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Fraser, Alexander George, sixteenth Lord Saltoun of Abernethylocked

  • H. M. Stephens
  • , revised by James Lunt

Fraser, Alexander George, sixteenth Lord Saltoun of Abernethy (1785–1853), army officer, was the elder son of Alexander, fifteenth Lord Saltoun of Abernethy in the peerage of Scotland, and Margery, daughter and heir of Simon Fraser of Newcastle, a director of the East India Company. He was born in London on 22 April 1785, baptized at Marylebone, and educated at Eton College. On 13 September 1793 he succeeded his father when still a minor. He entered the army as an ensign in the 35th regiment on 28 April 1802, and was promoted lieutenant on 2 September of that year and captain on 7 September 1804. On 23 November 1804 he exchanged into the 1st, with which he served continuously for many years. In September 1806 he accompanied the 3rd battalion to Sicily, where it formed part of the guards brigade under Major-General Henry Wynyard, and in October 1807 he returned to England with it.

In September 1808 Saltoun again left England, as lieutenant and captain of the light company of the 3rd battalion of the 1st guards, and his battalion was one of the two comprising the guards brigade of Major-General Henry Warde which landed at Corunna, with the army under Sir David Baird. From Corunna Baird marched to meet Sir John Moore at Mayorga-de-Campos, and in the terrible winter retreat which followed the guards distinguished themselves by their good order. Saltoun was present throughout the severe campaign, and at the battle of Corunna with his light company. In 1809 his battalion formed part of Major-General Disney's brigade of guards in the Walcheren expedition, and in 1811 it was sent to Cadiz, but too late to be present at Barossa.

At the close of 1812 Saltoun joined the 1st battalion of his regiment with the main army before Burgos, and from that time he went through the Peninsular campaigns with the 1st brigade of guards. He commanded the light infantry company of his battalion throughout the campaigns of 1813 and 1814, and was present at the battle of Vitoria, the battle of the Pyrenees, the forcing of the Bidassoa, the battles of the Nivelle and the Nive, and at the operations before Bayonne, especially in the repulse of the sortie. He was promoted captain and lieutenant-colonel on 25 December 1813, and posted to the 3rd battalion, but as it was in England he obtained leave to continue to serve with Lord Wellington's army in the Peninsula. He returned to England, and joined his former battalion on the conclusion of peace in 1814.

On 6 March 1815 Saltoun married Catherine Thurlow (d. 9 July 1826), an illegitimate daughter of Edward, Lord Chancellor Thurlow, and in the following May he was again ordered on foreign service. At the battle of Quatre Bras he commanded the light companies of the 2nd brigade of guards, and at the battle of Waterloo he held the garden and orchard of Hougoumont against all the onslaughts of the French, while Sir James Macdonell of the Coldstream Guards held the farmhouse itself. Saltoun had four horses killed under him during this day's fighting, and lost two-thirds of his men. When the guards made their famous charge on the French old guard, the light companies were led on by Saltoun, who also received the sword of General Cambronne when he surrendered.

For his bravery in this great battle Saltoun was made a CB, a knight of the orders of Maria Theresa of Austria and of St George of Russia, and in 1818 he was made a KCB. He had been a representative peer of Scotland since 1807, and as a consistent tory he received the post of a lord of the bedchamber in 1821, in which year he was also made a GCH. On 27 May 1825 he was promoted colonel; in 1827 he became lieutenant-colonel commanding the 1st battalion of the Grenadier Guards, and on 10 January 1837 he was promoted major-general.

In 1841 Saltoun received the command of a brigade in the First Opium War under Sir Hugh Gough, which he commanded at the battle of Chinkiang (Zhenjiang) and in the advance on Nanking (Nanjing). On Gough's departure from China, Saltoun succeeded him in the command-in-chief of British troops there, a post which he held until 1843. For his services in the war he received the thanks of parliament, and in 1846 he was appointed colonel of the 2nd (or Queen's) regiment. He was promoted lieutenant-general in 1849, and made a KT in 1852.

Saltoun had a high reputation as a gallant soldier; Wellington once described him as a pattern to the army both as a man and a soldier. He was also an accomplished musician and a musical enthusiast, and was at the time of his death president of the Madrigal Society of London and chairman of the Musical Union. He died of dropsy at Auchroath, his shooting box near Rothes, on 18 August 1853, and was buried at Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire. He was succeeded as seventeenth Lord Saltoun by his nephew, Major Alexander Fraser.



  • U. Aberdeen L., family and military corresp. and papers
  • BL OIOC, letters to Lord Tweeddale, Ms Eur. F 96
  • NA Scot., letters to Lord Melville
  • TNA: PRO, letters to Ann Carter, J 90/946
  • TNA: PRO, letters to Henry Pottinger, FO 705
  • W. Sussex RO, letters to duke of Richmond


  • T. Lawrence, oils, 1809; formerly, United Service Club, London, in care of Crown Commissioners
  • C. Baugniet, lithograph, BM, NPG
  • W. Salter, group portrait, oils (Waterloo banquet at Apsley House), Wellington Museum, Apsley House, London
  • W. Salter, oils (study for Waterloo banquet at Apsley House), NPG
  • G. Zobel, mezzotint (after T. Lawrence), BM
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