On this day 1790: Flora MacDonald dies

Flora MacDonald (1722-1790). Picture: Creative Commons
Flora MacDonald (1722-1790). Picture: Creative Commons
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44 YEARS after her famous act of kindness aided Bonnie Prince Charlie escape capture, Flora MacDonald passed away on the Isle of Skye.

Living as a 24-year old on Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides, Flora encountered the desperate prince on the run from authorities following his defeat at the Battle of Culloden.

At first Flora was hesitant to assist, but eventually took pity on the prince and promised to help him escape, setting in motion a chain of events which would see her become a famous name in Scottish history.

Disguising the prince as her servant, Betty Burke, she commissioned a boat to take them to Skye where Flora was able to secure passage for the prince which eventually led to his successful arrival back in France.

• Bonnie Prince Charlie was ‘drink-soaked brute’

Unfortunately her assistance came at a cost. Word of mouth raised enough suspicion for her to be arrested and locked up in the Tower of London. She later reasoned that her act hadn’t been about taking sides during the rebellion, but rather she wished only to help a man in need.

Thankfully for Flora she was allowed to live and was released a year later when the Act of Indemnity was passed.

For her part in the Young Pretender’s escape she became a celebrity across Britain.

• Flora MacDonald: Jacobite helper

A quiet life thereafter did not await after she travelled to America and was forced to endure her husband being taken prisoner during the American revolution.

The pair spent two years apart before being reunited. They travelled back to Scotland but not before Flora was wounded in an attack on the boat.

Once more she survived and lived until the age of 68. Legend says she asked to be buried in the same bed sheets the prince slept in during the escape, though some believe this to be nothing more than a myth

Three thousand people attended her funeral where it is said three hundred gallons of whisky was consumed.


• On this day 1890: Forth Rail Bridge opens
• On this day 1838: Clydesdale Bank founded


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