Friday, January 8, 2010
Tart of the Week: Flora MacDonald
In 1722 in the northern islands of Scotland a little girl named Flora MacDonald was born, destined to become an icon of Scottish patriotism. Her father died while she was a child and her mother remarried another MacDonald (there weren't many other clans on the sparsley populated island). Gossip has it, that new Husband MacDonald actually abducted Mrs. MacDonald to marry her! That would explain why Flora was raised by the head of the clan instead of her mother. When she was thirteen, a friend of her mother had Flora join her own daughter in receiving a lady's education in Edinburgh.
Scotland was politically abuzz in the early eighteenth century. The Jacobite political movement had been afoot, trying to restore a Stuart king to the throne of England, ever since Queen Mary (with her Dutch husband) took the throne from her Catholic father in 1688. Prince Charles Stuart was the grandson of King James II and known as Bonnie Prince Charlie to the affectionate Scots and the Old Pretender to those who opposed his claim to the throne. Charles himself, fancied the English throne and fought for his right to it, therefore becoming the newest mascot of the Jacobite movement. The young prince was also just two years older than Miss Flora MacDonald.
In 1745 Flora was back in the northern islands of Scotland when Charles ended up hiding out there after a defeat at the Battle of Culloden. He wasn't safe there and needed to get out before the local militias discovered him. The person willing to do that job was Flora. She dragged- up the prince, disguising him as her Irish maid, Betty Burke, and secured a passport to the mainland. That is how Bonnie Prince Charlie passed right under England's nose, thereby saving Charles' life as well as preserving the Jacobean sense of hope. However, the plan wasn't foolproof and after arousing some suspicion in trying to arrange further transport for Charles, Flora was summoned for questioning. By then Charles was safe and Flora proudly confessed to her crime, stating that it was an act of humanity, one which she would have done to any soul in peril. But just look at that tartan gown she wears, Flora was feisty, daring, lass willing to risk everything for a cause she believed in.
Her actions landed her on a nasty ship ride to London to be thrown into the Tower of London. Flora was only there briefly before she was allowed to live on parole before being released. The people of England seemed to take pity on her due to her excellent tale of female heroism. As we all know, the English public loved good stories, especially when they concerned someone sticking it to the king. Flora's new celebrity welcomed her into society and even allowed her to meet people such as Samuel Johnson and even the son of the king she allegedly took action to dethrone. When the prince asked her why she did it, her response was that she would have done the same for him if he had been in need. She obviously had no problem being blunt!
After all that Prince Charlie fuss died down, Flora decided to settle down and marry. The man was yet another MacDonald, Captain Allan. The two would eventually move to North Carolina. When the American Revolutionary War broke out, the couple surprising sided with the loyalists, thinking the Colonies would loose. With Flora's history with the monarchy, she feared what would happen to her and her family if King George found out her treasonous ways hadn't died. Luckily, her family survived the war. However, by 1779 she had decided that living in the newly formed United States wasn't for her and it was time to move back to her beloved Scotland. During the voyage, pirates attacked the ship and the ever-stubborn and spirited tart refused to leave the deck, sustaining an arm injury.
Flora eventually did make it back to her native land and remained there until her death in 1790, at the age of 68 -two years after her former partner-in-crime, Bonnie Prince Charlie died.