Sunday, December 18, 2022

"An adored celebrity": Flora MacDonald after the Young Pretender had flown

Embed from Getty Images

Lately, I've been given to naming Ian Jack and Neal Acherson as my favourite journalists. But Ian Jack died in October, which leaves just Ascherson - the man who originated that quotation about the government and refugees usually attributed to Tony Benn.

In the latest London Review of Books, Ascherson reviews a book on the life of Flora MacDonald, the woman who kept Charles Edward Stuart from the British Redcoats after his defeat at Culloden.

Here he is on what happened to Flora after the prince had fled and the British caught up with her:

Flora was certainly brave and resolute. Had she been caught with the prince, she might easily have died in prison, or ended up as an indentured, enslaved servant in the Caribbean. But these were capricious, aristocratic times. 

Strictly, what she had done was treasonous. She had preserved the kingdom’s most dangerous enemy, helping him to escape and probably organise another Jacobite invasion. If it had succeeded, the Hanoverian dynasty would have been overthrown, the liberties of the 1688 revolution cancelled, the Anglo-Scottish Union of 1707 reversed, Ireland liberated and Britain’s elites colonised by Catholic appointees. And yet Flora emerged as an adored celebrity. 

During the Second World War, hundreds of young women who sheltered partisans or Allied airmen died in concentration camps. But in Georgian Britain, brutal enough to the lower orders, a good-looking girl with presentable manners touched a sporting reflex in upper-class officers, especially if they were Scottish. If the prince had been caught clambering into a boat with a barefooted lass who spoke only Gaelic, it would have been a different story.

1 comment:

Mick Taylor said...

But was Charles Stuart a Pretender? He was probably more entitled to the British throne than the elector of Hannover.
I don't doubt the consequences that might have flowed from him becoming King, but if you believe in monarch - and I don't - then there is at the very least doubt as to who should have been King.