January 13th, 2019
As historical posers go, it has been an enduring mystery – where is the body of Lord Lovat buried?
Experts felt they had got closer to answering the question after exhuming remains from a clan crypt in the Highlands.
But last night, Scotland’s top anthropologist was able to reveal with some confidence that the body in the crypt was not the 80-yearold, 6ft Jacobite clan chief – but that of a woman in her 20s or 30s.
Forensic experts – led by Inverness-born Professor Sue Black – have now been left with more questions than answers following their exhaustive examination
“No way these were the remains of an 80-year-old, 6ft man”
of the bones. The one thing they know for certain is that it was not Simon Fraser, the 11th Lord Lovat known as The Old Fox – the last man executed at the Tower of London in 1747 for supporting the Jacobite rebellion.
The forensic team had travelled to Wardlaw Mausoleaum at Kirkhill Cemetery, near Inverness, to examine the remains of a headless body.
Official accounts have the clan chief being buried under a chapel floor in the tower, but the clan claimed his body was taken by his supporters and returned to Scotland in a lead casket.
The expert team carried out detailed investigations using modern techniques, including DNA testing.
Prof Black last night told an audience of more than 400 at a special event in Inverness that the headless body was actually a woman, aged around 25 to 35.
She said: “The remains were very feminine. There is no way these were the remains of an 80-year-old, 6ft man who suffered from gout and arthritis.”
The debate now is how the remains of a headless young woman came to lie in the casket.
Prof Black said: “There are some possibilities she might be another member of the Fraser family, and further DNA testing is being carried out. The head may have been taken as a trophy many years ago, perhaps by someone believing it was Lord Lovat.
“But if the remains are not a member of the family, then we are faced with more of a poser.
“Perhaps the people sent to collect Lovat’s body from London were unsuccessful and, rather than be seen as having failed, took the body of some poor stranger as a substitute, removing her head before returning.”
The Old Fox is today known to readers and TV audiences as the grandfather of Jamie Fraser, the lead character in the popular Outlander series.
During the presentation, author and broadcaster Sarah Fraser, who married into the Lovat family, said she was impressed with the “spirit of respect” the forensic team had for the dead.