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spot next morning, he was greatly sui'prised to find Flora in

5



FLORA. MACDONALD.

custody, and quickly ordered her liberation. Of what passed
between him and his stepdaug-hter, we have no distinct account ;
but there seems no reason to doubt that he became a confidant
in the scheme, and entered cordially into it. At her request he
granted her a passport, to enable her to proceed on her return
to her mother's house in Skye, accompanied by her man-servant,
Neil Mackechan, and a young Irishwoman named Betty Burke.
This last person was understood to be a servant out of place,
whom she thought likely to answer her mother as a spinner :
in reality, she contemplated making Prince Charles pass as
Betty Burke. She now pursued her way to Ormaclade, where
all the proper arrangements were made in the course of a few
days.

On Friday the 27th, everything being ready. Lady Clanranald,
Flora, and her servant Mackechan, went to a wretched hut near
the seaside, where he had taken up his abode. The elegant
youth who had lately shone at the head of an army — the
descendant of a line of kings which stretched back into ages
when there was no history — was found roasting the liver of a
sheep for his dinner. The sight moved some of the party to
tears ; but he was always cheerful under such circumstances,
and on this occasion only made the remark, that it might be
well for other royal personages to go through the ordeal which
he was now enduring. Lady Clanranald was soon after called
home by intelligence of the arrival of a military party at her
house, and Flora and her servant were left with the prince and
O'Neal. Next morning O'Neal was compelled, much against
his will, to take his leave : he had not long parted from the
prince when he was made prisoner.

Next forenoon Charles assumed the printed linen gown, apron,
and coif, which were to transform him from a prince into an
Irish servant girl. He would have added a charged pistol under
his clothes, but Flora's good sense overruled that project, as she
concluded that, in the event of his being searched, it would be a
strong proof against him. He was compelled to content himself
with a stout walking-stick, with which he thought he should be
able to defend himself against any single enemy. The boat,
meanwhile, was ready for them at the shore. Arriving there
wet and weary, they were alarmed by seeing several wherries
pass with parties of soldiers, and were obliged to skulk till the
approach of night. They then embarked for Skye — Charles,
Flora, Mackechan, and the boatmen. A night voyage of thirty
or forty miles across a sound in the Hebrides, with the risk of
being seized by some of the numerous g-overnment vessels con-
stantly prowling about, was what they had to encounter. It ap-
pears that the anxiety of Flora for the life of the prince was
much greater than his own, and he was the only person on board
who could do anything to keep up the spirits of the party. For
that purpose he sang a number of lively songs, and related a few

6



FLORA MACDONALD.

anecdotes. The nig-ht became rainy, and, distressed with the wet
and her former fatigues, the young- lady fell asleep in the bottom
of the boat. To favour her slumbers, Charles continued to sing*.
When she awoke, she found him leaning- over her, with his
hands spread above her face, to protect her from any injury that
mig-ht arise from a rower who was oblig-ed at that moment to re-
adjust the sail. In the same spirit he insisted upon reserving- for
her exclusive use a small quantity af wine which Lady Clan-
ranald had g-iven them. These circumstances are not related as
reflecting' any positive honour on the prince, but simply as facts
which occurred on that remarkable nig-ht, and as at least showing
that he was not deficient in a g-entlemanlike tenderness towards
the amiable woman who was risking- so much in his behalf. It
may here be mentioned that Mackechan, whose presence on the
occasion was fully as good a protection to Flora's good fame
as the name of O'Neal would have been, was a Macdonald of
humble extraction, who had received a foreign education as a
priest. He served the prince afterwards for some years, and be-
came the father of the celebrated Marshal Macdonald, Duke of
Tarentum, who, more than eighty years afterwards, visited the
scenes of all these events.

When day dawned, they found themselves out of sight of
land, without any means of determining in what part of the
Hebrides they were. They sailed, however, but a little way
farther, when they perceived the lofty mountains and dark bold
headlands of Skye. Making with all speed towards that coast,
they soon approached Waternish, one of the western points of
the island. They had no sooner drawn near to the shore, than
they perceived a body of militia stationed at the place. These
men had a boat, but no oars. The men in Miss Macdonald's
boat no sooner perceived them, than they began to pull heartily
in the contrary direction. The soldiers called upon them to
land, upon peril of being shot at ; but it was resolved to escape
at all risks, and they exerted their utmost energies in pulling
oiF their little vessel. The soldiers then put their threat in
execution by firing, but fortunately without hitting the boat
or any of its crew. Charles called upon the boatmen " not to
mind the villains ;" and they assured him that, if they cared at
all, it was only for him ; to which he replied, with undaunted
lightness of demeanour, " Oh, no fear of me ! " He then
intreated Miss Macdonald to lie down at the bottom of the
boat, in order to avoid the bullets, as nothing, he said, would
give him at that moment greater pain than if any accident were
to befall her. She declared, however, that she would not do as
he desired, unless he also took the same measure for his safety,
which, she told him, was of much more importance than hers.
It was not till after some altercation that they agreed to ensconce
themselves together in the bottom of the boat. The rowers soon
pulled them out of all farther danger.

7



FLORA MACDONALD.

In the eag:erness of Duke William's emissaries to take Charles
in South Uist, or the adjoining- islands in the rang-e, where they
had certain information he was, Skye, lying- close on the main-
land, in which the prince was now about to arrive, was left com-
paratively unwatched. The island was, however, chiefly pos-
sessed by two clans, the Sleat Macdonalds and Macleods, whose
superiors had deserted the Stuart cause, and even raised men on
the opposite side. Parties of their militia were posted through-
out the island, one of which had nearly taken the boat with its
important charg"e when it was off Waternish.

Proceeding' on their voyage a few miles to the northward,
the little party in the boat put into a creek, or cleft, to rest and
refresh the fatigued rowers ; but the alarm which their appear-
ance occasioned in a neig'hbouring village quickly obliged them
to put off again. At length they landed safely at a place within
the parish of Kilmuir, about twelve miles from Waternish, and
very near Sir Alexander Macdonald's seat of Mugstat.

Sir Alexander was at this time at Fort Augustus, in attend-
ance on the Duke of Cumberland ; but his wife. Lady Mar-
garet Macdonald — one of the beautiful daughters of Alexander
and Susanna, Earl and Countess of Eglintoune — a lady in the
bloom of life, of elegant manners, and one who was accustomed
to figure in the fashionable scenes of the metropolis — now resided
at Mugstat. A Jacobite at heart. Lady Margaret had corre-
sponded with the prince when he was skulking in South Uist,
and she had been made aware by a Mrs Macdonald of Kirkibost
that it was likely he w^ould soon make his appearance in Skye.
When the boat containing the fugitive had landed, Flora, attended
by Mackechan, proceeded to the house, leaving Charles, in his
female dress, sitting on her trunk upon the beach. On arriving-
at the house, she desired a servant to inform Lady Margaret
that she had called on her way home from Uist. She was imme-
diately introduced to the family apartment, where she found,
besides Mrs Macdonald of Kirkibost, a Lieutenant Macleod, the
commander of a band of militia stationed near by, three or four
of whom were also in the house. There were also present Mr
Alexander Macdonald of Kingsburgh, an elderly gentleman
of the neighbourhood, who acted as chamberlain or factor to Sir
Alexander, and who was, she knew, a sound Jacobite. Flora
entered easily into conversation with the officer, who asked her
a number of questions, as where she had come from, where she
was going, and so forth, all of which she answered without mani-
festing the least trace of that confusion which might have been
expected from a young lady under such circumstances. The
same man had been in the custom of examining every boat which
landed from the Long Island ; that, for instance, in which Mrs
Macdonald of Kirkibost arrived, had been so examined ; and we
can only account for his allowing that of Miss Flora to pass, by
the circumstance of his meeting- her under the imposing courtesies

8



FLORA MACDONALD.

of the drawing-room of a lady of rank. Miss Macdonald, with
the same self-possession, dined in Lieutenant Macleod's company.
Seizing a proper opportunity, she apprised Kingsburgh of the
circumstances of the prince, and he immediately proceeded to
another room, and sent for Lady Margaret, that he might break
the intelligence to her in private. Notwithstanding the previous
warning', she was much alarmed at the idea of the wanderer
being so near her house, and immediately sent for a certain
Donald Roy Macdonald, to consult as to what should be done.
Donald had' been wounded in the prince's army at Culloden, and
was as obnoxious to the government as he could be. He came
and joined the lady and her friends in the garden, when it was
arranged that Kingsburgh should take the prince alono- with him
to his own house, some miles distant, and thence pass him through
the island to Portree, where Donald Roy should take him up,
and provide for his further safety.

The old gentleman accordingly joined Charles on the shore,
and conducted him, as had been arranged, on the way to Kings-
burgh. Meanwhile, Flora sat in company with Lady Margaret
and the young- government officer till she thought the two
travellers would be a good way advanced, and then rose to take
her leave. Lady Margaret aflected great concern at her short
stay, and intreated that she would prolong' it at least till next
day; reminding her that, when last at Mugstat, she had pro-
mised a much longer visit. Flora, on the other hand, pleaded
the necessity of getting' immediately home to attend her mother,
who was unwell, and entirely^alone in these troublesome times.
After a proper reciprocation of intreaties and refusals. Lady
Margaret, with great apparent reluctance, permitted her young
friend to depart.

Miss Macdonald and Mackechan were accompanied in their
journey by Mrs Macdonald of Kirkibost, and by that lady's male
and female servants, all the five riding on horseback. They
quickly came up with Kingsburgh and the prince, who had
walked thus far on the public road, but were soon after to turn
oif upon an unfrequented path across the wild country. Flora,
anxious that her fellow-traveller's servants, who were uninitiated
in the secret, should not see the route which Kingsburgh and
the prince were about to take, called upon the party to ride
faster; and they passed the two pedestrians at a trot. Mrs
Macdonald's girl, however, could not help observing the extra-
ordinary appearance of the female with whom Kingsburgh was
walking, and exclaimed, that she " had never seen such a tall
impudent-looking woman in her life ! See ! " she continued,
addressing Flora, " what long strides the jade takes ! I daresay
she's an Irishwoman, or else a man in woman's clothes." Flora
confirmed her in the former supposition, and soon after parted
with her fellow-travellers in order to rejoin Kingsburgh and the
prince.

9



FLORA MACDO^'ALD.

These individuals, in walking alon^ the road, were at first con-
siderably annoyed by the number of country people whom they
met returning from church, and who all expressed wonder at
the'uncommon height and awkwardness of the apparent female.
The opportunity of talking to their landlord's factotum being
too precious to be despised, these people fastened themselves on
Kingsburgh, who, under the particular circumstances, felt a
good deal annoyed by them, but at last bethought himself of
saying, " Oh, sirs, cannot you let alone talking of your worldly
affairs on Sabbath, and have patience till another day." They
took the hint, and moved off. The whole party — Charles, Kings-
burgh, and Miss Macdonald — arrived in safety at Kingsburgh
House about eleven o'clock at night.

Mrs Macdonald, or, as she was usually called. Lady Kings-
burgh, lost no time in preparing supper, at which Charles, still
wearing the female disguise, placed Flora on his right hand,
and his hostess on his left. Afterwards, the two ladies left the
other two over a bowl of punch, and went to have a little con-
versation by themselves. When Flora had related her adven-
tures. Lady Kingsburgh asked what had been done with the
boatmen who brought them to Skye. Miss Macdonald said they
had been sent back to South Uist. Lady Kingsburgh observed
that they ought not to have been permitted to return imme-
diately, lest, falling into the hands of the prince's enemies in
that island, they might divulge the secret of his route. Her
conjecture, which turned out to have been correct, though
happily without being attended with evil consequences to the
prince, determined Flora to change the prince's clothes next
day.

The pretended Betty Burke was that night laid in the best
bed which the house contained, and next morning all the ladies
assisted at her toilet. A lock of her hair was cut off as a keep-
sake, and divided between Lady Kingsburgh and Flora. Late
in the day, the prince set out for Portree, attended by Flora and
Mackechan as before, Kingsburgh accompanying them with a suit
of male Highland attire under his arm. At a convenient place in
a wood, Charles exchanged his female dress for this suit ; it being
thought best that this should be done after he had left Kings-
burgh House, so that the servants there might have nothing to
say, either of their own accord or upon compulsion, but that
they had seen a female servant come and go in company with
Miss Flora. The party now separated, Kingsburgh returning
home, while the prince and Mackechan set out for Portree (a
walk of fourteen miles), and Flora proceeded thither by a diffe-
rent route.

At this village, the only one in Skye, Donald Koy had mean-
while made arrangements for carrying* the prince to the neigh-
bouring' island of Raasay, which was judged a safe place for
him, as its apparent and legal proprietor, Mr Macleod, had not

10



FLORA MACDONALD.

been concerned in the insurrection ; although his father, the
actual proprietor, and. all his followers, had been engaged in it,
and he himself was strongly attached to the cause. In the
evening, Donald and some friends whom he had called to his
aid, received the adventurer at a mean public-house in the village,
where he partook of a coarse meal, and slaked his thirst from
a broken brown potsherd, which was usually employed in baling
water out of a boat. Here Flora joined the party, but only to
take a final farewell of the prince, as she was no longer able to
be of any service to him. Having paid her a small sum of
money which he had borrowed from her in their journey, he
gave her his warm thanks for her heroic efforts to preserve his
life, and tenderly saluted her, adding, in a cheerful manner,
'■' For all that has happened, I hope, madam, we shall meet in
St James's yet ! " He then set sail for Raasay with his new
friends, while Flora proceeded to her mother's house in Sleat.
Respecting the further adventures of the prince, it is only neces-
sary to say that they were of a nature not less extraordinary
than those which have been related, and that they terminated,
three months after, in his happily escaping to France.

Our heroine Flora had gone through all these adventures with
a quiet energy peculiar to her, but with little conception that
she was doing anything beyond what the common voice of
humanity called for, and what good people were doing' every day.
Reaching home, she said nothing to her mother, or any one else,
of what she had been about, probably judging that the possession
of such knowledge w^as in itself dangerous. Meanwhile the boat-
men, returning to Uist, were there seized by the military, and
obliged to give an account of their late voyage. This was what
Lady Kingsburgh dreaded, and it seems to have been the only
point in which the prudence of our heroine had failed. Having*
obtained an exact description of the dress of the tall female ac-
companying Miss Macdonald, a merciless emissary of the govern-
ment, styled Captain Ferguson, lost no time in sailing for Skye,
where he arrived about a week after the prince. Inquiring at
Mugstat, he learned that Miss Macdonald had been there ; but
no tall female had been seen. He then followed on Flora's track
to Kingsburgh, where he readily learned that the tall female had
been entertained for a night. He asked Kingsburgh where Miss
Macdonald and the person who was with her in woman's clothes
had slept. The old gentleman answered that he knew where Miss
Flora had lain, but as for the servants, he never asked any ques-
tions about them. The officer nevertheless discovered that the
apparent servant had been placed in the best bed, which he held
as tolerably good proof of the real character of that person, and
he acted accordingly. Kingsburgh was sent prisoner to Fort
Augustus, and treated with great severity : thence he was re-
moved to Edinburgh castle, where he suffered a whole year's con-
finement. Macleod of Talisker, captain of a militia company,

n



FLORA MACDONALD.

caused a message to be sent, desiring the presence of Flora Mac-
donald. She consulted with her friends, who recommended her
not attending to it ; hut she herself determined to go. On her
way she met her stepfather returning home, and had not gone
much farther, when she was seized by an officer and a party of
soldiers, and hurried on board Captain Ferguson's vessel. Gene-
ral Campbell, who was on board, ordered that she should be well
treated ; and finding" her story had been blabbed by the boatmen,
she confessed all to that officer.

She was soon after transferred from the ship commanded by
Ferguson to one commanded by Commodore Smith, a humane
person, capable of appreciating her noble conduct. By the per-
mission of General Campbell she was now allowed to land at
Armadale, and take leave of her mother : her stepfather was by
this time in hiding, from fear lest his concern in the prince's
escape should bring him into trouble. Flora, who had hitherto
been without a change of clothes, here obtained all she required,
and engaged as her attendant an honest good girl named Kate
Macdowall, who could not speak a word of any language but
Gaelic. She then returned on board the vessel, and was in time
carried to the south. It chanced that she here had for one of
her fellow-prisoners Captain O'Neal, who had engaged her to
undertake the charge of the prince. When she first met him on
board, she went playfully up, and slapping him gently on the
cheek with the palm of her hand, said, " To that black face do
I owe all my misfortune ! " O'Neal told her that, instead of
being her misfortune, it was her brightest honour, and that if
she continued to act up to the character she had already shown,
not pretending- to repent of what she had done, or to be ashamed
of it, it would yet redound greatly to her advantage.

The vessel in which she was (the Bridgewater) arrived at
Leith in September, and remained there for about two months.
She was not allowed to land ; but ladies and others of her own
way of thinking were freely permitted to visit her, and she
began to find that her deliverance of Prince Charles had rendered
her a famous person. Many presents of value were given to
her; but those which most pleased her were a Bible and prayer-
book, and the materials for sewing, as she had had neither books
nor work hitherto. Even the naval officers in whose charge she
was were much affected in her behalf. Commodore Smith
presented her with a handsome suit of riding clothes, with plain
mounting, and some fine linen for riding shifts, as also some
linen for shifts to her attendant Kate, whose generosity in offer-
ing to accompany her when no one else would, had excited
general admiration. Captain Knowler treated her with the
deference due to her heroic character, and allowed her to call
for anything in the vessel to treat her friends when they came
on board, and even to invite some of them to dine with her.
On one occasion, when Lady Mary Cochrane was on board, a

12



FLORA MACDONALD.

breeze beg-inning- to blow, the lady requested leave to stay all
nig-ht, wliicli was granted. This, she confessed, she chiefly was
prompted to do by a wish to have it to say that she had slept
in the same bed with Miss Flora Macdonald. At this time the
prince was not yet known to have escaped, though such was
actually the fact. One day a false rumour was brought to the
vessel that he had been at length taken prisoner. This greatly
distressed Flora, who said to one of her friends with tears in
her eyes, " Alas, I fear that now all is in vain that I have done !"
She could not be consoled till the falsity of the rumour was
ascertained. Her behaviour during* the whole time the vessel
stayed in Leith Road was admired by all who saw her. The
episcopal minister of Leith, who was among- her visitors, wrote
about her as follows : — " Some that went on board to pay their
respects to her, used to take a dance in the cabin, and to press
her much to share with them in the diversion ; but with all their
importunity, they could not prevail with her to take a trip. She
told them that at present her dancing days were done, and she
would not readily entertain a thought of that diversion till she
should be assured of her prince's safety, and perhaps not till she
should be blessed with the happiness of seeing him again.
Although she Avas easy and cheerful, yet she had a certain mix-
ture of gravity in all her behaviour, which became her situation
exceedingly well, and set her off to great advantage. She is of
a low stature, of a fair complexion, and well enough shaped.
One would not discern by her conversation that she had spent
all her former days in the Highlands ; for she talks English (or
rather Scots) easily, and not at all through the Earse tone. She
has a sweet voice, and sings well ; and no lady, Edinburgh-bred,
can acquit herself better at the tea-table than what she did when
in Leith Road. Her wise conduct in one of the most perplexing"
scenes that can happen in life, her fortitude and g'ood sense, are
memorable instances of the streng'th of a female mind, even in
those years that are tender and inexperienced."'

The Bridgewater left Leith Road on the 7th of November,
and carried her straightway to London, where she was kept in
a not less honourable captivity in the house of a private family
till the passing of the act of indemnity in July 1747, when she
was discharged without being asked a single question. The
ministers, we may well believe, had found that to carry further
the prosecution of a woman whose guilt consisted only in the
performance of one of the most generous of actions, would not
conduce to their popularity.* Her story had by this time

* It has been stated that Frederick Prince of Wales, father of George
III., did not scruple to avow his admiration of Flora's conduct. His consort
having one day expressed some disapprobation of her interference in behalf
of " the pretender," the prince, whose heart was better than his head, said,
" Let me not hear you speak thus again, madam. If you had been in the
same circumstances, I hope in God vou would have acted as she did i "

13



FLOBA MACDONALD,

excited not less interest in the metropolis than it had done in
Scotlajid. Being: received after her liberation into the house
of the dowag-er Lady Primrose of Dunnipace, she was there
visited by crowds of the fashionable world, Avho paid her such
homag-e as would have turned the heads of ninety-nine of a
hundi'ed women of any age, countiy, or condition. It is said



Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 31 of 59)