THE remains of an unidentified headless woman at the centre of a mystery involving an infamous clan chief have been laid to rest.
Lord Lovat joined members of the Lovat Fraser family at Wardlaw Mausoleum in Kirkhill for a service to reinter the bones of the woman found in a coffin many had believed contained his ancestor, nicknamed the Old Fox.
He was the last man to be beheaded in Britain, in 1747, for supporting the Jacobite cause. Official records stated he was buried in the Tower of London but the clan maintained his body was spirited back to his homeland.
Forensic investigations last year, however, found the remains were mainly those of a woman plus four others including a young boy and an elderly man.
They have now been laid back to rest in a special casket which Lord Lovat helped to return to the family crypt during a service which included prayers by Father Maximilian Nwosu of St Mary’s RC Church in Beauly.
Reflecting afterwards on the ongoing mystery surrounding his ancestor Lord Lovat said: "Deep down I was pleased that the remains were not him.
"I like the idea of him being as elusive in death as he was in life."
Sarah Fraser, author of a biography on the Old Fox entitled The Last Highlander, also spoke at the service which was attended by representatives of the Inverness Outlander group.
"Many have been grubbing around these bones for the previous hundred years," she said.
"It is time she was laid to rest along with the others."
Mrs Fraser reflected that the woman, whoever she was and whenever she had been placed in the coffin, had been caught up in a political deception.
"We don’t need to disturb her any more to answer questions,” she said.
Although the woman's identity is likely to remain a mystery, Mrs Fraser and mausoleum custodian Erik Lundberg will travel to the Tower of London next month to access the crypt where it is said Lord Lovat is buried alongside two other lords who were Jacobite sympathisers.
An exhumation is unlikely, however.
“It is a world heritage site," she said. "I doubt whether a bunch of Lovat Frasers could go in with a a pick axe. I don’t think that is going to happen.”
As part of the ceremony at Wardlaw Mausoleum, Mrs Fraser's son, Calum, played Lord Lovat’s Lament on an old set of Lovat Fraser bagpipes.
Mr Lundberg felt the service had gone well.
“I am pleased to see this particular chapter coming to a close appropiately and fittingly and to be giving respect to the remains to whoever they belong,” he said.
But he remains keen to pursue answers regarding what happened to Lord Lovat and hopes the Tower of London may hold some clues.
“I am curious to see if there is some sort of memorial plaque in front of where the three lords were placed," he said.
“How feasible would it be to open up that recess, if we can gain permission from whoever to do so? The story is not over yet.”
Also present were Sinead Robertson, chairman, of 32-member Inverness Outlander Group, and its secretary Lisa Davies.
They explained the mausoleum had become an increasingly popular attraction for fans of the Outlander TV and book series by Diana Gabaldon. In the time-travelling adventures, the grandfather of one of the lead characters, Jamie Fraser, is the Old Fox.
Ms Robertson said she had been disappointed when it was announced the remains in the coffin were not those of Lord Lovat following a forensic examination by a team led by Dame Sue Black but remained philosophical.
"We now have another mystery," she reflected. "Is the woman a Fraser? Why was she placed in the coffin?”