do it later.’
‘No, I will tell him myself, as it is I who have let him down.’
And she rang the small bell and asked the maid to bring in the young man. Archie came in with some eagerness, looking forward to spending more time with his mother, but something in her expression stopped him,
‘I am sorry but I cannot acknowledge you as my son, because I am not married to your father. At one time we thought we were married, but that was a mistake.’
He did not understand what she was saying, totally bewildered by the turn of events. She continued, gently but firmly,
‘This means that you will not be able to stay here in Scotland, but will have to return to France. We will see that you are well provided for, and you have my very best wishes that you find a good life.’
He stood, open mouthed, as the meaning of these words sunk in. Then, with desperation in his voice,
‘What do you mean? Cannot you get married now?’
Neither of his parents had thought of this possibility. They looked at each other, and both ruefully shook their heads, and looked back at Archie, who took a deep breath and continued,
‘So I have spent my life on prison, dreaming of the day that I could be with the Clan and part of a family, and now you tell me that this is not possible. I am your family. Does that not count for something?’
His parents sat there, not knowing what to say, so he shouts at his mother,
‘I hate you! I hate you! You are just a horrible old woman! You cannot be my mother!’, and ran from the room.
Simon and Amelia sat in silence for a few minutes, each thinking their own thoughts. The Amelia said,
‘Yes, I am a horrible old woman. But if I had not put the Clan first, there would likely now be no clan for you to lead.’
Simon found that he was not really surprised that Amelia had rejected his offer to resume the marriage. He never really considered it as other than a possibility, but he could not have just abandoned his son to foster parents. He mused that there was always a gulf between a clansman, putting family and kin first, and a noblewoman, putting duty first. There was nothing more to be said. He stood up, bowed farewell to Amelia and walked steadily from the room.
Amelia sat alone and sad, mourning the departure of her only living son, and remembering the few moments that she had had with him. Sad moments, and the only ones that she was to have. But how could she have done otherwise?
Archie ran and ran and ran. He found himself at the River Beauly and ran upstream along its steep bank, through the woodlands, never to know that the trees were oak, elm, pine, birch and alder, following the faint deer tracks through the bracken. His breath came in gasps, he was scratched by branches, sweat getting into his eyes. Eventually he stopped and went down to the river’s edge. Looking up the hill he could see the roofs of Castle Dounie through the trees, and realised that he had run back, with his path along the winding river being much longer than by road.
He looked down at the river, rushing past, and thought to throw himself in and be swept down and out to sea, perhaps with his body to be later found by a fisherman. He wondered how his parents would react; knowing that his father would be distraught and depressed for a time, but that the irrepressible need to be respected would bring him back to his life of intrigue; thinking that his mother would be sad, but still firm in her course of life. His death would not have a great effect.
Archie did not have his father’s need for recognition, nor his sense of entitlement, and felt that he had perhaps inherited his mother’s steadfastness and determination. He remembered how she had sat upright and indomitable.
Then, talking to the river,
‘I have not been lucky with my parentage. have I?’ The river murmured its reply in its timeless way.
Looking deep into the swirling eddies, he uttered the words that were to become the motto of his life,
‘Je survivrai, malgré tout.’ (I will survive, despite everything)
He turned up the bank, with the river sound and the sight of the trees, bracken and deer trials to be a forever memory, believing that he was never to return. He made his way up to the road leading to the castle and stood in the afternoon sun, waiting for his father to return.
Simon rode up shortly, leading the second horse by its reins, and saw Archie standing straight, reminding him of Amelia, and knew that this 13 year old was no longer a boy. He dismounted and embraced his son, with a scant formal embrace in return, stepped back and said,
‘We will go to London.’