SHE was around 25-years-old when she died, a young woman living in turbulent times when violence and disease stole many lives long before their time.

She would, of course, have had a name; perhaps loved ones – children, maybe - who tearfully mourned her loss; acquaintances who may have missed her smile or suddenly realised she was no longer around.

But precisely who she was - and how her headless remains ended up within a lead casket bearing the name of a Jacobite lord whose wily ways earned him the nickname ‘The Old Fox’ - seem destined to remain at the heart of a 270-year-old conundrum.

The mysterious woman’s bones were found in a coffin believed to contain the remains of Simon Fraser 11th Lord Lovat, a supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite cause, and the last man to be beheaded in Britain.

Official accounts have always claimed the 80-year-old clan chief, notorious for changing sides and double-dealing, was buried at the Tower of London shortly after his execution in 1747. However, his supporters and clan maintained his body was intercepted and spirited home in a gesture of defiance and in a bid to inspire Jacobite followers.

The claim has fascinated and intrigued down the centuries, lending an intriguing twist to a Jacobite story already steeped in treason and high drama. Indeed, such is the endurance of the 11th Lord Lovat’s real-life character that he makes a fictional appearance in modern day drama, in television time travel series Outlander. In the series Lord Lovat is the grandfather of key character Jamie Fraser.

The real life Lovat story was set to take a dramatic turn of its own earlier this year after renowned forensic anthropologist Dame Professor Sue Black of Dundee University's Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification was called in to inspect the remains within what was believed to be his casket in a mausoleum in Kirkhall, near Inverness.

Her findings confirmed the remains to be those of a headless young woman plus four others, including an elderly man and a child.

With the mystery still unsolved, preparations are now underway to reinter the remains in the crypt at the Wardlaw Mausoleum in Kirkhill. The service will be attended by Lovat Fraser family members.

However, far from a routine event to return long dead remains to a place of rest, Sarah Fraser, who married into the clan and wrote an acclaimed biography on the Old Fox entitled The Last Highlander, says the service is likely to be a particularly moving reminder of how easily historic events can envelope ‘ordinary’ people.

“It’s moving, it’s someone who was private person who collided with big history, and that’s something that can happen to anyone.

“That, to me, creates emotional heat and will make it a moving event.

“I’m not sure whether we will ever know who she is, whether she was put into the coffin in London or in Inverness or what happened to cause her death. So, it is quite tragic.”

It brings to a conclusion one chapter in the intriguing and fascinating story of ‘The Old Fox’ whose death – along with the other Jacobite lords – dealt a final blow to the cause.

On the other, it opens up renewed speculation over whether his remains are, indeed, within the confines of The Tower or elsewhere in Scotland. And, of course, who was buried in his casket.

Adding fuel to the mystery is the 11th Lord’s own double-dealing and devious character, which saw him flip-flop between the House of Hanover and the Jacobite movement in a bid to lever his own status and gain more power for his own clan.

Fiercely ambitious, he tried to inspire a Jacobite uprising in 1703 only to betray the cause after sharing details of the plan with Queen Anne’s government.

During the 1715 uprising he wrote to both sides in a bid to establish which might offer him the greatest advantage.

He later sent messages of support to both sides prior to Culloden in 1746. The offer of a Stuart dukedom in the event of a Jacobite victory was persuasive and he gathered his followers to support Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Around 300 Clan Fraser men were killed during the battle.

Lord Lovat then attempted to flee to France only to be found by government troops hiding in a hollow tree on an island in Loch Morar, near Mallaig.

He was put on trial in London and executed but not before the stand built for spectators collapsed, leaving 20 dead.

While official records claimed he was buried in the floor of the Tower chapel, St Peter ad Vistula, Ms Fraser says there were certainly opportunities for his body to be spirited away.

“The body was put on display by the undertaker and people were charged to see it,” she explains. “Some would be there to say ‘good riddance’ and others to pat the body and say ‘it’s not over yet’.”

She added: “What this does is take us all back to the mindset of people in 1747. Presumably the Jacobites put this young woman’s body into the coffin, so it makes you wonder if she was put there for a political reason and as a rallying point for Jacobite supporters.

“It forces you back in time to think why would someone do that?

“So this woman then takes on a very symbolic role.”

The condition of the remains are so poor that little information has been recovered concerning her family background or how she met her end. However, DNA recovery is being attempted to see if she has links to the Fraser family.

As for the other four people’s remains, it’s thought they were simply graveyard skeletal parts which may have resurfaced and required reburial.

Ms Fraser says the reinternment service will be a chance to pay respects to a mystery woman who somehow ended up playing her own bit-part of a historical drama that’s far more intriguing than any fictional television series.

“I watched Professor Black work with the remains and saw the utter respect she had. She said that what was human is human still and needs to be treated as such. That has stayed with me.”

She said the reinternment service on August 23 would have an air of dignity and include prayers for the dead led by Father Maximilian Nwosu of St Mary’s RC Church in Beauly. Her son will also play a lament on Lovat Fraser pipes.

“Many people die leaving an awful lot of questions,” she added. “With this woman we don’t even know her name. Closure is elusive but it has to be enough to let someone rest peacefully.”