Article by Marie Fraser, published in Canadian Explorer, March 2008
A constant figure in biographies of James Fraser, 2nd Bishop of Manchester (1818-85), was his brother Alexander who was the father of Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser who reached the highest military rank of any Fraser in history as Admiral of the Fleet and First Sea Lord. Historians have long speculated about the ancestry of Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser (1888-1981). So, who was General Alexander Fraser (1824-98) and Charlotte Monica Smith (1861-1946); and what do we know about them before the birth of their sons Cecil and Bruce?
Tracy Martin provided primary source material obtained from the National Archives and record offices throughout England, supplementing Ian Bell's British Library research. However, Fraser of North Cape: the life of admiral of the fleet, by Richard Humble, is the only full-length 'life' of Lord Fraser. Here is a summary, where Lord Fraser is quoted.
Bruce Austin Fraser - childhood with parents:
Fraser to Humble] "My father was the old fashioned sort. He told my
brother, who was the older one, 'You will go into the Army', and I would go into
the Navy. It was a very good thing really, you know... because you then didn't
have to sort out anything else." [p. 4]
Cecil & Bruce (in kilt), 1896
Cecil rose to Lt-Colonel in the Army; Bruce became Admiral of the Fleet.
to Humble's biography of Lord
Fraser, the latter's father was told to build a lighthouse on the Alguada Reef,
at the entrance of the Irrawaddy. Fraser admitted he didn't know anything
about lighthouses, and was told to go to England to study them, which is why he
returned home, and missed the Indian Mutiny.
is no microfilm and contemporaneous records were too fragile to be moved to the
reading room but a Library staff member copied pertinent data from Alexander’s
by General Sir James Law Lushington at recommendation of his mother; Addiscombe
cadet – season 1841/2 – Bengal Engineers; Educated at Messrs Stoton and
Mayor – Classical and mathematical education. No employment or commission in
Army or Navy previously. Late father – Captain RN; Mother resides in Exeter. Witness to signature on application form: William
Charlotte Monica Fraser, formerly Smith:
When Fraser returned to Britain in the summer of 1946, he learned that his mother had died.
"The news had a great effect on him," affirms Vernon Merry (Commodore Charles Vernon Merry (1922-86)]; "he didn't want to talk about it, but quietly arranged things so he could be alone for a few days... I think I knew him well enough to sense that during those few days he was reflecting that he was not only alone; he was, in a way, free, having had to look after her affairs all those years." [p. 299]
birth certificate for Bruce Austin Fraser established that he was born in
I am shocked, shaken to the roots of my hair. That wicked General Fraser,
ravishing young Monica, a lass from a good Catholic home.
Whatever did the Bishop say?”
strikes me that the General and Miss Smith were unmarried, living as husband and
wife, and did not quite know what to do when having to make a legal declaration.
I will never
regard a general in the same way!”
Monica was a daughter of John Stores Smith & his wife Caroline Akers.
In 1871 she was living in Newbold, Derbyshire with her parents, John
Stores Smith (42), born in
death of Charlotte Monica Fraser, East Molesey
was reported by C. Fraser. Hans Houterman in the
Fraser (24) and Caroline Rosetta Small (17) were married 11 March 1847 by J.
Vaughan, Chaplain. Witnesses: J. Frushard [her step-father] & D. Seaton [likely Douglas (later Colonel) Seaton (1810-60)].
The event took place at Subathu, where there were a number of key military
installations, owing to its strategic location in the
was the daughter of Beaumont Dixie Small, H.C. Assistant Surgeon (1803-31) &
Caroline Honora Pereira (1810-98), married 30 April 1829, after the birth of
Caroline Rosetta, who was baptized on their first wedding anniversary.
After her husband’s death, Caroline Honora married, 1 March 1834, Major
James Frushard of the 58th N.I. (1788-1847)
Rosetta and Alexander Fraser, Lieutenant, Bengal Engineers, had two sons
baptized in the Archdeaconry of Calcutta; Alexander Bruce Siddons and Campbell
Edward were beneficiaries in the Will of their uncle, James Fraser, Bishop of
Manchester, proved 13 November 1885.
Fraser was still in
1881 the family lived at The Carlylls, Rusper, Sussex. The household comprised Caroline (48), Alexander (30),
(28), rifle volunteer, and Caroline Honora Frushard (65). Caroline employed four
Edward Fraser married Gertrude, the daughter of George Augustus Pepper by his
first wife, Lady Helen Susannah Catherine Gertrude Ogilvy, who died in
1862, aged 30, shortly after arriving from India with the infant Gertrude. Lady Gertrude was a daughter of David, Earl of
Airlie, by his first wife Clementina Drummond of Keltie. Campbell Edward Fraser
and Gertrude Edith Pepper-Staveley had one daughter, Violet, born in
1887. She was a contemporary of her
uncles, Cecil and Bruce Austin Fraser.
1891 the family lived at 24 Marine Road, Broadwater, near Worthing,
1901 the family was at Byron Hall, Heene, near
McMahon, Assistant Librarian of Worthing Reference Library in Sussex, provided
the biography of Alexander B.S. Fraser from The
Worthing Gazette of 11 Nov 1896, stating:
Fraser will be assisted in his Mayoral duties by his sister-in-law Mrs. Campbell
Fraser, who is the only child of the late Mr. George Augustus P. Staveley and
Lady Gertrude Staveley, and grand-daughter of the ninth Earl of Airlie.
[Ed: Tracy pointed out that Gertrude’s family was Pepper until her father assumed the
name Pepper-Staveley; the latter appears on Gertrude’s marriage certificate. The
Worthing Gazette was wrong in referring to Gertrude’s mother as Lady
Gertrude Staveley. She never bore the Staveley name, which was assumed after
George Augustus Pepper took a second wife.]
Fraser’s death certificate shows he was about 85 years; the informant was G.
Campbell Fraser, sister-in-law.
following obituary is from The Times,
Aug 15, 1933:
Alexander Bruce Siddons Fraser, who died recently in St. George’s Hospital, in
his eighty-sixth year, was Mayor of Worthing in 1896-8, and Mayor of Hove from
1907-10… Captain Fraser was the elder son of General Alexander Fraser,
sometime member of the Viceroy’s Council in
Rosetta, writing as Mrs. Alexander Fraser, was certainly prolific, publishing
more than 20 books from Not While She
to A Modern Bridegroom (1893).
Other titles include A Maddening Blow (1877),
False Hearts and True (1879), Her Deserts
She Came Between (1888) and
The New Duchess, or, The Discarded Lover (1890).
know that Caroline was living in Mayfair
by the 1871 census and that from 1870, when the first of two Married Women’s
Property Acts was passed, women could retain earnings or property acquired after
marriage. Caroline Rosetta Fraser (née Small) died in 1908, surviving her
estranged husband by a decade, thus preventing Alexander Fraser from marrying
Charlotte Monica Smith.
There is no record that Caroline Rosetta Fraser left a Will.
Alexander Fraser would have been proud of his son Bruce, who eventually
outranked him. Lord Fraser of North Cape was no ordinary admiral; he reached the
rank of First Sea Lord; his Arms are displayed on a stained glass window at the House of
Lords within the
Martin noted: “Illegitimacy could never
overshadow his contribution to the Allied victory in the Pacific.”
quote Lady Saltoun on genealogy: “You
pay your money and you get the truth, whether you like it or not!”
Bell missed most of the excitement by going on safari to Botswana
and touring Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. However, after his return, Ian
visited Downham Grange, and took this photo of the General’s last resting
Bell spent numerous hours at the British Library, reading the biographies of
James Fraser 2nd Bishop of Manchester.
is interesting to note that Caroline Rosetta included a reference to Bishop
Fraser in her biography, although we know that she was born in India, as likely
was her mother Caroline Honora, leaving one to speculate about the following
(Mrs Alexander), novelist, lives in Sussex. Her first essays in writing were magazine stories and she has since written
about thirty, three volume novels… On her mother’s side she is related to
the ancient house of Dunboyne, and she is a connection of Thackery. Losing her
father at an early age, she went to India at fifteen and married Captain (later General) Alexander Fraser, for many years
Secretary to the Indian Government, and brother of the late Bishop Fraser.
(Pratt, A.T.C. People of the Period 2V 1897)
India Army and Civil Service List, published twice yearly in London
for the Government of India in the days of the Raj, was a directory which
included the names of all office holders. The
India Office List for 1889 included:
Alexander, General, C.B., R.E., - and lieutenant, Bengal Engineers, 8th
Dec., 1843; joined the public works department Sept., 1850, as executive
engineer, Lower Provinces; executive engineer, Arracan, 1853, and subsequently
at Rangoon; garrison engineer, presidency, Feb., 1856; under secretary to
government of India, public works department, 1859; superintendent, Alguada Reef
and other lighthouses, 1860; chief engineer, 2nd class, Feb., 1862;
officiating secretary to government of Bengal, and chief engineer, 1862; chief
engineer and secretary to chief commissioner, British Burma, Aug., 1867; chief
engineer, 1st class, Jan., 1873; chief engineer and secretary to
government of N.W. Provinces, May, 1871, to Jan., 1879; secretary to government
of India in the public works department, Jan., 1879, to Feb., 1882.
served his country for forty years, Fraser was known in
the British Library Annex, where newspapers are kept, the death of Charlotte
Monica was reported in The Times.
On April 4 1946 @ Moorcroft, Wolsey Road, East Molesey, after a long illness,
Charlotte Monica, beloved mother of Lt Col Cecil and Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser.
Cremation Thursday 11th Private.
“The omission of the words ‘widow of…’ suggests that Cecil and
Bruce knew their parents were not married.”
had sent a copy of the obituary for Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, published in The Times on 13/2/1981, noting that all it tells us about his
background is that he was born in Acton, and that he was unmarried. “I walked
past the Fraser memorial twice during the last three years, but the next time I
visit Portsmouth, I will make a point of stopping to view the statue of Admiral
Sir Bruce Fraser.”
This Feature page was posted Oct. 5, 2009; the original article was published in Canadian Explorer in March 2008
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