Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat (1667/8–1747)
Although the vast majority of portrait prints in the Fitzwilliam Museum come from collection of John Charringon (Honorary Keeper of Prints from 1909 until his death in 1939), this month’s print was presented to the museum in 1947 by another print enthusiast, Dr Louis Colville Grey Clarke (1881-1960). Louis Clarke was director of the Fitzwilliam Museum from 1937 until retirement in 1946, at which point he was appointed Honorary Keeper of Prints. He donated prints every year from 1938 until his death in 1960, bringing the total to almost 2,000. Clarke was especially keen to augment the collection of mezzotint prints, which had begun with Lord Fitzwilliam and had continued with John Charrington. Clark used the museum’s six-volume set of John Chaloner Smith’s British Mezzotinto Portraits, annotated by Charrington, to acquire still further impressions of mezzotint portraits. In 1947 he contributed £200 to buy 384 mezzotints from the “celebrated collection” of Charles E. Russell. This was an important collection, as it contained rare and interesting states that Russell had used to compile a follow-up catalogue to Chaloner-Smith’s volumes. Russell’s supplement was intended to be used in conjunction with those of his predecessor, composed as it is of corrections and additions to their contents. As well as adding to the list of prints and states of prints not seen by Chaloner-Smith, Russell corrected biographical information and spelling mistakes. This month’s print is one of the corrected entries. It is a portrait of Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat (1667/8-1747). Chaloner-Smith had listed just one plate with two states, but Russell amended this to two separate plates, each with two states. This is first plate, which shows the sitter three-quarter length within an oval frame wearing armour, a lace cravat and a long wig. In the second plate (P.193-1947) the format and composition are similar, but Lovat appears much older.
Lovat was a highland chief of the Clan Fraser. In 1745 he was one of the men who invited James Stuart, The Old Pretender (son of deposed king James II), to land in Scotland. In 1689 the Glorious Revolution had turned out Catholic James II from the throne and brought his Protestant daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange from the Netherlands as joint monarchs. Many in Scotland did not recognise the new king and queen as legitimate sovereigns. In 1715 there had been a Jacobite Rebellion to bring The Old Pretender back to the throne as James III (and James VIII of Scotland). In 1745 the Pretender’s eldest son, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, or, Bonnie Prince Charlie (see P.790-1948, also scraped by John Simon), was encouraged to lead another attempt to reclaim the throne. Lovat promised his men to help fight, but following the resounding defeat at Culloden, he was found hiding in a tree and brought to London to be tried.
Lovat’s execution, which took place on 9 April 1947, is notable for his advanced age, the deaths of onlookers caused by the collapse of a viewing scaffold, and the fact that he is the last person in the country to have been publicly beheaded. He was buried near the Tower of London with other traitors, contrary to his wishes.
Lovat's appearance was described by the Gentleman's Magazine:
Lord Lovat makes an odd figure… he is tall, walks very upright considering his great age, and is tolerably well shaped; he has a large mouth and a short nose, with eyes very much contracted and down-looking, a very small forehead, almost all covered with a large periwig; this gives him a grim aspect, but upon addressing any one he puts on a smiling countenance.
Lovat possessed great charm, winning over royalty and politicians alike, but one person he failed to charm was William Hogarth, who met the Scottish chieftain when he was brought to St Albans after his capture. Hogarth’s etching, which verges on caricature, is better known than these mezzotint portraits by John Simon. The portrait, distinctly less flattering than John Simon’s formal portrayals, shows Lovat counting on his fingers the clans that fought in the rebellion P.4762-R
Museum Number P.192-1947