Flora MacDonald


Flora MacDonald was a popular Scottish hero, most famous for her role in helping Prince Charles Edwards to escape from the clutches of the Hanoverians after the failed Jacobite rising of 1745. She was born on an island in the Outer Hebrids. Her father died when she was a child, and her mother was abducted and married by Hugh Macdonald of Armadale. She was brought up under the care of the chief of her clan, Macdonald of Clanranald, and was partly educated in Edinburgh.

In June 1746 she was living in Benbecula in the Hebrides when Prince Charles Edward took refuge there after the battle of Culloden. The prince's companion, Captain O'Neill, sought her help. The island was held for the government by the local militia, but the secret sympathies of the Macdonalds were with the Jacobite cause. After some hesitation Flora promised to help. At a later period she told the duke of Cumberland, son of George III. and commander-in-chief in Scotland, that she acted from charity and would have helped him also if he had been defeated and in distress. The commander of the militia in the island, a Macdonald, who was probably admitted into the secret, gave her a pass to the mainland for herself, a manservant, an Irish spinning maid, Betty Burke, and a boat's crew of six men. The prince was disguised as Betty Burke. After a first repulse at Waternish, the party landed at Portree. The prince was hidden in a cave while Flora Macdonald found help for him in the neighbourhood, and was finally able to escape. He had left Benbecula on the 27th of June. The talk of the boatmen brought suspicion on Flora. Macdonald, and she was arrested and brought to London. After a short imprisonment in the Tower, she was allowed to live outside of it, under the guard of a "messenger" or gaoler. When the Act of Indemnity was passed in 1747 she was left at liberty. Her courage and loyalty had gained her general sympathy, which was increased by her good manners and gentle character. Dr Johnson, who saw her in 1773, describes her as "a woman of soft features, gentle manners and elegant presence."

In 1750 she married Allen Macdonald of Kingsburgh, and in 1773 they emigrated to America. In the War of Independence he served the British government and was taken prisoner. In 1779 his wife returned home in a merchant ship which was attacked by a privateer. She refused to leave the deck during the action, and was wounded in the arm. She died on the 5th of March 1790. Flora Macdonald had a large family of sons, who mostly entered the army or navy, and two daughters.

— Derived from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

Key events during the life of Flora MacDonald:

Birth of Flora MacDonald in Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Young pretender lands in Scotland, attempts to raise a Jacobite Rebellion.
Jacobites suffer a crushing defeat at Culloden, the young pretender is driven into hiding.
Flora is approached by the fugitive prince and offers to help him escape.
Flora is arrested for her role in helping the Prince escape, but later released.
Flora marries and moves to the American Colonies
Flora sides with the British during the war of Independence.
Flora returns to Scotland
Death of Flora MacDonald

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Bonnie Prince Charlie  in  The Hanoverians  by  C. J. B. Gaskoin
George II—The Story of Flora MacDonald  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall
George II.—Prince Charles Came Home  in  Scotland's Story  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Flight of Prince Charles  in  Historical Tales: English  by  Charles Morris

Short Biography
Young Pretender Grandson of James II, led Jacobites in bid to restore Stuarts to the throne of England.