No Laughing Matter

What have the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, the Roman poet Horace, and the White Hart Hotel in St Albans got in common?  The answer is Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, who lived between 1667 and 1747.

The White Heart Hotel, St AlbansLovat was nicknamed “the Fox” owing to his feuding and frequent changes of allegiance. Despite outwardly maintaining his loyalty to King George 1, Lovat continued to agitate for the Stuarts to reclaim the Scottish throne. When Prince Charles Edward Stuart – Bonnie Prince Charlie – landed in Scotland in 1745 to gather support for his “Jacobite” Rebellion, Lovat  finally threw his support behind the Prince. The Jacobite army, lacking men, money and food, was defeated at the Battle of Culloden, and Lovat was eventually captured by government troops near Fort William.

What of the St Albans connection to Lord Lovat? Following his capture in 1746 Lovat was brought south for trial for high treason and was lodged overnight at the White Hart Hotel on Holywell Hill, his final halt before being taken to the Tower of London.

His trial in March, 1747, at Westminster Hall brought a guilty verdict and he was sentenced to death by beheading at Tower Hill. In fact, Lord Lovat has the dubious honour of being the last person to be executed by beheading in Britain.

As for the link with Horace, among Lovat`s last words was a quote from the Roman poet: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (it is sweet and right to die for one`s country).

Lovat even had the last laugh as he awaited execution on the gallows. It seems an overcrowded wooden stand collapsed leaving 9 spectators dead, which Lovat found highly amusing. The phrase “to laugh one`s head off” is said to be a reference to this sorry incident.


This article is part of our Celebrating St Albans History series. You can view all our historical facts on our Celebrating St Albans History page. If you have a historical fact you would like to add please let us know by using the contact form below or by emailing info@brethertonlaw.co.uk

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