A lot of Jacobite history can focus on the men involved and the actions they took, which is why it is always nice to find a good story about a woman taking a role in history. Granted we may be a little biased because we are both women, but nevertheless here are a few of our favourite tales of women in Jacobite history.
Firstly, Dame Alice Lisle. Alice is widely believed to have been the first victim of the Bloody Assizes and was the last woman to be publicly beheaded in England. She was placed on trial for harbouring fugitives after the defeat of the Monmouth Rebellion and, despite the fact that none of the men she harboured were convicted of treason, she was sentenced to be burned. As she was a lady this sentence was eventually substituted for beheading, apparently this was deemed more appropriate for her social rank. On 2nd September 1685 Alice, aged 71, was thus executed by axe in Winchester market place and today a plaque marks the spot of her execution.
During the 1715 Rebellion there were a number of women of note; including Lady Lude who played her part in drumming up recruits for the Jacobites by apparently threatening to remove the tenants from their ‘means and effects’ if they refused to join. Our pick though is Lady Winifred Maxwell, Countess of Nithsdale, who helped her husband escape execution. After being captured at Preston Winifred’s husband was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. A personal appeal by Winifred to King George I was unsuccessful so she took more drastic action. The night before the execution Winifred met with her husband and dressed him in ladies clothing to be led out by one of her maids. Meanwhile Winifred carried on her ‘conversation’ with him in his cell, so no one would be suspicious, before she finally fled herself. Both Winifred and her husband eventually made their way to the continent and later joined the Stuarts exiled court in Rome.
Lady Lude returned in the ’45 Rebellion where she entertained Prince Charles at Blair Castle and defended it against Government forces. Once again though she was not the only one to stand up for a cause they believed in. Lady Jane Nimmo was at her home when a group of Jacobites came to raid her property collecting taxes. The party found 91 firearms on the premises but they were deemed old and useless so eventually left with nothing. They later found out that Jane had been deceitful and deliberately hidden weapons and horses from the Jacobite party. The Lieutenant in charge of the group demanded the weapons be sent on for the Jacobite cause but Jane refused and her perseverance won out; the Jacobites never received any weapons from her.
Finally, we look at Lady Margaret Ogilvy who escaped from Edinburgh Castle. Margaret was the wife of Lord Ogilvy who went to fight with Prince Charles. Refusing to leave him Margaret rode with him but was captured and held in Inverness Castle before being transported south to Edinburgh. In November 1746 she was visited by her friend Miss Katherine Hepburn of Keith, and her brother and sister Mr and Miss Johnstone of Westerhall. With the help of her friends Margaret escaped dressed as a laundress whilst Miss Johnstone told guards she was ill and in bed. The guards left, being too gentlemanly to disturb her, thereby allowing the escape to take place. Eventually Margaret managed to make it to the continent where she was reunited with her husband.
Hopefully you enjoyed these tales; as always please like, comment, tweet and share with us any stories you know of the women of the Jacobites.
All the best, K & D