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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Laura Pollock

Russell Crowe reveals he is related to Jacobite lord whose 'death coined a phrase'

ACTOR Russell Crowe has revealed he is the distant relative of a notorious Jacobite Lord who was the last man to be executed by beheading in Britain.

The Gladiator star has been exploring his ancestry and said his research uncovered some surprising connections.

While he knew he had Scottish heritage, Crowe has recently discovered he is related to Simon Fraser, the 11th Lord Lovat – known as the Old Fox.

Known for his scheming plots and switching sides to and fro between the government and Jacobite causes, Lovat's clan was eventually among those defeated at the battle of Culloden in 1746 and he was executed the following year.

Fans of the Outlander novels and TV series will recognise him as the grandfather of the lead character Jamie Fraser (below).

On X/Twitter, Crowe said he had begun by trying to trace his Italian roots, something made difficult by “folkloric family tales and misspelling”.

He discovered his great-great-grandfather Luigi Ghezzi had moved to New Zealand in 1864 after meeting Mary Ann Curtain in Cape Town.

The 59-year-old actor added: “Also something else that has recently come to light on my father's mother's side, via John (Jock) Fraser (arrived in NZ in 1841) we directly connect back to Simon Fraser. 11th Lord Lovat. Look him up.

“He’s quite the character. The Old Fox they used to call him.

“Seems his Machiavellian ways caught up to him at the age of 80, & he has a claim to infamy as the last man to have the head chopped off his living body in the Tower of London. His death even coined a phrase.

“Apparently, they set up temporary stands for the gentry to watch him die. One of these stands collapsed which resulted in the death of nine onlookers. Being told this just before he was put to death made him laugh.

“He was still laughing when the blade struck his neck, thereby ‘laughing his head off’.”

Crowe also said his DNA suggested a strong Irish link, but he is currently uncertain where exactly this comes from.

The 11th Lord Lovat’s execution at Tower Hill in London drew huge crowds.

He had sided with Bonnie Prince Charlie during the 1745 Jacobite rising and was sentenced to death for treason.

Crowe has previously taken an interest in Scottish history. He is a supporter of the Clanranald Trust which has created the Duncarron fort near Denny, an authentic replica of a medieval stronghold.

The Australian actor donated a battering ram from the film Robin Hood to the fort.

In 2018, forensic experts were called in to try and identify if remains removed from a Highland crypt were those of the 11th Lord Lovat.

While official records stated he had been buried beneath the floor of a chapel in the Tower of London, his clan believed his remains had been “intercepted” and returned to Scotland.

However Professor Dame Sue Black determined the remains at Wardlaw Mausoleum were those of a woman and not the “Old Fox”.

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