Flora MacDonald- Jacobite or not?

On the 5th March 1790 Flora MacDonald, probably the most famous woman of the ’45 Rising, died on the Isle of Skye at the age of 68. But how much do we know about this woman who is famous for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape?

When you mention the name Flora MacDonald people may immediately think she was a strong Jacobite supporter but this isn’t exactly true. Her story is one that has certainly been romanticised over the years creating a wonderful heroine but the facts are harder to pin down.

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Flora MacDonald

In 1746 Flora was on the island of Uist as Prince Charles Edward Stuart attempted to evade capture following the defeat at Culloden. She was 24 years old when she was asked to help Charles escape and after a little hesitation she agreed. She managed to get a pass to travel from Uist to Skye from her stepfather Hugh MacDonald, commander of the local militia. Flora was allowed to take two servants and a crew of six boatmen. Prince Charles was disguised as Betty Burke, an Irish spinning maid and the group sailed from Uist on 27th June. Finally Charles and Flora went their separate ways having only known each other for some eleven days.

Two weeks later Flora was arrested. One of the boatmen, apparently under the threat of torture, cracked and gave up names and a description of Charles dressed as Betty Burke. Flora was taken prisoner though by all accounts was treated very well. Before she was taken to Edinburgh she was allowed home to visit her mother and was allowed to take a young girl with her as a maid and companion. Flora herself was recorded as polite and cooperative and when she arrived in London on 6th December she did so with recommendations from her ‘captors’ and requests for special treatment towards her.

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Statue of Flora outside Inverness Castle

By spring 1747 Flora had become somewhat of a celebrity in London and her actions already somewhat romanticised. She received gifts and was allowed to pay visits, one of which was to Frederick, Prince of Wales. When Frederick asked her why she dared to help his fathers enemies she apparently replied that she would have done the same for him had she found him in distress, the fact that Charles was a Jacobite seemed to have no bearing on her decision to help. Flora was finally released under the general indemnity in July 1747.

Three years later Flora married Allan MacDonald and they lived in Scotland until 1774 when they emigrated to North Carolina. They arrived as the American Revolution was brewing and her husband joined a regiment of Royal Highland Emigrants, a common practice among expatriated Scots. Unfortunately he was captured at the battle of Moore’s Creek and Flora was forced into hiding while the American rebels destroyed the family plantation and she lost everything.

In 1779 she returned to Scotland but the merchant ship she was sailing on was attacked by privateers and Flora was injured when she refused to take shelter below deck. In 1783 her husband was released from his capture and travelled back to join Flora in Scotland and they settled in Skye. When she died in 1790 she was buried on the Isle of Skye and her funeral was said to have been attended by 3,000 mourners who between them consumed 300 gallons of whisky.

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The plaque on Flora’s memorial in Skye

Over the years Flora has become a Jacobite legend, her story has been told and retold. The Skye Boat song recalling the Princes escape was published in 1884  and the “Flora MacDonald’s Fancy” is a Scottish highland dance choreographed in her honour. Her act of courage has seen her transformed into the heroine of the ’45 Risings and of the Jacobite cause.

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Flora’s Grave in Skye

We hope you enjoyed this insight into Flora, obviously there is plenty more you can read about her if you wish. As always please like, tweet, share, comment and perhaps head over to Skye where Flora’s grave can still be seen in Kilmuir.

All the best, K & D

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Top Five NTS Mountains

The National Trust for Scotland is the 3rd largest landowner in Scotland and looks after 190,000 acres of countryside with a grand total of 46 Munros under its care.

With that it mind we’ve put together a short list of our favourite mountains to hopefully inspire you to hit the hills.

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Ben Lawers

1.Ben Lawers.

Ben Lawers is Scotlands tenth highest munro and reaches 1,214m (3,984ft) above the banks of Loch Tay. The mountain is part of the Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve which is famous for its arctic-alpine flora and is regarded by botanists as one of the richest areas for alpine flora in the UK. Ben Lawers itself is the highest point along a ridge that contains seven Munros so if you’re looking to check some Munros off your list this is a good spot to do so. For a slightly less intense walk there is a short hidden history trail which reveals remnants of life that use to work and live in the hills.

 

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Glencoe

2. Glencoe

If you thought Ben Lawers had a lot of munros we can go one better with Glencoe & Dalness. Here walkers and mountaineers come from across the globe to check out the eight Munros which can be found. Glencoe is considered the home of Scottish mountaineering and attracts some 150,000 hill walkers each year. One of the most famous walks is the Aonach Eagach Ridge; not for those with vertigo it traverses an increasingly narrow ridge with spectacular scrambling to cover two Munros.

 

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Ben Lomond

3. Ben Lomond

Situated along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond this Munro rises to 974m and is the most southernly Munro in Scotland. Ben Lomond offers much more than just the Munro though. The site houses a range of walks and at Ardess you will also find the thatched Cruck Building, an example of the type of building people would have made, and lived in, in centuries past.

 

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Goatfell

4. Goatfell

Not quite a Munro, Goatfell is the highest peak on the Isle of Arran sitting at 874m (2,866ft). From the summit if you are lucky you can see all the way across to Ben Lomond in the east and out to the coast of Ireland in the south-west. The best time to visit is probably in May when there is the Arran Mountaineering Festival, a fun packed four days of guided walks, scrambles, wildlife watching, films, ceilidhs, curry nights and more.

 

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Torridon

5. Torridon

Torridon has to be on the list not just because it has five Munros but also because of its geology. Most of the scenery is composed of Torridonian sandstone dating back 750 million years which creates the huge monoliths. For the adventurous there is the mighty Liathach often rated as Scotlands finest mountain reaching 1,054m (3,456ft) whilst for those less vertically inclined there are beautiful walks along the coast by the fjord, Loch Torridon.

If you want to see more of our mountains then do visit the NTS website http://www.nts.org.uk/Home/ and check out some trails from the comfort of your own home as routes have been captured by NTS staff using Google’s StreetView technology. http://www.nts.org.uk/treks

Hopefully this post has inspired you to check out some of the many NTS mountains. As always please like, share, follow, comment and break out those walking boots.

All the best, K &D

Mary II

Mary II was joint sovereign of England, Scotland and Ireland with her husband William from 1689 until her death in 1694 and we felt it only fair to give her a blog post to discover a little more about her.

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Mary II

Mary was born in 1662 and was the eldest daughter of James II & VII. She married William in 1677 and it is safe to say that initially she wasn’t too happy about the pairing. Mary was betrothed to William of Orange (her cousin) when she was fifteen and when first told of the arrangement she apparently wept for an entire day. The pairing was a political and diplomatic move and William was not the most desirable of people. Mary’s sister Anne referred to him as the ‘Caliban’ in reference to a hideous Greek ogre. The wedding finally took place in 1677 with Mary crying through the whole occasion before she travelled with William to the Netherlands. Whilst the marriage may have started off on shaky ground it eventually grew to become a strong partnership. Sadly though the couple never had any children. Mary miscarried at least twice in 1678 and following this was unable to have children of her own.

When James II & VII became King of England and Scotland in 1685 many were not happy and as early as 1686 it was reported that some disgruntled politicians and noblemen were in contact with Mary’s husband.William eventually agreed to invade and challenge the throne in 1688 and on 11th April 1689 William and Mary were jointly crowned at Westminster Abbey and accepted the Scottish crown the following month. Shortly after the coronation Mary received a letter from her father, James II & VII, which apparently disowned her and placed a fathers curse upon her.

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William III

During their time as joint monarchs William and Mary passed the Bill of Rights which limited the sovereign’s power and provided guarantees against the abuses of power which James II and the other Stuart kings were perceived to have committed, as well as excluding Catholics from becoming monarchs. William never inspired the loyalty of his English subjects and was always dismissed as an arrogant foreigner but Mary was more widely liked due to her generous and warm nature.

Late in 1694 Mary contracted smallpox and in order to prevent the infection spreading sent away anyone who had not had the disease. This included her sister Anne who offered to see her sister but Mary insisted she stay away, not least because she was pregnant at the time. Mary finally succumbed to the illness on 28th December 1694. William who had come to rely on Mary was apparently devastated. He had lost both his parents to smallpox and now his wife.

Mary was widely mourned across Britain although there are some who say Jacobites saw her death as devine retribution for breaking the fifth comandment, ‘Honor thy father’. Her funeral cost an estimated £50,000 and was the first of any royal to be attended by all members of both Houses of Parliament. When she died Henry Purcell prepared music especially for her funeral entitled ‘Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary’. Interestingly an electronic version of this music was used by Stanley Kubrick for the main theme to his film ‘A Clockwork Orange’. Mary was buried in a vault in the south aisle of Henry VII’s chapel, not far from her mother Anne.

We hope you enjoyed this look at Mary II as always please like, follow, tweet, comment and keep discovering more about Scotlands history.

All the best, K & D.

Ruthven Barracks

On the 11th February 1746 Ruthven Barracks surrendered to Jacobite forces, therefore we thought it was time to shed a little light on the barracks.

Ruthven Barracks was one of four infantry barracks built across the Highlands by George II’s government following the failed 1715 Jacobite Rising. The others were at Kiliwhimen (now Fort Augustus), Bernera, Glenelg and Inversnaid. Their purpose was to house regular troops outposted from the main garrisons at Fort William, Fort George, Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle.

Ruthven Barracks were built between 1719 and 1721, on a prominent mound that had once been the site of a medieval castle. A separate stables block was added in 1734, on Major General Wade’s orders, for use by dragoons protecting troops marching along the adjacent military road.

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Ruthven Barracks

In 1745 it withstood its first major attack by the Jacobites. On the 29th August some 200 Jacobites led by Irishman John William O’Sullivan tried to capture the barracks but were fought back by 12 redcoats commanded by Sergeant Terrence Malloy. The Jacobites had no cannon so their plan was to fill a wooden barrel with explosives, place it by the back entrance and set it on fire. While everyone was dealing with the explosives the Jacobites could then climb over the walls at the other end of the courtyard and catch the guards by surprise.

Unfortunately, the Jacobites struggled to place their explosive barrel in the right place and one of their men died. Meanwhile, the men with the ladder struggled to carry it up the steep slope beside the barracks. The 12 redcoats kept up a steady attack of musket fire and the Jacobites ended up abandoning their attack before it ever really began and retreated with two dead and three wounded. One redcoat was killed, shot through the head by ‘foolishly holding his head too high over the parapet.’

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Ruthven Barracks

 

The following year the Jacobites returned led by Gordon of Glenbucket with increased numbers and more suitably equipped artillery to take on the barracks. On 11th February the stronger artillery forces managed to force the garrison to surrender. The Jacobites allowed the men to march free with the promise of safe passage to Perth.

Following the Jacobite defeat at Culloden those men who were lucky enought to escape the field reconvened at Ruthven where they awaited word from the Prince. It is estimated some 2-3,000 men were at Ruthven Barracks when a note was received from Prince Charles Edward Stewart stating “Let every man seek his own safety in the best way he can.” The Jacobites dispersed and the Jacobite cause was all but abandoned. The departing men torched the barracks and they have remained a ruin ever since.

We hope you enjoyed this little insight into Ruthven Barracks. As always please like, comment, tweet, share, follow and be sure to visit the remains of the barracks near Kingussie if you can.

All the best, K & D