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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Charles Edward Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie".......

was on the run through the Highlands and Islands of Scotland after being defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, with the whopping sum of 30,000 pounds offered by the government for his capture, dead or alive. But over the course of the five month long man-hunt, there were always those who were willing to risk everything to help Charles evade his pursuers.

    A fair-haired young Highlander named Roderick MacKenzie allowed his redcoat captures to believe that he was Prince Charlie. He was subsequently murdered and his head was brought to Fort Augustus. Alexander MacDonald of Kingsburgh, a prisoner at the fort, was asked if he would recognize the head of the Young Pretender. “I would know the head very well, provided it were upon the body.” “What if the head were not upon the body?” the interrogator pressed. “In that case, Sir, I will not pretend to know anything about it.”
    There were also those who helped the prince without knowing who he was. On the small island of Scalpay, the prince and his companion, John William O’Sullivan, pretended to be shipwrecked merchants, a father-and-son team by the name of Sinclair. They stayed at the home of the Campbell Family, friends of Donald McLeod, the old sea salt who had ferried the prince through many treacherous waters. The Campbells were unaware of the royal fugitive’s identity, but Mrs. Campbell (whose maiden name had actually been MacDonald!) took the young man under her wing like a surrogate mother.  
    As usual, Charles would wake earlier than his companions, rouse Mrs. Campbell, and ask her what was for breakfast. Failing that, he’d just take the initiative and rummage through the family cupboard himself. One morning he located a few eggs, alerted the mistress of the house, and pleaded with her to cook them for him, which she indulgently did. Charles also befriended the Campbells’ young son Kenneth. The two of them would go off on fishing excursions together, chatting excitedly like little boys as they waited for a bite. When they hooked a cod, they proudly took it home and watched eagerly as it was prepared and cooked.
    One day the pair came upon on of the family cows caught in a bog, and the prince promptly stripped off his coat and got mud up to his breeches helping to free it. Occasionally, Kenneth would inquire about Charles’s identity, but he always managed to evade the questions and live in a state of cozy domesticity over the course of his stay with the Campbells. This interlude, more than anything, demonstrates how in the end, Bonnie Prince Charles was just a young man like any other, even though his royal position was slowly draining the youthful innocence out of him.
     Moving on from place to place, the prince spent 22 days in a hide-away hut in Corodale on the Isle of South Uist, a place so inaccessible it could only be reached by an overland hike through the remote glen between Hecla and Ben More, a pair of mountains roughly 2000 ft. high. Still, it was close enough to the coast to spy Royal Navy ships patrolling the Minch. Though Charles suffered both from dysentery and severe mood swings, his faithful traveling companions and Clanranald friends did everything possible to cheer him up and preserve some of his royal dignity. A make-shift throne was made out of a moss-covered, earthen seat with a plaid laid over it, and there the prince held court for the clansmen of the vicinity who came to visit him and his own small entourage including O’Sullivan, MacEachain, Felix O’Neil, a group of MacDonalds, and about a dozen others who served as guards and ran errands.
     Among the prince’s guests at Corodale was MacDonald of Boisdale. Although he had refused to join the rising, he now gave much assistance to Charles in his flight. Also, several militia officers who were supposed to be hunting down the Jacobite claimant came to visit him as secret sympathizers, including “One-Eyed Hugh” MacDonald of Armsdale and his son Angus MacDonald of Milton in South Uist. They were the step-father and step-brother of Flora MacDonald, the prince’s dancing partner in Edinburgh. These visitors and loyal friends kept Charles’s spirit up by engaging in light-hearted antics and good-humored drinking contests. Charles always drank his brandy from a prized silver cup while the others drank from clean shells.
    On one such occasion, the prince managed to drink them all under the table, including Boisdale, known to be one of the hardest drinkers in Scotland! When all the others were “slain by the spirits” and lying prostate in an alcoholically induced stupor, Charles, also drunk beyond reasoning but still on his feet, reverently covered the fallen heroes with plaid whilst singing “De Profundis”! This bit of fun had a painfully ironic twist when considering all the Jacobite dead who were being laid to rest without half the ceremony.
    Meanwhile, while the men indulged in impromptu drinking parties, the ladies did their bit to cheer up the prince. Lady Clanranald and Lady Boisdale sent him fresh food and clean clothing, and even Lady Margaret MacDonald of Sleat, whose husband was fighting under Cumberland, smuggled 50 guineas, newspapers, and more clothing to Charles at his hide-out. In spite of the strained circumstances, Charlie also seized the chance to indulge in his favorite sports of fishing and hunting, sometimes bringing down a dozen fowl per hunt thanks to his excellent shooting skills and his ability to mimic bird calls, attracting the prey right to him so he could take aim. Some of the Highlanders thought it had to do with royal magic or witchcraft!
   One day while his loyal companion Ned Burke was gutting a deer the prince had shot, a small boy in ragged attire tried to steal some of the venison. Burk started to hit him, but the prince intervened with royal clemency. “You aught rather to give him meat than a stripe!” Then he insisted that the vagrant not only be fed but be given better clothing. Apparently no good deed goes unpunished, since the boy promptly took off and betrayed Charles to the militia under government pay. But the militiamen only scoffed at what they assumed was nothing more than a fanciful tale.

     After making it over from South Uist to Skye with the help of the crafty "One-Eyed Hugh" and the lovely Flora MacDonald, the prince slept nine or ten hours straight at the home of Alexander MacDonald of Kingsburgh. When he finally woke up, his host's wife, Mrs. MacDonald, grabbed the reluctant Flora by the hand and dragged her into the prince’s chamber. “Sir,” she addressed him. “I am importuning Miss Flora to come in and get a lock of your hair to me, and she refuses to do it.” “Pray desire Miss MacDonald to come in,” he responded gently. “What should make her afraid to come where I am?” Flora tip-toed inside and was swiftly ushered into a chair at his bedside. He proceeded to affectionately lay his head on her lap and put his arms around her waist. In that position, he insisted that she should cut a lock of his hair as a token of future, more substantial favors. Half of the lock she dutifully gave to Mrs. MacDonald as requested, but half she kept as a treasure for herself.

    The next morning, Kingsburgh accompanied Charles and his companions as far as the nearby wood. There the prince changed out of his Betty Burke costume and into a kilt with a broadsword. Turning to say goodbye to this loyal host, he came d own with a nose-bleed, now emblematic of Stuart pathos. Charles dismissed it as something that only occurred when he parted from dear friends. The Betty Burke costume was hidden in a bush and later brought back to the Kingsburgh house. Mrs. MacDonald had Charles’s bed-sheets folded away unwashed and converted the Betty Burke dress into a bedspread to replace them. She also romantically asked her daughter to bury her in one of the sheets. Flora, in turn, perhaps feeling a bit of rivalry with the aggressive older woman, asked that the second sheet be used to make her own shroud. She also took possession of the apron and blue velvet French garters used by Betty Burke.

    Charles was later sheltered by the famous Men of Glenmoristan, a seven man band of Robin Hood-like Jacobite outlaws who ambushed and robbed government troops, gave aid to fellow Jacobites in distress, and gave the prince shelter in a cave in Glenmoristan. The members of the band, John MacDonald, Alexander MacDonald, Alexander Chisholm, Donald Chisholm, Hugh Chisholm, Patrick Grant, and Gregor MacGregor, all took an oath of loyalty and secrecy, vowing to protect the prince to no matter what. But they refused to allow Charles to make a pledge to compensate them should he become king. They tartly reminded him that his predecessor Charles II had forgotten those who helped him during his years as a fugitive prince after he was made king, and having Charles make promises to them in the cave would only make things more painful in the end. But the fact that his followers "put not their faith in princes" did not mean that their fierce loyalty to him and the Jacobite cause he represented was any less.

Prince Charlie and Flora MacDonald


  1. Wonderful! Thanks for putting all the stories about the Young Pretender together. Only today I watched the episode "Let's Pretend" of the BBC series "A history of Scotland", which is quite sympathetic to King Charles III.

  2. Thanks, radical royalist! Good to hear from you!

    This "article" is actually just a section of the chapter I'm writing about the Jacobites in the British history/heritage book I'm compiling. I plan on putting up bits and pieces of it on the blog a little at a time!

    So is "Let's Pretend" a look at alternative history what what might have happened if Bonnie Prince Charlie won?

    Stay tuned: I'll something up for the birth of the new little prince a.s.a.p.!

    God Bless,

  3. My brilliant and beautiful daughter learned that we have a McQueen ancestor who was sold to the colonies in servitude for being part of the uprising. Whoop! She, being a total girl-chick, is way cool with being related to Steve McQueen.

  4. For as long as my sister & I can remember, my Nan would tell us the stories she said were passed down in our we came from the Highlands of Scotland (said as she would raise her fist), that we were of the Chisholm Clan and tell us stories about the 2 Chisholm brothers that helped "smuggle Bonnie Prince Charlie out of the country and saved his life". My sister and I always wondered if these stories were true, and I'm very glad to come across this, thank you!