Flora MacDonald

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A Jacobite folk heroine of Scotland. The savior of Bonnie Prince Charlie after his doomed failure to bring glory back to Scotland. Mystery, romance, and patriotism swirl around Flora MacDonald, but really this simple young woman was a good samaritan just trying to help a fella out.

Born in 1722 on the isle of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, her father died when she was young and her mother was abducted and married to a MacDonald of Skye. She was described as a woman of soft features, gentle manners, kind soul and elegant presence.a1a6a2380ae04f4cf4c310f808951069 In 1745 the Jacobites sought to restore the Stewart dynasty to the throne of England, and after months of fighting the dream was destroyed on the boggy battlefield of Culloden moor. The Highland culture was to rise no more and the valiant Bonnie Prince Charlie, upon whom the rebellion surrounded, was forced to flee for his life from the vengeful English. Arriving on the Outer Hebrides island of Benbecula, the prince encountered Flora who graciously offered to see him to safety after some initial hesitation due to her step-father and fiancee belonging in the Hanovarian army. She disguised the prince as her Irish spinning maid, Betty Burke, and found a boat to take them to the isle of Skye, but upon arrival the boat crew grew suspicious and Flora was arrested and brought to London. After a short imprisonment in the Tower of London, she was allowed to live outside of it due to good behavior under the watchful eye of a gaoler. She was released in 1747 by the Act of Indemnity which pardoned all those supporting the Jacobite cause. She later told the Prince of Wales who came to ask why she dared to assist his father’s enemies that her aiding the prince was an acted of charity and would have done the same if it were the duke himself in such distress.

Flora MacDonald's grave

Flora MacDonald’s grave

A few years later, she married, had a family, and moved to North Carolina America to escape her husband’s mounting debt as the War of Independence was kicking off. Ironically, her husband served with the British. Flora grew homesick and in 1779 she found herself sailing over the seas to Skye. Her ship was attacked by a privateer, but she refused to go below deck and was wounded in the arm. The years flew by in her beloved homeland until at the ripe age of 68, surrounded by her children, she died peacefully.

 

Trivia:

– Bonnie Prince Charlie was said to have given her a locket with his portrait

-Her body was wrapped and laid to rest in a sheet that BPC slept in

– Her funeral was attended by 3,000 mourners who between them drank 300 gallons of whisky

– The Skye Boat Song immortalizes her daring escape with the prince

– Has a cameo in my novel At Long Lass

 

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