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The Trial of Lord Lovat

After the Battle of Culloden, government forces spent several weeks searching for rebels, including Lord Lovat, confiscating cattle and burning non-juring Episcopalian and Catholic meeting houses.The brutality of these measures was driven by a widespread perception on both sides that another landing was imminent. Government forces struggled to catch the rebels, partly because there were no proper maps of Scotland, and the fact that Lord Lovat escaped capture for a while as a result of this led to the creation of the Ordnance Survey, that we still have today.

During the post-Culloden search for Jacobites, John Ferguson, commander of the Royal Navy vessel Furnace, received information Lovat was hiding on the island of Loch Morar, where he was arrested on 7 June. Lodged in the Tower of London, Simon awaited his trial for high treason which began in March 1747. The trial at Westminster Hall took seven days, with the first five consisting of evidence against the accused. On the sixth day he spoke in his defence, but the result was a foregone conclusion, and the guilty verdict passed at the end of the day. On the final day, his punishment of a traitor's death by hanging, drawing and quartering was announced, which was later commuted by the King to beheading.

The day of his execution, 9 April 1747, saw many spectators arrive at Tower Hill, and an overcrowded timber stand collapsed, leaving nine spectators dead, which made Lovat laugh aloud at the ridiculous irony of it all. His laughter at this incident, even as he was being executed, is said to be the origin of the phrase "to laugh one's head off" as that is what he literally did, and for exhibiting that amount of style his trial is worth a read. Among his last words was a line of Horace: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (Latin: "It is sweet and seemly to die for one's country"). He died, in his own eyes, as a Scottish patriot, and you can read about his trial below. 

pdfPreliminary proceedings3.76 MB
pdfFirst day of evidence against the accused7.5 MB (up to examination of witnesses)
pdfRemainder of the evidence against the accused 4.58 MBincluding examination of witnesses
pdfNominal defence3.69 MB
pdfVerdict926.01 KB
pdfSentence3.42 MB

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