Clan Fraser

The Clan Fraser (Gaelic - Friseal, French "Frasier") is a Scottish clan of Gaulish origin. The French word for Strawberry is fraise and the plants are called fraisiers. The arms of Clan Fraser are Quarterly: 1st and 4th Azure, three fraises Argent, 2nd and 3rd Gules, three antique crowns Or, or in layman's terms, the traditional three cinquefoils, or Fraises (strawberry flowers), as they have come to be known, in the first and fourth positions and three crowns in the second and third positions. Only the Lord Lovat is entitled to use these arms as such. The current chief of Clan Fraser is Simon Fraser, the current Lord Lovat, grandson of the famed Commando of the Second World War. He is traditionally referred to as the "MacShimidh," Gaelic meaning "Son of Simon." Simon is the traditional name for the chiefs of Clan Fraser, and the name of the Fraser from whom all Frasers trace their lineage (Simon Fraser (patriot), Pater).

History

The Frasers probably come from Anjou, France, and the name may derive either from Fredarius, from Fresel or from Freseau. It has even been suggested that they descend from a tribe called Friselii in Roman Gaul, whose badge was a strawberry plant.

Clan Fraser
Motto Je Suis Prest (French I Am Ready)
Origins Gaul, Anjou, East Lothian, Beauly.
Gaelic Friseal
Branches
  1. Frasers of Inverallochy
  2. Frasers of Lovat
  3. Frasers of Muchalls
  4. Frasers of Philorth
  5. Frasers of Strichen
Septs
  1. Bissett
  2. Brewster
  3. Cowie
  4. Frew
  5. Frissel
  6. Frizell
  7. MacCimmie
  8. MacGruer
  9. MacKim
  10. MacKimmie
  11. MacSimon
  12. MacShimes
  13. MacTavish
  14. McCoss
  15. M’ktaus
  16. Oliver
  17. Sìm
  18. Sime
  19. Simon
  20. Simpson
  21. Simson
  22. Sims
  23. Syme
  24. Symon
  25. Twaddle
  26. Tweedie
Arms Image:Lovat Arms.gif
Tartans   

Fraser Dress              Fraser Hunting

  

Fraser of Lovat         Green Hunting

Plant badge Yew
Chieftain Simon Fraser, 18th Lord Lovat
Clan seat Beauly, Inverness-shire
 

Appearance and Early Movement in Scotland

In 1160, Simon Fraser held lands in East Lothian at Keith. In that same year, he made a gift of a church at Keith in East Lothian to the monks at Kelso Abbey, the first recorded appearance of the Frasers in Scotland. This is our earliest record of Frasers, yet there exist countless stories and folk tales as to the origins of the Clan Fraser.

Another story, favoured by Archibald Campbell Fraser, and Sir George MacKenzie, Lord Advocate of Scotland, derives their descent from Pierre Fraser, Seigneur de Troile, who came to Scotland with the ambassadors of Charlemagne, around 807, mentioning the arms of the family, which are to this day, a field azure, semi, with strawberries flowers, or fraises. The only difference is that the arms once contained more strawberry flowers. Pierre was made Thegn of the Isle of Man in 814, and one group of Frasers still live there today under the Gaelic name of Frizel. His direct descendants were to become the lords of Oliver Castle.

The Frasers moved into Tweeddale in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and from there into the counties of Stirling, Angus, Inverness and Aberdeen.

Scottish Wars of Independence

A New Home

The magnificent remains of Beauly Priory.
The magnificent remains of Beauly Priory.

Sir Simon acquired the Bisset Lands around Beauly when he won the hand of its heiress, and these lands became the family home. A record from 1367 describes Hugh Fraser as ‘Lord of Lovat and portioner of Ard’, the first known connection the Frasers had with Lovat land. By 1422 the Frasers of Lovat had extended their lands to include Stratherrick by Loch Ness, together with part of Glenelg. As late as the middle 14th century a branch of the Frasers had erected a towerhouse stronghold overlooking the North Sea in Kincardineshire, which later became known as Muchalls Castle.

Although the exact date of creation is uncertain, some time between 1456 and 1464, Hugh Fraser was raised to the peerage as Lord Lovat or Lord Fraser of Lovat. Around 1511, the chiefs established their seat at the site of their last three hereditary castles. The first was destroyed in the thirteenth, Castle Dounie was burned down in 1746 as a result of the Clan's participation in the Jacobite risings (see below). The present Beaufort Castle is relatively modern, being in the Scottish Barronial style. The castle was sold by the Lord Lovat, to repay debts incurred by his son, Simon Augustine Fraser, Master of Lovat, in 1994. However, his son, the present Lord Lovat, has vowed to buy the ancestral home back.

Clan Wars

As most all Highlanders, the Frasers have been involved in countless instances of Clan warfare, particularly against the Macdonalds.

Fraser lands are shown in blue. This map is accurate to the acts of parliament 1587 & 1594. Click to enlarge.
Fraser lands are shown in blue. This map is accurate to the acts of parliament 1587 & 1594. Click to enlarge.

Two Fraser war cries have been largely recognized, both in Gaelic. The first, "Caisteal Dhuni" (Castle Dounie/Downie) refers to the ancestral Castle and Clan seat, which once existed near the present Beaufort Castle. Shortly after the Battle of Culloden, Simon the Fox watched his castle go down in flames. The second is "A Mhor-fhaiche" (The Great Field).

  • The Frasers fought a great clan battle against the MacDonalds of Clan Ranald in 1544, Blar-ne-Léine, in Gaelic, the Battle of the Shirts, over the disputed chiefship of Clan Ranald. The Frasers, as part of a large coalition, backed a son of the 5th Chief, Ranald Gallda (the Stranger), which the MacDonalds found unacceptable. Prevented from battle by the Earl of Argyll, the 300 Frasers were ambushed on their march home by 500 MacDonalds. Only five Frasers and eight MacDonalds are said to have survived the bloody engagement. Both the Lovat Chief, Lord Lovat and his son and heir were amongst the dead and were buried at Beauly Priory. Despite these attrocities, the Frasers were stronger than ever before within a hundred years.
  • Robert Mor Munro, 15th chief of Clan Munro , was a staunch supporter of Mary, Queen of Scots, and he consequently was treated favourably by her son, James VI. Robert was also a faithful friend of Mary. Buchanan states, when the unfortunate princess went to Inverness in 1562, that: "as soon as they heard of their soveriegn's danger, a great number of the most eminent Scots poured in around her, especially the Frasers and Munros, who were esteemed the most 'valiant of the clans inhabiting those countries in the north.' " These two clans took Inverness Castle for the Queen, which had refused her admission. The Queen later hanged the governor, a Gordon who had refused her admission.
  • In 1571 the Clan Fraser joined forces with the Clan Forbes in their feud against the Clan Gordon. The Forbes were also joined by Clan Keith and Clan Crichton. The Gordons were also joined by Clan Leslie, Clan Irvine and Clan Seton. The feud between the Gordons and Forbes which had gone on for centuries culminated in two full scale battles: The Battle of Tillieangus and the Battle of Craibstone. It was at the Battle of Tillieangus that the 6th Lord Forbes's youngest son known as Black Aurther Forbes was killed. Legend has it that "he stooped down to quench his thirst and one of the Gordons gave him his death blow through an open joint in his armour".

Call to Arms & Civil War

Traditionally, Frasers wear small branches of Yew in their caps.
Traditionally, Frasers wear small branches of Yew in their caps.

Around then the Chiefship was in dispute between the Frasers of Philorth and another branch, which also came from Tweeddale, the Frasers of Muchal-in-Mar. Castle Fraser, their seat, was built in the early 17th century by Andrew Fraser, who was created Lord Fraser in the reign of Charles II. The peerage expired with the fourth Lord Fraser, who died in 1716 while on the run as a result of his participation in The Fifteen. The first two sons of Andrew, the 2nd Lord Fraser were thought to have died in the Battle of Dunbar (1650) in 1650, however in reality they were taken prisoner and sent to America, where they were placed into servitude. James and William Fraser changed their name to Frissell to protect themselves from Oliver Cromwell. James Frissell was placed in Roxbury and William in the Carolinas. Together, the two of them are respsonsible for almost all of the Frissells in America.

During the Civil War of 1649, the Clan Munro and the Clan Fraser again took Inverness Castle. This time they were also joined by the Clan Urquhart and the Clan MacKenzie, who they had recently made peace with. They were all opposed to the authority of the current parliament. They assaulted the town and took the castle. They then expelled the garrison and raised the fortifications. However, on the approach of the parlimentry forces led by General Leslie, all of the clans retreated back into Ross-shire. Over the next year, several skirmishes took place between these parties.

Jacobite Risings

Simon "the Fox" Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, 1668. The Fox was Chief during the Jacobite risings.
Simon "the Fox" Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, 1668. The Fox was Chief during the Jacobite risings.

The infamous Simon the Fox was chief during The '45, and supported Bonnie Prince Charlie, contrary to his action during The Fifteen (though, his clan did indeed rally for Jamie). Frasers were on the front lines of the Jacobite army at the Battle of Falkirk, and the Battle of Culloden.

Culloden

At the Battle of Culloden, Frasers made up the largest Centre Regiment of the Front line, with 400 men under Charles Fraser of Inverallochy (the Fox was, conveniently, not present at the battle, reportedly trying to gather dispersed Clansmen to fight). Being on the front line, the Frasers were one of the few units to actually close with Government forces, breaking through Barrell’s regiment with 800-900 other Highlanders (Atholl men, Camerons, Stewarts of Appin), the ferocious Frasers were massacred by the Government second line.

Aftermath

In 1746 Castle Dounie was burnt to the ground, while the Fox was on the run. He was tried for treason and executed in London on 9th April 1747, and his estates and titles were forfeited to the Crown.

After Culloden, Castle Dounie was replaced by a small square building costing £300 in which the Royal Commissioner resided until 1774, when some of the forfeited Lovat estates were granted by an Act of Parliament to his son, Simon Fraser (1726-1782), by then a major general, in recognition of his military service to the Crown and the payment of some £20,000. Later, two modest wings were added. On the death of General Fraser’s younger half-brother, Colonel Archibald Campbell Fraser of Lovat (1736-1815), without legitimate surviving male issue, the Lovat estates were transferred, by entail, to Thomas Alexander Fraser of Strichen(1802-1875), a distant cousin who was descended from Thomas Fraser of Knockie & Strichen (1548-1612), second son of Alexander Fraser, 4th Lord Lovat (1527-1557). Knockie was sold about 1727 to Hugh Fraser of Balnain (1702-1735).

The Fox's son, Simon Fraser escaped punishment, and was pardoned - later raising a Fraser regiment for the British army which fought in Canada in the 1750s, including Quebec. Charles Fraser was mortally wounded and found by General Hawley on the field, who ordered one of his aides, a young James Wolfe to finish him off with a pistol. Wolfe refused, so Hawley got a common soldier to do it. We also know the fate of some of the clansmen. David Fraser of Glen Urquhart, who was a deaf-mute had, it was said, charged and killed seven redcoats, but was captured and died in prison. John Fraser, also called ‘MacIver’ was shot in the knee, taken prisoner and put before a firing squad, but was then rescued by a British officer, Lord Boyd, who was sick of the slaughter. Another John Fraser, who was Provost of Inverness tried to get fair treatment for the prisoners.

Frasers in the New World

Sir Malcolm Fraser, 1834–1900, public servant in Western Australia (not the Australian Prime Minister).
Sir Malcolm Fraser, 18341900, public servant in Western Australia (not the Australian Prime Minister).

Many Frasers settled in the United States and Canada after the war against the French in Quebec. Many others emigrated to those countries and to Australia and New Zealand. There are Frasers by many names in many countries throughout the world.

Frasers fought proudly and in right Fraser fashion in the American rebellion, and Frasers in the U.S. have continued their proud military tradition, fighting on both sides of the American Civil War. Frasers from both sides of the Atlantic fought in the Great War, and the Second World War.

Two Chiefs

On May 1, 1984, by decree of the Court of the Lord Lyon, the 21st Lady Saltoun was made "Chief of the name and arms of the whole Clan Fraser". This single decree has turned over 800 years of history on its head.

When Simon the Pater's descendants first acquired the Lovat lands of the Ard, in the Highlands, they took to the Gaelic customs of the area. This included everything from language, ways of warfare, to clothing and fashion, even giving their children Gaelic names. By the time Simon's son came of age to lead the family, he was deamed to be the 1st Chief of Clan Fraser, the MacShimidh.

Flora Fraser, 21st Lady Saltoun, and Simon Fraser, 18th Lord Lovat together at Castle Fraser, during the 1997 Clan Gathering
Flora Fraser, 21st Lady Saltoun,
and Simon Fraser, 18th Lord Lovat
together at Castle Fraser,during the
1997
Clan Gathering

Frasers who stayed in the Lowlands, however, maintained Teutonic, or Norman culture. They became a very respectable and well-to-do family, but stayed well out of Clan affairs. They took no part in Clan warfare, they spoke a Scoto-Norman language, along the lines of Anglo-Norman, wore Norman garb,

According to Alexander Fraser, 18th Lord Saltoun, his family "continued to have their principal seat in the Lowlands, and those of the surname who remained in that section of Scotland, where Teutonic institutions prevailed, and whence the patriarchal system of Clans and Clanships had long been banished, had nothing to do with the origin or formation of the Highland Clan, and never belonged to it."

According to the Lady Saltoun, his descendant, "The Frasers of Philorth, the Lords Saltoun, being the senior line, are Chiefs of the name of Fraser, although a lowland family. Lord Lovat is Chief of the very numerous Highland Clan Fraser of Lovat, based in Inverness-shire."

It should be noted that the Lady Saltoun is not a descendant of the Shimidh, the Simon from whom the Clan Fraser traces it's lineage. As explained elsewhere, she is descended from the Shimidh's older brother. So, though the Lord Lovat is still the Chieftain of Clan Fraser, the MacShimidh, the Lord Lyon has made official the seniority of the Lady Saltoun's line.

This is not the only case of precedence where the head of a Lowland family has been made "Chief of a Clan." The selection of a clan chieftain is traditionally very different than the Teutonic/Norman system of inherited titles. A Clan would elect and follow whatever chief it chose. Unfortunately, from a history student's perspective, in the case of the Clan Fraser, this decree has muddied the waters a bit, regarding both what the Clan truly is and has been. Frasers differ on the matter, but most Lovats still regard the Lord Lovat as their chief, while many lowland Frasers, who have latched on to the romanticised view of Clans and the Highlands, are happy to have found a way to link themselves to Highland culture. There is, of course, some cross-over of opinions.

Military Regiments

The 78th Fraser Highlander Pipe Band, sponsored by the regiment of the same name.
The 78th Fraser Highlander Pipe Band, sponsored by the regiment of the same name.

Frasers have always been known for their fighting spirit, and their skill in the arts of war. Frasers fought in many, many wars, from the defending of Scottish lands against invading Danes and Norse, to the Scottish Wars of Independence, to the Jacobite risings, both World Wars, and continue to serve today. Among them, are the

Distinguished Frasers

Many people distinguished in public life and the armed forces have been Frasers. Among them were:

Simon Fraser, the explorer.
Simon Fraser, the explorer.
the Rt. Hon. John Malcolm Fraser, former Prime Minister of Australia, 1977
the Rt. Hon. John Malcolm Fraser, former Prime Minister of Australia, 1977

Many distinguished Frasers are alive today:

 

References

  • Neil Grant. Scottish Clans and Tartans. Crescent Books, New York, 1987. ISBN 0517499010.
  • J.R. Harper. The Fraser Highlanders. The Society of The Montreal Military & Maritime Museum, Montreal, 1979.
  • Fraser, Archibald Campbell. Annals... of the Frasers of Loveth. Clan Fraser Association for California, 2003. Ed. Diolain Fraser.
  • Forbes, George. the Frasers. Lang Syne Publishers Ltd, Glasgow, 2003. ISBN 1852170905.

Fraser Societies

  • Clan Fraser Society of Australia
  • Clan Fraser Association for California
  • Clan Fraser Society of Canada
  • Clan Fraser Society of North Amrica
  • Clan Fraser Society of Scotland & the UK
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