Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Great Escape

'...This person was the celebrated Flora MacDonald; she was related to the Clanranald family, and was on a visit to that chief's house at Ormaclade, in South Uist, during the emergency we speak of. Her stepfather was one of Sir Alexander MacDonald's clan, an enemy to the Prince of course, and in the immediate command of the militia of the name of MacDonald, who were then in South Uist.
 Notwithstanding her stepfather's hostility, Flora MacDonald readily engaged in a plan for rescuing the unfortunate Wanderer. With this purpose she procured from her stepfather a passport for herself, a man servant, and a female servant, who was termed Betty Burke—the part of Betty Burke being to be acted by the Chevalier in woman's attire.1 In this disguise, after being repeatedly in danger of being taken, Charles at length reached Kilbride, in the Isle of Skye; but they were still in the country of Sir Alexander MacDonald, and, devoted as that chief was to the service of the Government, the Prince was as much in danger as ever. Here the spirit and presence of mind of Miss Flora MacDonald were again displayed in the behalf of the object, so strangely thrown under the protection of one of her sex and age. She resolved to confide the secret to Lady Margaret MacDonald, the wife of Sir Alexander, and trust to female compassion, and the secret reserve of Jacobitism which lurked in the heart of most Highland women.
 The resolution to confide in Lady Margaret was particularly hardy, for Sir Alexander MacDonald, the husband of the lady to be trusted with the important secret, was, as you will recollect, originally believed to be engaged to join the Prince on his arrival, but had declined doing so, under the plea, that the stipulated support from France was not forthcoming ; he was afterwards induced to levy his clan on the side of Government. His men had been at first added to Lord London's army, in Inverness-shire, and now formed part of those troops from which the Chevalier had with difficulty just made his escape.
 Flora MacDonald found herself under the necessity of communicating the fatal secret of her disguised attendant to the lady of a person thus situated. Lady Margaret MacDonald was much alarmed. Her husband was absent, and as the best mode for the unfortunate Prince's preservation, her house being filled with officers of the militia, she committed him to the charge of MacDonald of Kingsburgh, a man of courage and intelligence, who acted as factor or steward for her husband. Flora MacDonald accordingly conducted Charles to MacDonald of Kingsburgh's house; and he was fortunate enough to escape detection on the road, though the ungainly and awkward appearance of a man dressed in female apparel attracted suspicion on more than one occasion.

  1 [" Lady Clanranald dressed up the Prince in his new habit, not without some mirth and raillery passing amidst all their distress and perplexity, and a mixture of tears and smilesThe dress was on purpose coarse, and even homely, suited to the station of the wearer, viz. a calico gown, with a light coloured quilted petticoat, a mantle of dun camelet, made after the Irish fashion, with a hood joined to it."—Lockhart Papers, voL iL p. 545.]...'

The text above is from Walter Scott’s “Tales of a Grandfather”.  June 18, 1746 is the date on which Flora MacDonald met Charles Stuart to help him escape Scotland, after his failed attempt to regain the crown.

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