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Updated 06/19/2020

 


Flora MacDonald
 

Flora MacDonald was a member of the Macdonalds of Sleat, who helped Charles Edward Stuart evade government troops after the Battle of Culloden in April 1746.

Flora was born in 1722 at Milton on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides, third and last child of Ranald MacDonald (d. 1723) and his second wife Marion. Her father was a member of the minor gentry, being tacksman and leaseholder of Milton and Balivanich; she had two brothers, Angus, who later inherited the Milton tack and Ronald, who died young.

Her father died soon after her birth and in 1728, her mother remarried Hugh MacDonald of Armadale, Skye. Flora was brought up by her father's cousin, Sir Alexander MacDonald of Sleat and suggestions she was educated in Edinburgh have not been confirmed. While some MacDonalds remained Catholic, particularly in the Islands, her family was part of the Presbyterian majority.

Flora was visiting Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides when Prince Charles and a small group of aides took refuge there after the Battle of Culloden in June 1746. One of his companions, Captain Conn O'Neill from County Antrim, was distantly related to Flora and asked for her help.

MacDonald of Sleat had not joined the Rebellion and Benbecula was controlled by a pro-government militia commanded by Flora's step-father, Hugh MacDonald. This connection allowed her to obtain the necessary permits but she apparently hesitated, fearing the consequences for her family if they were caught. She may have been taking less of a risk than it appears; witnesses later claimed Hugh advised the Prince where to hide from his search parties.

Passes were issued allowing passage to the mainland for Flora, a boat's crew of six men and two personal servants, including Charles disguised as an Irish maid called Betty Burke. On 27 June, they landed near Sir Alexander's house at Monkstadt, near Kilbride, Skye. In his absence, his wife Lady Margaret arranged lodging with her steward, MacDonald of Kingsburgh, who told Charles to remove his disguise, as it simply made him more conspicuous. The next day, Charles was taken from Portree to the island of Raasay; Flora remained on Skye and they never met again.

Two weeks later, the boatmen were detained and confessed; Flora and Kingsburgh were arrested and taken to the Tower of London. After Lady Margaret interceded on her behalf with the chief Scottish legal officer, Duncan Forbes of Culloden, she was allowed to live outside the Tower under the supervision of a "King's Messenger" and released after the June 1747 Act of Indemnity. Aristocratic sympathizers collected over 1,500 for her, one of the contributors being Frederick, Prince of Wales, heir to the throne; Flora allegedly told him she helped Charles out of charity and would have done the same for him.

She later married Allan MacDonald and the couple immigrated to North Carolina in 1773. Their support for the British government during the American War of Independence meant the loss of their American estates and they returned to Scotland, where Flora died in 1790.