Robert the Bruce’s chamberlain was Sir Alexander Fraser and it is from his brother, Sir Simon Fraser, that the Frasers of Lovat descend. Sir Simon acquired the Bisset Lands around Beauly when he won the hand of its heiress, and these lands became the family home.
Construction of Beaufort Castle in the late 1870s with an image of Simon Fraser, 13th Lord Lovat
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.
Around 1460 Hugh Fraser became the first Lord Lovat or Lord Fraser of Lovat. The chiefs made Beaufort Castle their seat in 1511, and it is still Fraser property today.
A memorable battle arising from a disputed chiefship was between the Frasers of Lovat and the MacDonalds of Clanranald in 1544, which became known as the Battle of the Field of Shirts. It earned this name because in the heat of that day the men fighting had to throw off their heavy plaids and continue to battle in their white shirts.
The romantic name belies the horror on an area of wild marshland alongside Loch Lochy (pictured top) where, of the hundreds of men who came at each other, only five Frasers and eight MacDonalds remained alive. Both the Lovat chief and his son and heir were among the dead and were buried at Beauly Priory.
Despite the costs of that day, the Lovat Frasers multiplied and created many branches, such as Fingask, Reelig and Inverallochy.
A strong Lovat representation was present at Culloden Moor in April 1746, some believe as many as two battalions. After the disaster on the field, the Fraser estates were plundered by Cumberland and his troops. The chief was captured at Loch Morar and taken to London to be beheaded at Tower Hill one year after the Battle.
The Frasers of Lovat later helped in the raising of Highland regiments that saw action across the British Empire, fighting in the American War of Independence, in Quebec, and in the Napoleonic Wars.
In 1899 Lord Lovat raised the Lovat Scouts for service in the Boer War.
The Lovat Scouts went on to win honours in the First World War and during World War 2, led by the then Lord Lovat along with his piper, Bill Millen. They landed on the Normandy beaches on D Day and were part of the dramatic relief of the Pegasus Bridge, a vital strategic position.
Lord Lovat, a much respected and decorated war hero died in 1996 and was buried to the accompaniment of his trusted piper.