Highlands & Islands

Headless woman in clan chief mystery to be reinterred

Wardlaw Mausoleum Image copyright Peter Moore/Geograph
Image caption Bone fragments from the woman were found in a casket at Wardlaw Mausoleum

The remains of a headless woman found in a casket thought to have held the bones of a Highlands clan chief are to be reinterred next month.

A short religious service is to be held at Wardlaw Mausoleum at Kirkhill, near Inverness, for the unidentified woman.

Her remains were found during an investigation of the casket at the mausoleum.

It had long been thought the bone fragments were of Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat and known as The Old Fox.

He was executed in London in 1747 because of his support for Bonnie Prince Charlie.

His headless body was taken back to Scotland and placed in a mausoleum near Inverness, according to his clan.

Image caption Scientists examined the bones in a study last year

But scientists found during last year's investigation involving Dame Sue Black that the bones are of a woman aged 25 to 35.

Members of the Lovat Fraser family have been invited to attend Thursday's service.

It will also be open to other Frasers and members of the public with an interest in the mausoleum and the Lovat Frasers.

Image caption Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, was known as The Old Fox

The clan chief, the last person to be beheaded in Britain, is recorded in history as a charmer who was prepared to switch sides during and around the times of the Jacobite uprisings.

But the last of those risings, in which he supported Bonnie Prince Charlie, ended in defeat for the Jacobites at Culloden in April 1746. The following year, Lord Lovat was executed at Tower Hill in London.

It is said that several people who had gathered to watch the beheading died after the scaffold they were on collapsed.

Lord Lovat found this incident funny and is said to have been so visibly amused when he was executed that his death led to the phrase "laughing your head off".

The Old Fox is a figure familiar to fans of Diana Gabaldon's series of Outlander books.

In the author's time-travelling, romantic adventure stories, he is the grandfather of Jamie Fraser, one of the books' lead characters.

Scottish actor Clive Russell plays The Old Fox in the television adaptation of Gabaldon's novels.

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