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The Black Knee Chronicles

Volume 2

A Note on Archibald Frazer - Part 2

by Wilson Ray Frazer (1874-1963)

The story so far finished with Sir John Maclean's letters to Simon, Lord Lovat to be, mentioning a mysterious wife, who Wilson considers could be the mother of our ancestor, Archibald of Dunnacleggan.

W.C.MacKenzie [ 1 ] in his life of Simon Fraser refers Sir John's letters, quoted above, tentatively to the Autumn of 1702 and comments :

"Who was this wife? Apparently she has legal right to the title, and if so, when did Lovat marry her? His first marriage has already been described; his second took place in 1716, and his third in 1733. Was there a fourth? And was the lady Lucy Jones? The Paris wife cannot have been the Dowager, for in the circumstances that hypothesis is untenable.

"Whoever she was - if she was really his wife - she does not seem to have lived with Lovat long, whether she left him or died it is impossible to say."

The first marriage mentioned above was that with the Dowager lady Lovat, widow of Hugh, 11th Lord Lovat. The event took place in 1696 or 97, when Simon was still in or just out of his teens. It is unnecessary for the present purpose to go into the question whether it was a rape or not. It is sufficient to say that the marriage was declared null and void by the Court of Session on . . . [ 2 ].

However there were many who held that the Court of Session had no power to annul the marriage and that it was still valid; but trouble and disgrace for the manoeuvre, ill conceived by a hot headed boy to counteract the iniquitous design of the Murray of Atholl to deprive him of his rights, were to pursue him for many a year, even after the whole incident was finally legally closed.

Lucy Jones was a woman with whom Simon appears to have had a romance in the earlier part of 1702 before he left London for France. For some reason Simon kept her letters, and they are now in the British Museum. She seems to have been genuinely attached to Simon, and would no doubt have been ready to marry him, but in the absence of Simon's letters to her, it is impossible to say what Simon's intentions were. But certainly in her last letter to him on the eve of his departure for France, there seems nothing to suggest that she had any intention or desire to face an arduous and dangerous journey to France in pursuit of him. And if this 'wife' had been Lucy Jones, it is difficult to explain that there would have been no publicity in London about her marriage, as she had apparently wall-to-wall relations in London, and especially a brother who objected to Lucy's friendship with Simon.

If the 'wife' of 1703 came from an exiled family in France, it is still more impossible to believe that nothing should be known about her or that the Macleans should be so indifferent to her as Sir John's letters suggest.

The only reasonable alternative seems to be that she was a Frenchwoman whom Simon married in the winter of 1702-03 while he was busy in Paris.

This view is supported by a curious bit of family tradition which says that "Archibald married a French Huguenot [ 3 ] when he was abroad." This is of course clearly absurd as it stands. Archibald's wife, Ruth Whitehead or Cheadle, was married and living at at Dunnacleggan with her husband William Whitehead, and then as a widow, for nine years before Archibald married her in 1749: and there is no reason to think that she was either French or Huguenot.

But if the tradition is taken as applying to Archibald's father, it then falls into place with other parts of the tradition. Then there is the further question whether the "Huguenot" description is a fact or or whether the transmitter who mistakenly applied the tradition to Archibald, added the definition "Huguenot" to assuage the violent bigotry and prejudice of Queens County folk to whom a "Frenchwoman" would generally be synonymous with their bete-noir, a papist. It is impossible to decide the point.

However, at that time Simon was a professed Roman Catholic and on friendly terms with many eminent Catholics in France, so that it might be expected that he would marry a Catholic; and it seems to me very unlikely that, at the a moment when it was of the first importance to his plans to retain the favour and confidence of Lois XIV and of Queen Mary of Modena, Simon would run the risk of marrying a Huguenot and of bringing her, or letting her come, to St Germain.

For, I imagine, it was when Simon left for Scotland in May 1703 that his wife came to stay with the Macleans. The Macleans were getting old and were sick and tired of the hardships of their long exile. What the trouble between them and Simon's wife was who can now say? Several possibilities suggest themselves, and among them the possibility that Simon's wife was expecting a baby, was in poor health, and worrying about the future and the general shortness of resources which haunted the lives of the exiles.

Things came to a climax, and she went off to her "former lodging" "far removed" from the Macleans, possibly to her family or friends in or near Paris. And there, so I think, in the autumn or winter of 1703, she gave birth to a son and died in childbirth.

There are two other possible causes of disturbance which should be mentioned. The first would stem from Simon's earlier marriage with the Dowager Lady Lovat already mentioned. The story of this scandal was well known in France and St Germain society, and it is possible that when Simon's wife came to stay with the Macleans, she heard the story, and being a Catholic she regarded her marriage with Simon as void and was naturally outraged.

The second possibility arises from Simon's habit at the time of passing under the name of Donald or John Campbell. If for some reason he married under the name of Campbell, and his wife on arriving at the Macleans discovered the truth, her reactions may well have been violent. What, in either of these events, would have been the legal status of any child of the marriage. There is, I imagine, no easy answer to this question.

(5) The Name Archibald. In his youth, stormy and persecuted by the Atholl family and some Mackenzies, Simon was helped and protected as far as possible by the old Duke of Argyl [ 4 ], and was deeply attached to him.

In 1703 on his way back from the mission to Scotland, Simon visited the Duke at Chirton. While Simon was still in London trying to get away to Holland, the old Duke died at Chirton on the 25th September 1703. It was not until November that Simon actually left England and reached Paris in January 1704.

If, as I think, a newly born son awaited him there, it seems not unnatural that Simon who was much distressed by the Duke's death should have his son named after his old friend and benefactor. It is interesting to note that thirty years later Simon called his youngest son Archibald after the then Duke of Argyl, whose Primrose Campbell he married.

(6) It is related that Ruth, Archibald's wife "refused to tell her children who they were as it would make them unhappy. The fact that Archibald's mother was a Catholic, if it was so, or that his father had been over in France with the Jacobites, would seem unlikely to have made the children "unhappy", but to be the descendants of the "execrable rebel, Simon Fraser", whose head had been cut off and about whom the most atrocious lies were being circulated, might well have done so. Possibly also Archibald thought of himself as illegitimate - a point to be dealt with later. Anyway, it may be assumed, I think, that before he died, Archibald told his sons the story whatever it was.

If the foregoing reconstruction is correct, the young Archibald was born, probably among his mother's relations or friends, and lived with them over a number of years.

Simon returned to St Germain in January 1704 and no doubt saw the child and had him baptised.

He went to Versaille to see the French ministers and to the Court at Versaille, then returned to Paris where "at his own apartments" he fell ill and was laid up for three weeks.

Meanwhile his enemies got to work, so that about July the French Government for peace sake as well as a desire to protect him, sent Simon to the fortress of Bourge, and then at the beginning of August to the castle of Huguleme where he stayed until 1707.

In that year he was allowed to go as a prisoner on parole to Saumur where he lived a more or less normal social life until Major James Fraser came to see him in 1714 and persuaded him to break his parole and escape from France to take part in the 1715.

Whether during all these years Simon even saw his assumed son or had correspondence with him or his relations, it is of course impossible to say; but it is permissible to conjecture that if there was a boy and if he thought of him at all, he thought of him as his son and heir, though indeed there was nothing yet to be heir to except slander and hatred and implacable enemies.

However in the rising of 1715 Simon took a decisive part against the Jacobites, and by his services to the Hanoverian Government he realised the hope of attaining the chief object of all his struggles and intrigues - the recovery of the title and estates of Lovat. But on his return to the Highlands, he must have realised quickly how impossible it would be to present to the Clan as Master of Lovat [ 5 ] a French boy of whom the Clan had never heard, whose antecedents were unknown to them, and whose family connections could add nothing to the Clan's influence.

In these circumstances Simon may have felt obliged to suppress the boy's claim to be his legal heir, as indeed many in Scotland, who held Simon's youthful marriage with the Dowager Lady Lovat, to be still valid would undoubtedly reject him. Here we must leave again, with the final segment of Wilson's notes on Archibald's parentage to follow in the next Chronicle. Wilson also left voluminous notes on the his researches into Archibald's life, as well as other family stories, which will be published in due course.


  1. One of a number of well known historians of the 19th century who made a study of Simon. (Back)
  2. When? I have yet to find out. (Back)
  3. The Huguenots were, and are, French Protestants, who were greatly persecuted in France during the time of Archibald's life. (Back)
  4. Archibald, by no means a common name, was a traditional name of the Dukes of Argyl. (Back)
  5. Traditionally, the heir to the Lovat Title is styled "The Master of Lovat". (Back


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