Fraser Clan

History of the Fraser Clan in Scotland

By Brian Fraser

(Brian is not an immediate relative but somewhere back in time our parents were the same)

This is the history of the Fraser Clan in Scotland as told by Brian Fraser and many thanks to him for writing it. This isn't so much a genealogy as a history of the clan and, in many ways, it parallels the rise of Scotland. As you will see, the Fraser history in Scotland goes back quite a considerable time.

There are lots of interesting stories on the origin of the name "Fraser".

It is generally well accepted that the "Frasers" originated in France, probably from the area of Anjou.

One story has it that in 794 Charlemagne sent a Pierre 'Fraser' to Achaius, King of Scotland, where he married a girl named Euphemia, daughter of Rahan, thus giving rise to the Fraser Clan.

Another story has it that a Frenchman, named Julius de Berry, who lived at Auver near Bourbon, in the spring of 916 pleased "Charles Simplex, king of France and Emperor" and the Papal Nuncio, with dishes of ripe strawberries. He was forthwith royally commanded to change his name to "Fraise" and to adopt three stalked strawberries for his family arms. Whether stalked or not, objects resembling strawberries have appeared on the armorial shields of Frasers since 1281. Whether there is any truth to the Julius de Berry story or the earlier story is anybody's guess.

The more commonly accepted viewpoint is that the Frasers first appeared in southern Scotland in the mid-1100's under the name of "de Freseliere, or de Frisselle, or de Fresel", which was later altered to "Fraissier" meaning "strawberry bearer". Since not many people were literate in those days and for several centuries after, it's easy to understand how various spellings of the name arose and why some of those spellings still exist today. Over the centuries, it appears that the most common version has settled on Fraser, and occasionally Frazer, with some variations which again can probably be explained by migration and various pronunciation in different localities.

Apparently, in 1160 there were 3 de Freselieres in Scotland, although there relationship is unclear. These were Simon, Udard and Gilbert. In fact, the first record of a Fraser landholder in Scotland was Simon who gave a large tract of land to the monks of Kelso in 1160. There were also de Freselieres living in England at the time, and one of them by the name of Ralph de Freseliere was a knight of Richard I in 1189, or thereabouts.

Although there is evidence of a Simon Fraser in 1160, and another Sir Simon Fraser who fought with William Wallace (Braveheart) and was brutally executed in 1306 in the same manner as William Wallace, the two main branches of the Fraser Clan appear to descend from two brothers; Sir Alexander Fraser and another Sir Simon Fraser.

Sir Alexander Fraser, the Lord Chamberlain and friend of Robert the Bruce, married Robert the Bruce's sister, Lady Mary, and then he was subsequently killed in battle in 1332. He and their two sons are considered to be the ancestors of the Frasers of Philorth, who eventually became Lords Saltoun.

Sir Alexander Fraser's younger brother Sir Simon Fraser was slain in battle at Halidon Hill in 1333. This Simon Fraser is considered to be the father or grandfather of a Hugh Fraser who is documented as owning the lands of Lovat and the Aird in 1367. From this Hugh Fraser descended the Frasers of Lovat, and sometime between 1456-1464 another Hugh Fraser who was a direct descendent of the first Hugh Fraser became the first Lord Fraser of Lovat.

The Frasers of Lovat acquired most of their landholdings by marrying into the Bisset family from 1360-1425, and were given other lands as gifts from various sources. However, because Sir Simon Fraser, the 11th Lord Lovat, sided with Bonnie Prince Charlie in the Battle of Culloden, he was the last Lord to be executed by England in 1747 at the age of 80 and his title and estates were declared forfeit to England. His body lies in the Chapel of the Tower of London.

In order to make amends for their part in the Battle of Culloden, Sir Simon's son, another Simon Fraser, raised the 78th Fraser Highlanders, who were instrumental in assisting General Wolfe defeat General Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec, Canada in 1759. It is said that General Wolfe died in the arms of a Fraser during that battle. It is also said that this same General Wolfe was the same person who disobeyed an order to execute the wounded Charles Fraser, the leader of the Frasers at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. This regiment was disbanded in 1763, and some of them remained in Canada. Simon Fraser continued his military career, and became a General. In 1774 he received back the forfeited Lovat estates. In 1775 he raised the 71st Fraser Highlanders which served in the USA until it was disbanded in 1783.

It is interesting to note that in times past the various Lord Lovats were also referred to as MacShimi, and sometimes
MacImmie, and other various versions, which is Gaelic for "Simon's son". This explains why people with the name MacSimon, Sim, Simpson, Sime, Symon, and others are considered to be connected to the Clan Fraser of Lovat.

There is apparently a third branch of the Fraser Clan, that being the Frasers of Ledclune. Unfortunately, I do not as yet know anything about this particular group.

I hope this little bit of history has given you a little bit of enlightenment about the Frasers, regardless of which name you go by. There is an old Scottish proverb that says that the human race is divided into two divisions; those who are Scots, and those who would like to be Scots. I would change this to be those who are "Frasers" and those who would like to be "Frasers".

Je Suis Prest.