FRASER, HUGH [SSNE 3472]

Surname
FRASER
First name
HUGH

Text source

Hugh Fraser served in the Swedish army reaching the rank of Major (some secondary sources erroneously claim lieutenant colonel). He was the younger son of Hugh Fraser of Culbokie.

Hugh Fraser returned home from service in the Swedish Army by the spring of 1640 with the rank of Major and the ‘200 muscats firlocks guns and picks’ he provided to his clan chief, Hugh Fraser, 7th Lord Lovat. The Lovat Frasers, were ‘probably the most loyal Covenanters in the Highlands outside of Argyll and Sutherland’ according to Edward Furgol, but this ‘expert soldier’, did not serve the Covenanting cause in his clan regiment. Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and second in command of Major-General Robert Monro’s Regiment of Foot [SSNE 94], Hugh would have played a leading part in Monro’s punitive campaign in north-east of Scotland from May to September 1640 and in his regiment’s subsequent policing  of the south-east of Scotland and the eastern Borders.

On the domestic front, Hugh used the ‘considerable fortune’ he had reputedly made in Swedish service, to secure the heritable tenure of the Lovat properties of Fanellan and Kiltarlity in July 1640, before he bought ‘the toun and lands’ of Kinerras from Thomas Chisholm. Hugh’s newly acquired baronial status combined with his wealth, his military standing and his acceptance as a leading Lovat Fraser, secured his election as a Commissioner for Inverness-shire in the Scottish parliament, taking the Parliamentary oath on 15th July 1641 along with his fellow Inverness-shire Commissioner, Sir James Fraser of Brae, Lord Lovat’s younger brother and the dominant figure in Fraser of Lovat affairs. Kinerras’s election would suggest that he was politically acceptable to Brae, a staunch Presbyterian and firm supporter of the Argyll faction in Covenanting politics.

Kinerras’s involvement in politics did not interrupt his military career, however, as he retained his position as Lieutenant Colonel in Major General Robert Monro’s Regiment and landed at Carrickfergus in March 1642 in the first wave of the Scots Army sent to Ulster to suppress the Catholic Irish Rebellion.  Little is known of Hugh’s career in Ireland apart from the brief period in May 1642 when he was in command of Dunluce Castle following the capture of the castle and the detention there of the Earl of Antrim, but, in late 1643, he was appointed Colonel in command of the first regiment of Dragoons to be raised in the Covenanting Armies. Better known as Fraser’s Dragoons, Hugh’s regiment advanced with Leven’s army [SSNE 1] into northern England in January 1644. Following action in Northumberland and Durham, his Dragoons were described as the ‘stoutest regiment’ in the Covenanting Army during the siege of York and enhanced their reputation further at Marston Moor on 2nd July 1644. In 1645 Hugh’s Dragoons were involved in operations on both sides of the Pennines before they returned to Scotland as part of Lieutenant General David Leslie’s force [SSNE 2920] which defeated Montrose at Philiphaugh on 13th September 1645.  The following month they accompanied Major General John Middleton’s cavalry [SSNE 6698] in a rapid advance through Aberdeenshire and Buchan before being dispersed in various garrisons north of the Forth for a short time. They returned to England as a cavalry regiment and established their headquarters at Tickhill in South Yorkshire by 30th January 1646. It was whilst they were there, that Hugh’s Regiment achieved a notorious reputation in England for not only imposing an unauthorised cess and threatening to quarter troops in towns which refused to comply but also for carrying out acts of theft, murder and rape which went unpunished.  

Ironically enough, it was during the time his regiment was in South Yorkshire, that Hugh’s lands and property in Inverness-shire would have suffered at the hands of a detachment of Montrose’s troops on 29th April 1646, who left ‘not a sheep to bleet, or a cock to crow day, nor a house unruffled’ …‘betuixt the bridge end of Inverness and Gusachan’ and who  forced the local population to seek refuge in strongholds such as the sconce at Kingillie which was built by William Fraser of Culbokie, Hugh’s eldest brother,  to  Hugh’s design.

Shortly afterwards, Hugh’s regiment moved out of South Yorkshire in early May 1646 with no apparent setback to Hugh’s Covenanting career. In November 1646 he attended the sixth session of the first triennial Parliament and was appointed to the  Inverness-shire War Committee, while, on 29th January 1647, he was retained in military service as Rutmaster of a Troop of Horse in the Covenanters’ New Model Army.

Unfortunately nothing is known of Hugh’s Horse Troop and its activities, but we do know that Hugh was able to raise 53,000 merks Scots to purchase Kinmylies and other Lovat properties on 20th January 1647 and that he took on additional local responsibilities with his appointment to the Inverness-shire Revaluations Committee on 15th March 1647. That Hugh seems to have remained close to Brae throughout 1647 and into 1648 is clear from the evidence of 7th March 1648 that the Scottish parliament rejected ‘the two commissions produced for the sheriffdom of Inverness, the one granted to Sir James Fraser [of Brae] and Colonel [Hugh] Fraser [of Kinneries (sic)], and the other to Sir John MacKenzie of Tarbat and Hugh Rose of Kilravock’ and ordered a re-run of the Inverness-shire election. But, at some time in 1648, Hugh changed political allegiance to become one of only two Lovat Fraser gentry to support the Engagement. It might seem from his nomination to the Inverness-shire War Committee on 18th April 1648 and his appointment by the ‘Engager dominated Estates’ as ‘colonel of a troop of eighty Inverness-shire horse’ on 4th May 1648, that Hugh had changed sides by then. But this does not seem to have been the case, as the Committee of Estates, ‘with the advice of the General’ on 12th May 1648 ordered that Callendar should have ‘the troop commanded for the last year by Colonel Fraser’, a decision that was ratified by the Scottish Parliament in an Act of 12th June 1648 ‘disposeing Generall Leslie's troupe to Duke Hamiltoune and Rutemaster Fraser's troupe to Callander’.  But if Hugh had not moved into the Engagers’ camp by mid-June 1648, he must have done so very soon afterwards as it is more than probable that he was the officer in command of Fraser’s Flintlocks, whose role was to  provide the baggage guard for Hamilton’s invasion force which entered England on 8th July 1648.  

No information is available about Frasers’ Flintlocks until their surrender at Warrington Bridge on 19th August 1648 following the defeat of Hamilton’s Army at Preston and Winwick, and no evidence has been found to tell us of Hugh’s whereabouts or his actions thereafter until he was stripped of his military rank and public offices in the purges of the autumn of 1648. We do know that Hugh went on to become one of the leading figures in Pluscarden’s Rising and played his part in the seizure of Inverness on 22nd February 1649. Hugh’s participation in this Rising marked an even more significant break from his kin and clan as his actions placed him in direct armed opposition to his erstwhile political ally Brae, to the great majority of the Lovat Fraser gentry and to his three brothers who had stayed loyal to Argyll and supported the Anti-Engager regime.  We will never know why it was that Hugh decided to throw in his lot with Pluscarden [SSNE 135],  but in the rapidly changing and uncertain political circumstances surrounding the execution of Charles I and the unilateral proclamation by the Scottish Parliament of Charles II as King of Great Britain, France and Ireland,  perhaps it is not irrelevant to note that,  in some important respects, Hugh’s decision to support Pluscarden  parallels that of Major-General George Monro who had recently returned to Ireland to join with Royalists to wrest back control of Ulster from New Model Army domination in a move intended as a precursor to launching an attack on the New Model Army’s  tacit ally, the Anti-Engager regime in Scotland.

But whatever Hugh’s hopes and motivations may have been, Pluscarden’s Rising was wracked by internal division from the outset and failed to attract much in the way of local support. On 2nd March 1649 Hugh and the other leading figures were declared rebels and traitors by the Scottish parliament and, on 8th March 1649, Lieutenant General David Leslie was ordered north with instructions to ‘use all means to divide them amongst themselves. And if Colonel Fraser, [John Monro of] Lemlair and their friends (who have been formerly employed in our service and now out of weakness are misled) will be instruments to bring in and deliver Pluscarden in your hands and others of the chief ringleaders, then you shall grant them conditions as you think fit.’  On 21st March 1649 Leslie agreed lenient terms with Hugh, Lemlair and Thomas Urquhart of Cromartie which ‘devyd[ed] them from Pluscardin’. In return for the payment of a fine Hugh wasallowed to retain his freedom and his lands and properties. Hugh lived out the reminder of his life at Kinmylies, where he died on 30th September 1649, and was buried with suitable ceremony and honour in "Lord Lovat’s Isle" in the Fraser Mausoleum at Kirkhill on 6th October 1649. If the Chronicler of the Frasers is to be believed, ‘the Colonels joining with the Mackenzies to attack the garrison of Inverness, of quhich Sir James was govenour, broke [Brae’s] heart’.  Brae did not long outlive Hugh, dying at Lovat two months later on 6th December 1649. Brae was given ‘a most glorious funeral’ before he too was laid to rest in the ‘Chapell of Kirkhill’ not so very far from Colonel Hugh Fraser of Kinerras, a man whose expertise as a professional soldier in the wars of his time had secured his rise from obscurity and had secured him his last resting place there.

 

 

Sources:

National Records of Scotland, Warrand of Bught Papers, GD23/10; National Library of Scotland, The History of the Most Ancient, Most Noble and Illustrious Family of the Frasers,  Particularly of the Illustrious Family of Lovat Chief and Head of that Numerous Clan, Adv. MS 34.6.13, p. 342; Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707, www.rps.ac.ukA1641/8/1a [listed in NRS, Papers of the Bruce family of Airth, GD37/319], www.rps.ac.uk 1646/11/2, www.rps.ac.uk 1646/11/34, www.rps.ac.uk 1646/11/182, www.rps.ac.uk1646/11/34, www.rps.ac.uk 1646/11/356, www.rps.ac.uk 1646/11/532, www.rps.ac.uk 1648/3/15, www.rps.ac.uk1648/3/78, www.rps.ac.uk1648/3/116, www.rps.ac.uk1648/3/248, www.rps.ac.uk1649/1/193. 

 

David  Stevenson ed. Government under the Covenanters 1637-1651, (Edinburgh 1982) pp. 22, 37, 39, 43, 65, 69, 70, 92-93; A list of the Several Regiments and Chief Officers of the Scottish Army quartered neer Newcastle (London, 1644); J Fraser, A Chronicle of the Frasers ed. W. MacKay (Edinburgh 1905), pp. 278-9, 288, 294, 297, 305, 317, 322-323, 328, 329, 336-338, 339, 346-7, 348, 378, 381; Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun and G. Gordon of Sallagh, A Genealogical History of The Earldom of Sutherland (Edinburgh 1813) pp. 547-548;The Miscellany of the Spalding Club, ed. J. Stuart, 5 vols. (Aberdeen, 1841-9)II, p. 384; Edward M. Furgol, A Regimental History of the Covenanting Armies (Edinburgh, 1990) pp. 60-63, 138-141, 227, 251, 276; David Stevenson, The Scottish Revolution 1637-44 (Newton Abbot, 1973), pp. 197, 198, 209, 245-246, 294-295; David Stevenson, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Scotland 1644-1651 (Edinburgh 1977) pp. 103-114, 118-119, 263-270, 309; David Stevenson, Scots Covenanters and Irish Confederates (Belfast, 1981), pp. 104-119, 145-148, Appendix 4, p. 336; D. Warrand, Some Fraser Pedigrees (Inverness, 1934), pp. 2, 26; Laura A. M. Stewart, Rethinking the Scottish Revolution: Covenanted Scotland 1637 -1651, (Oxford 2016) pp. 9-14, 18-22, 234-236, 252-255, 259-261, 285-291. Robert Armstrong, Ireland’s Puritan Revolution? The Emergence of Ulster Presbyterianism Reconsidered, English Historical Review, Vol. CXXI (2007), pp. 1048-1074; Kevin Forkan, The Ulster Scots and The Engagement, Irish Historical Studies, Vol. (2007), pp. 455-476; Edward M. Furgol, ‘The Northern Highland Covenanter Clans’, Northern Scotland, Vol. 7 (1986-7),  pp. 119-131; Allan Kennedy, ‘A Heavy Yock upon their Necks: Covenanting Government in the Northern Highlands 1638-1651’, Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, Vol. 30 (2010) pp. 93-122;  D. Scott, ‘“The Northern Gentlemen”, the Parliamentary Independents, and Anglo-Scottish Relations in the Long Parliament’, Historical Journal, Vol. 42 (1999), pp. 347-75; John R. Young, The Scottish Parliament 1639-1661: A Constitutional and Political Analysis (Edinburgh, 1996), p. 197; Margaret D. Young, The Parliaments of Scotland: Burgh and Shire Commissioners (Edinburgh, 1993), I, p. 567.

 

This entry was kindly written for the database by David Selkirk.

Bishops Wars, English Civil War

Service record

SWEDEN, SWEDISH ARMY
Departed 1639-12-31, as MAJOR
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
STUART KINGDOMS, ARMY OF THE COVENANT, ARMY OF THE SOLEMN LEAGUE, MARSTON MOOR
Departed 1649-09-30, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY