Flora MacDonald



Flora MacDonald (1725-1790)

Flora MacDonald
Flora was born at Milton on South Uist where her father was a tenant farmer.  She completed her schooling in Edinburgh and was visiting her brother in South Uist during the summer of 1746 when asked to assist Charles Edward Stuart, known as "Bonnie Prince Charles".
Charles Edward Stuart
On April 16, 1746 Culloden Moor (about 6 miles East of Inverness) was the scene of an historic battle in the Scottish Jacobite rebellion led by the pretender to the British throne, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, who was attempting to depose George II, King of Great Britain.  The battle resulted in a total rout of Charles Edward's army, consisting of about 7,000 Highlanders, by a force of 9,000 British regulars led by the British military leader and son of George II, William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765)


It has been said that there was a brief romance between Bonnie Prince Charles and Flora MacDonald of Benbecula during that summer of 76.  For two months Charles, being on the run after defeat at Culloden, had been jumping from hiding place to hiding place in the Outer Isles before he and Flora met.  Now had it not been for a kinswoman of Flora's the two may never have met at all.
There are three ways of regarding the Prince of Scotland;  there were the heart-loyal people who believed implicitly in father's Divine Right to be King and were prepared to spill their last drop of blood for him;  there were those who found the whole escapade frightening and unsettling after 30 years of Hanovers and either fought firmly against the Jacobites or subscribed to letters of gratitude and hero-worship sent in their name to the man others called 'Butcher Cumberland';  the third group were honest people, content enough with the stodgy Georges who had given them a kind of peace, people who had kin serving in their armies or in the King's Government, but who would not have sent to death a bonnie Stuart beauty like the Pretender Prince, not for all the ransom money offered by their government.
Now Flora was not pinning away for the Bonnie Prince but was deeply in love with her husband to be Allen MacDonald who was a redcoat officer throughout the campaign.  Both her fiance' and her  foster-father, Captain Hugh MacDonald of Sleat, were members of King George's army.  But Flora would have never seen the Prince betrayed even though she had no sympathy for the Jacobites.  It came about one day that Flora was asked to do more than "not betray".  It seemed to those on the inside that she would be the most likely young woman on the island to guide Charles on the next stage of his journey to find refuge on the mainland.
When a Captain of the Troop first approached her she prudently refused.  
"I wish the Prince no ill, and would like to see him safe.  But I cannot join a plot like that for there are those of the King's men that are my kin."
The Captain replied, "But it is your very own Foster-Father who has thought of this plan to have the Prince taken safely to Skye."
Knowing how kindly a man was her Foster-Father, Flora believed that indeed he would be behind such a plan as this.  Not only that but she could see the disquiet that the Prince's presence had brought to Benbecula and knowing surely if he were gone away things would once again return to normal.
"What will be thought of me if I spend so much time alone with the Prince?" asked Flora, not really bothered by it but knowing people would talk.
"I will have Neil MacDonald attend you, but if you fear of your reputation Ma'am, I will wed you before the escape.  I would do this for my Prince; though it would be no hardship or so great a punishment Ma'am." the Captain said gallantly.
Laughing, Flora said, "That sacrifice will not be necessary Sir but... " thinking of Allan, she hesitated and said no more on the matter.
"Your kinswoman Miss Allie MacDonald was also asked but she dare not serve the Prince, I thought you had more spirit than that Ma'am." said the Captain.  And that was all that Flora needed to hear!
The Prince was to be disguised in a frock as "Betty Burke" an Irish maidservant.  Flora thought the scheme "fantastical" but was persuaded to go ahead.  June 20th 1746 was the day that the young Prince and Flora finally met and after a week of hiding on the 27th Miss Flora MacDonald, Neil MacDonald and the strange looking "Betty Burke" made the famous journey by rowing a boat to Skye evading capture on the way and eventually landing between Uig and Mogstad in Kilmuir, at what is now called Rudha Phrionnsa (Prince's Point).  They hid overnight in a cottage and then traveled, over the next few days, overland to Portree, at one point avoiding some redcoat troops.
Before he left for the island of Raasay and a ship to France, the Prince gave Flora a locket with his portrait, saying "I hope, madam, that we may meet in St James's yet".  He sailed on the French privateer L'Heureux on September 20, 1746.  She never saw him again.
Flora was arrested and imprisoned in Dunstaffnage Castle, Oban and briefly in the Tower of London.  She was released in 1747 under a general amnesty.
In 1750 Flora married her fiance and kinsman, Allan MacDonald of Kingsburgh and lived in Flodigarry.   Later, after the death of her husbands father, they moved to Kingsburgh.
She met Samuel Johnson, the English essayist during his tour of Scotland.  Johnson described her as "a woman of middle stature, soft features, elegant manners and gentle presence."
Flora MacDonald MarkerShe later emigrated to North Carolina near Cross Creek with her husband and family.  While being successful farmers in 1774 Allen and his sons joined a regiment of Highlanders supporting the Hanoverians at the beginning of the American War of Independence.  
He was captured at the battle of Moore's Creek in 1776 and after a time in captivity was expelled to Nova Scotia.
Flora was persuaded to return  to Scotland with her daughter.  Her husband, upon his release in 1783, followed her to Scotland and they lived together on Uist and Skye.
Flora MacDonald MonumentOn the 4th of March, 1790 she died in the same bed in which Bonnie Prince Charles had slept.  Her death was deeply mourned by the people of Skye and following a large funeral she was buried at Kilmuir in a sheet in which the Prince had slept as her shroud.


The information contained in this web page has been compiled from many sources, including other web sites.  Credit is therefore given to others who have spent their time and effort. 


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