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Macdonald, Flora

MACDONALD, FLORA (1722-1790), Jacobite heroine, was the daughter of Ranald Macdonald of Milton in the island of South Uist in the Hebrides, and his wife Marion the daughter of Angus Macdonald, minister of South Uist. Her father died when she was a child, and her mother was abducted and married by Hugh Macdonald of Armadale. She was brought up under the care of the chief of her clan, Macdonald of Clanranald, and was partly educated in Edinburgh. In June 1746 she was living in Benbecula in the Hebrides when Prince Charles Edward (q.v.) took refuge there after the battle of Culloden. The prince's companion, Captain O'Neill, sought her help. The island was held for the government by the local militia, but the secret sympathies of the Macdonalds were with the Jacobite cause. After some hesitation Flora promised to help. At a later period she told the duke of Cumberland, son of George III. and commander-in-chief in Scotland, that she acted from charity and would have helped him also if he had been defeated and in distress, a statement which need not be accepted as quite literally true. The commander of the militia in the island, a Macdonald, who was probably admitted into the secret, gave her a pass to the mainland for herself, a manservant, an Irish spinning maid, Betty Burke, and a boat's crew of six men. The prince was disguised as Betty Burke. After a first repulse at Waternish, the party landed at Portree. The prince was hidden in a cave while Flora Macdonald found help for him in the neighbourhood, and was finally able to escape. He had left Benbecula on the 27th of June. The talk of the boatmen brought suspicion on Flora Macdonald, and she was arrested and brought to London. After a short imprisonment in the Tower, she was allowed to live outside of it, under the guard of a " messenger " or gaoler. When the Act of Indemnity was passed in 1747 she was left at liberty. Her courage and loyalty had gained her general sympathy, which was increased by her good manners and gentle character. Dr Johnson, who saw her in 1773, describes her as " a woman of soft features, gentle manners and elegant presence." In 1750 she married Allen Macdonald of Kingsburgh, and in 1773 they emigrated to America. In the War of Independence he served the British government and was taken prisoner. In 1779 his wife returned home in a merchant ship which was attacked by a privateer. She refused to leave the deck during the action, and was wounded in the arm. She died on the sth of March 1790. There is a statue to her memory in Inverness. Flora Macdonald had a large family of sons, who mostly entered the army or navy, and two daughters.

See A. C. Ewald, Life and Times of Prince Charles Edward (1886). The so-called Autobiography of Flora Macdonald, published by her grand-daughter F. F. Walde (1870) is of small value.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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