been said that there was a brief romance between Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince
Charlie) and Flora MacDonald of Benbecula during the summer of 1746. The 'romance' being
in the nervous and brave adventure as opposed to long tender looks between the two chief
For two months Charles, being on the run, had been flitting from hiding place to hiding
place in the Outer Isles before he and Flora met. Now had it not been for a Kinswoman of
Flora's the two may never have met at all!
There were three ways of regarding the Prince of Scotland; there were the heart-loyal
people who believed implicitly in father's divine Right to be King and were prepared to
spill their last drop of blood for him; there were those who found the whole escapade
frightening and unsettling after 30 years of the Hanovers and either fought firmly against
the Jacobites or subscribed to letters of gratitude and hero-worship sent in their name to
the man others called 'Butcher Cumberland'; the third group were honest people, content
enough with the stodgy Georges who had given them a kind of peace, people who had kin
serving in their armies or in the King's Government, but who would not have sent to death
a bonnie Stuart beauty like the Pretender Prince, not for all the ransom money offered by
Now Flora MacDonald was of the last ilk. She was not pinning away for the Bonnie Prince
but deeply in love with her husband to be Allan MacDonald who was a redcoat officer
throughout the campaign. As her foster-father, Clanranald, was also in command of King
George's troopers on Benbecula. Flora would never have seen the Prince Betrayed though she
sympathized not with the Jacobites.
It came about one day that Flora was asked to do more than just 'Not Betray' the Bonnie
Prince as she was young, healthy, full of spirit and practical she seemed, to those on the
inside, to be the most likely young woman on the island to guide Charles on the next
perilous stage of his journey to find refuge on the mainland. When a Captain of the Troop
first approached her she prudently refused.
It was decided. Flora and Lady Clanranald prepared the clothing for her big, rawboned
Irish Maid 'Betty Burke'. The gowns, the petticoats, the snood, cloak and white cap were a
perfect fit, all was well bar the big clumsy boots which almost gave the game away. The
stage was set.
June 20th 1746 was the day that the young Prince and Flora finally met and after a week of
hiding they were ready to leave. Horror struck as news reached them that General Campbell
had landed on the island with orders to search for the escaping Prince, and bring him
down! But whether the General was tired or unbecoming of his role as hunter, or whether he
simply hated traitors no one knows, but he disregarded the advice from the local Reverend
Mr Macauley as to the residence of the Prince - and did not complete his orders.
When finally the boat left, Miss Flora MacDonald - Neil MacDonald - and the strange
looking 'Betty Burke' slipped away into the night across the Minch. As for General
Campbell, well he was no where to be seen, or at least no where near the fleeing Prince.
And so the story ends, Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped the red coats under command of
General Campbell. Some folks say, or would like to think, that a romance had blossomed
between young Flora and the Bonnie Prince, but if one thing is true it is this: whether
there was a love between the two, or whether Flora had converted to the Jacobite cause,
simply knowing that she did indeed put her life on the line for the fleeing Prince is
romance enough for most.
Flora's grave is on The Isle of Skye