Historian Dan Snow investigates mystery of headless 18th century skeleton
I was fascinated to hear that our good friend and sometime Clive Conway Production’s speaker Dan Snow is using his skills as an historian to help solve a 270-year-old mystery with a headless skeleton.
Top TV history expert Dan has been working with a team of scientists lead by Dame Professor Susan Black who hope to prove that the body discovered inside a lead casket in a Scottish mausoleum is that of the notorious 18th century clan chief Simon Fraser.
Fraser, who was known as the Old Fox, was the 11th Lord Lovat and an avid supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite rebellion, an allegiance that led to his execution at Tower Hill in London in 1747. It also gave him the dubious distinction of becoming the last person to be beheaded in the UK.
The execution didn’t go smoothly. A number of spectators were killed when the scaffold on which they had clambered for a better view collapsed.
It is said that Fraser thought this was hysterically funny and was taken to the execution block still chuckling at the fate of those who had regarded his death as a spectator sport. It is even suggested that this is the origin of the phrase ‘laughing your head off’.
However the most important thing to ascertaining is whether the headless remains are indeed those of the Old Fox. A forensic examination of the bones has been carried out and Dan, Prof Black and the team will be revealing the findings an event in Inverness later this month.