Lives Across The Pond: Flora MacDonald
Each month we feature a person included in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography who was either born in the United States, and made their name in the UK, or came to the US from the British Isles. This month we highlight the Jacobite heroine—Flora MacDonald (1722-1790)—who died on 11 March 1790 and is best known for her part in Bonnie Prince Charlie’s flight from the Hebridean island of South Uist to Skye, with the Jacobite prince disguised as Flora’s maid, Betty Burke. Following her arrest and release, Flora moved to Montgomery County, North Carolina, where she is commemorated in schools, colleges, and annual highland games.
Flora MacDonald (1722–1790), Jacobite heroine, was born at Milton on the island of South Uist, Outer Hebrides, the third and last child of Ranald MacDonald, tacksman of Milton and Balivanich on South Uist, and his second wife, Marion, daughter of Angus MacDonald and his wife, Flora. Flora is an Anglicization of the Gaelic name Fionnghal, and sometimes she signed herself Flory.
… Flora was to make the journey to Skye, accompanied by ‘one Bettie Burke, an Irish girl, who, she tells me, is a good spinster’. The prince and Flora set sail from Benbecula to Skye on the night of 28–9 June 1745 in a small boat crewed mainly by militiamen. Many tales were told afterwards about the escape, but Flora’s favourite was the one in which she said she forbade Charles to carry his pistols under the petticoat of his dress, telling him that, if searched, they would give him away. ‘If we shall happen to meet with any that will go so narrowly to work in searching as what you mean, they will certainly discover me at any rate’, the prince replied.
… In 1774 Flora emigrated with her husband to North Carolina, where members of their family were already living, and settled at Cheek’s Creek in Anson (now Montgomery) County. However, before their seed was properly through the ground in the spring of 1775 the American War of Independence broke out, and Flora did not doubt that her duty lay with George III..
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