Outlander Season 6: Who is Bonnie Prince Charlie? Did Flora MacDonald help him escape Scotland? Skye Boat Song explained
Mark me: Bonnie Prince Charlie is back in Outlander!
Andrew Grover reprised his role as the flamboyant character in Season 6 episode 5 ‘Give Me Liberty’.
Now a fugitive, the prince was helped to flee Scotland by Flora MacDonald, played by Shauna MacDonald.
But who was Bonnie Prince Charlie in real life, was Flora MacDonald a real person, and did he really escape Scotland dressed as a woman? And what is his connection to the Skye Boat Song?
Here’s the true story behind the intriguing Scottish prince.
Who was the real Bonnie Prince Charlie? True story behind Outlander character
Charles Edward Stuart, also known as the Young Pretender and Bonnie Prince Charlie, was a claimant to the throne of Great Britain and Ireland.
The eldest son of the exiled James Stuart, and the Catholic grandson of James II of England (James VII of Scotland), Bonnie Prince Charlie played a key role in the Jacobite uprising of 1745.
His forces were famously defeated by the British army at the Battle of Culloden, a pivotal event which changed the face of Scotland.
In the battle’s aftermath, there was a crackdown on Jacobites and their sympathisers, with many facing imprisonment, persecution and execution.
The English were back in control of Scotland, and the Act of Proscription in 1746 outlawed the playing of bagpipes, clan tartans, and speaking Gaelic.
How did Bonnie Prince Charlie escape Scotland? Did Flora MacDonald help?
Bonnie Prince Charlie survived the Battle of Culloden and fled to the western coast of Scotland, assisted by his loyal supporters.
From Arisaig, the prince sailed to the Outer Hebrides, hopping from Benbecula to Harris and Stornaway, before arriving on the Isle of Skye.
It was at Skye that Flora MacDonald disguised him as an Irish maid named Betty Burke – though it’s said another companion told him to remove the outfit as it was too conspicuous.
The prince travelled on to the Scottish isle of Raasay and eventually made his way to France.
Origins of the Outlander Skye Boat song explained
This is where history gets even more interesting. The Skye Boat song which we’ve grown so used to listening to at Outlander’s theme is actually about Bonnie Prince Charlie.
The song was written by Sir Harold Boulton and Anne Campbelle MacLeod in the 1870s to commemorate the Prince’s journey after the Battle of Culloden.
It was adapted by Robert Louis Stevenson to the lyrics we know today: “Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
“Say, could that lad be I? Merry of soul he sailed on a day, over the sea to Skye.”
This is most likely why the Outlander theme song has reverted the lyrics back to a “lad” rather than “lass” for Season 6.
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