Scotlands History

Flora Macdonald

Flora MacDonald became a Jacobite heroine when she helped Charles Edward Stuart, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, to evade capture. She grew up in the household of the chief of the MacDonalds of Clanranald, supporters of the Jacobite cause. 

In 1746, after defeat at the Battle of Culloden, the fugitive Charles Edward Stuart arrived on Benbecula. He was being hunted down by the Hanovarians. Flora was 24-years-old when she was asked by the Jacobite Captain O'Neill to help Charles to escape. 

After a little hesitation Flora decided to help the Prince. She managed to get a pass to travel from the Outer Hebrides to the mainland from Hugh MacDonald (her stepfather and commander of the local militia). Flora was permitted to take two servants and a crew of six boatmen.  

Charles Edward Stuart was disguised as Betty Burke, an Irish spinning maid. They sailed from Benbecula to Skye in a small boat on 27 June 1746.  

Flora MacDonald was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Charles Edward Stuart sailed to France. Flora was released in 1747 and was married three years later. She emigrated to North Carolina with her husband and raised a family. In 1779 she returned to Scotland. The merchant ship she sailed on was attacked by privateers and Flora was injured when she refused to take shelter below deck. 

Flora MacDonald died in 1790 and was buried on the Isle of Skye. Romantic Jacobite legends were told of young Flora and the handsome Prince Charlie, and the Skye Boat Song was published in 1884, recalling the Prince’s escape.

  • Chalk sketch of Flora Macdonald, holding a flag, with flowers in her hair

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