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VIDEO: TV’s Dan Snow joins Dundee experts to crack 270-year-old Jacobite clan chief mystery

Picture by SANDY McCOOK 5th October '17
The coffin of Lord Lovat in the Wardlaw Mausoleum in Kirkhill was opened yesterday by forensic anthropologist Professor Sue Black.    TV presenter Dan Snow in the crypt with the open coffin.
Picture by SANDY McCOOK 5th October '17 The coffin of Lord Lovat in the Wardlaw Mausoleum in Kirkhill was opened yesterday by forensic anthropologist Professor Sue Black. TV presenter Dan Snow in the crypt with the open coffin.

Forensic experts exhumed a body from a Highland crypt yesterday hoping to crack a 270-year-old mystery – whether it contains the remains of a notorious 18th Century clan chief.

Simon Fraser, the 11th Lord Lovat, was the last man executed at the Tower of London in 1747 for supporting the Jacobite rebellion.

Coffin open. Finds coming out.

Posted by History Hit on Thursday, 5 October 2017

A team of scientists led by Inverness-born anthropologist Professor Sue Black opened a lead casket in Wardlaw Mausoleum at Kirkhill, near the Highland capital, yesterday morning and discovered bones of a man.

She hopes to prove once and for all that any remains inside were Lord Lovat, a ruthless Jacobite sympathiser.

Nicknamed the Old Fox, he was executed for backing Bonnie Prince Charlie, whose uprising ended with the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Lovat’s body was buried under the floor of a chapel at the Tower, but according to the Clan Fraser, it was later taken by supporters to Scotland and laid to rest in the family mausoleum.

Prof Black described her excitement at the challenge which cleared the first hurdle as soon as the coffin was opened – that the bones were human.

The Dundee University professor said: “Firstly, we certainly have a human body there, as it could easily have been house bricks and the study would have been over before it had even started.

“It is an intact body, despite there being no head. We have to determine whether it is an elderly male, because if it is not then there is a bigger mystery as to whose remains they belong to.

“The examination will be about ensuring that the individual is male, that he is of the right age, that he is of the same height and that there is evidence from the remains of physical conditions he may have had whilst in life.

“We will check for dismemberment cuts and they should be consistent with a heavy bladed implement if it is indeed him. These will be on his remaining neck bones.”

Prof Black is not confident of obtaining DNA, and cannot do a facial construction without a head.

The best way to identify whether it is the clan chief is to determine whether any of the neck bones feature axe marks.

She said: “Finding such a mark, and matching it with the axe at the Tower of London – which is still there – would give a definitive answer.”

The Old Fox is known today by readers and television audiences as the grandfather of Jamie Fraser, a leading character in the Outlander books and TV drama.

arichardson@thecourier.co.uk

Forensic experts exhumed a body from a Highland crypt yesterday hoping to crack a 270-year-old mystery – whether it contains the remains of a notorious 18th century clan chief.

Simon Fraser, the 11th Lord Lovat, was the last man executed at the Tower of London in 1747 for supporting the Jacobite rebellion.

A team of scientists led by Inverness-born anthropologist Professor Sue Black opened a lead casket in Wardlaw Mausoleum at Kirkhill, near the Highland capital, yesterday morning and discovered bones of a man, believed to be elderly.

She hopes to prove once and for all that any remains inside was Lord Lovat, a ruthless Jacobite sympathiser who also did deals with enemies of the cause.

Nicknamed The Old Fox, he was executed for backing Bonnie Prince Charlie, whose uprising ended with the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Lovat’s body was buried under the floor of a chapel at the Tower, but according to the Clan Fraser, it was later taken by supporters to Scotland and laid to rest in the family mausoleum.

Dr Black, one of the world’s leading anthropolgists, described her excitement at the challenge, and had cleared the first hurdle as soon as the coffin was opened – that the bones actually belonged to a human.

The Dundee University professor said: “Firstly, we certainly have a human body there, as it could easily have been housebricks and the study would have been over before it had even started.

“It is an intact body, despite there being no head. We have to determine whether it is an elderly male, because if it is not then there is a bigger mystery as to whose remains they belong to.

“The examination will be about ensuring that the individual is male, that he is of the right age, that he is of the same height and that there is evidence from the remains of physical conditions he may have had whilst in life.

“We will check for dismemberment cuts and they should be consistent with a heavy bladed implement if it is indeed him. These will be on his remaining neck bones.”

Prof Black is not confident at obtaining DNA, and can’t do a facial construction without a head.

The best way to identify whether it is the clan chief is to determine whether any of the neck bones feature axe marks.

She said: “Finding such a mark, and matching it with the axe at the Tower of London – which is still there – would give a definitive answer.”

Television presenter Dan Snow is filming the exhumation and examination.

He said: “This is so exciting. It is such a privilege to be up here hopefully solving an ancient mystery and seeing the legendary Sue Black at work.

“We have found a body, which is a bonus. Sue has said it appears to be a man who probably had arthritis, which is very promising.

“There is no head, but they often go missing from crypts. If Sue found axe marks that would be the dream.

“She is keeping it pretty close to her chest.”

Erik Lundberg, of the Wardlaw Mausoleum Trust, said: “Finally, we might get some answers to who lies in our crypt.

“It is history in the making. I can’t believe this day has finally arrived after so long in the planning.”

Inverness Provost Helen Carmichael, who was at the mausoleum witnessing the examination, said: “I think it is thrilling. It is amazing we have this sleeping giant and now it has been awakened to see if we can uncover the secrets from his past.”

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

Lord Lovat is claimed to have 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 known today by readers and television audiences as the grandfather of Jamie Fraser, a leading character in the Outlander books and TV drama.

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