The Woman Who Saved Bonnie Prince Charlie

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“…a name that will be mentioned in history, and if courage and fidelity be virtues, mentioned with honour.”

Engraved on Flora MacDonald’s memorial at Kilmuir

Bonnie Prince Charlie Monument, Glenfinnan, Scotland

Bonnie Prince Charlie Monument, Glenfinnan, Scotland 

Fionnghal NicDhòmhnaill was her Gaelic name, but most will know her as Flora MacDonald. She lost her father, Ranald MacDonald, at a young age and saw her mother abducted by and married to Hugh MacDonald of Armadale, Skye.  From that moment on she was under the care of the chief of her clan, The MacDonalds of Clanranald.

June 1746, Flora was 24 years old and living on the island of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides.  As fate would decree, she was in the right place, at the right time for the right reason.  Bonnie Prince Charlie took refuge on that very island after the disastrous Battle of Culloden.  The Hanoverian government had a firm control of the local militia, but the MacDonalds were secret supporters of the Jacobite cause. Captain O’Neill, the prince’s companion, asked for Flora’s assistance.

The escape was simple, yet brilliant.  Flora’s stepfather, Hugh MacDonald provided a pass to the mainland for Flora,  a manservant, an Irish maid, Betty Burke, and six men to crew a boat.  Bonnie Prince Charlie was Betty Burke.  They managed to reach Kilbride, on the Isle of Skye where Flora arranged for help in the neighbourhood.  The prince escaped, but Flora was arrested and imprisoned for a short time in the Tower of London.

Flora MacDonald lived to see many adventure on both sides of the Atlantic.  Yet, she will always be known, first and foremost, as the woman who saved Bonnie Prince Charlie.

 

The Skye Boat Song recounts the daring escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie, disguised as an Irish women. Continue reading

Blàr Chùil Lodair

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‘Will ye no come back again’

 Scottish lament after Charles Edward Stuart returned to France following the failure of the 1745 uprising.

Culloden Moor

Culloden Moor

Blàr Chùil Lodair, The Battle of Culloden was the final skirmish of the 1745 Jacobite Rising under the command of Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie.  It was the House of Stuart against the House of Hanover for the restoration of the Stuart line to the British Throne.  Without the benefit of military experience and ignoring the advice of his commander, George Murray, Bonnie Prince Charlie chose to fight on open marshy land that fateful day of April 16, 1746. His forces consisted mostly of Scottish Highlanders, along with a few Lowland Scots and a small detachment of Englishmen from the Manchester Regiment.  The fight was quick, bloody and decisive. Charles Stuart returned to France, defeated, never to return again to Scotland.

The Highlands lost many brave men that day.  The relentless pursuit of remaining Jacabites and the Act of 1747, in reaction to the Jacobite rebellion would be equally catastrophic.  Every attempt was made to destroy the clan system of society across the Highlands, including banning the wearing of the tartan and carrying weapons.  There was an understanding that the Highland Pipes, although not specifically mentioned in the new laws, were outlawed as well.

The Clans

Music defines a society’s values and traditions; lyrics and tunes can be used as a rallying call to action.  The Highland Bagpipes endured as a testament to the resilience and courage of a people who would not forget their heritage.

Bonnie Charlie’s now awa’,
Safely owre the friendly main;
Mony a heart will break i’ twa,
Should he no’ come back again.

Chorus:
Will ye no come back again?
Will ye no come back again?
Better lo’ed ye canna be,
Will ye no come back again?

The Memory

The Memory