|Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat by William Hogarth|
Today I have two posts on offer; one is a little piece on the matter of writing and the other is a somewhat more grisly affair. 9th April marks the anniversary of the death of Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat and the last man to be publicly executed in England as he met his maker on Tower Hill.
Lord Lovat lived a life of controversy and was not above double dealing and subterfuge to achieve his ambitions. When the Hanovers and Stuarts went head to head, Lovat played both sides like an expert but when the moment came to choose his colours, he made a fatal mistake and chose the Stuart cause.
A wanted man, Lovat was discovered hiding on an island in Loch Morar and arrested. With no time wasted the infirm and aged Lord Lovat was moved from Scotland and taken to London to face a trial that lasted less than a week. Age had caught up with the once fearsome character and left him unable to see or hear and barely able to walk or stand. His cunning, which had served him so well throughout his life, was no match for the English law and his conviction on a charge of treason was a forgone conclusion from the day his trial began.
The death sentence was passed on Lovat on 19th March 1747. He languished in prison until the appointed date of 9th April and then, with some difficulty due to his physical condition, he was conveyed from his cell to Tower Hill. At the block he was received by his executioner, John Thrift, and an enthusiastic audience keen to see the death of this notorious character.
An enormous crowd gathered to witness Lovat's execution and such was the scrum to get a good view that a bank of scaffolding collapsed beneath the weight of spectators, killing twenty people. This struck Lovat as singularly hilarious and he laughed uproariously before setting his head on the block, becoming the last man to be beheaded in England.