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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Charles disguised in female attire


Beset with dangers on every hand, Charles and his companion directed their steps towards Benbecula, and, about midnight, came to a hut into which O'Neil entered. Providentially for Charles, O'Neil here found Miss Flora Macdonald, with whom he had got lately acquainted at Ormaclade, the seat of Clanranald, in Benbecula, when on a visit to the chief, whose kinswoman she was. This lady, whose memory will ever be held in esteem by posterity, for her generous and noble disinterestedness in rescuing the prince from the imminent perils which surrounded him, was the daughter of Macdonald of Milton, in the island of South Uist. Her father left her an orphan when only a year old, and her mother had married Macdonald of Armadale, in the isle of Skye, who commanded one of the militia companies raised in that island by Sir Alexander Macdonald, and was now in South Uist at the head of his corps. Miss Macdonald was about twenty-four years of age, of the middle size, and to the attractions of a handsome figure and great vivacity, she added the more estimable mental qualities of good sense, blandness of temper, and humanity. The hut in which O'Neil now met Miss Macdonald belonged to her only brother, Angus Macdonald of Milton, in whose family she then resided.

As O'Neil recollected that Miss Macdonald had expressed, in his presence, an earnest desire to see the prince, and had offered to do any thing in her power to protect him, it occurred to O'Neil that, on the present occasion, she might render an essential service to the prince if, after dressing him in female attire, she would pass him off as he maid-servant, and carry him to Skye. O'Neil at once proposed his plan to the young lady; but she thought it fantastical and dangerous, and at first positively refused to engage in it. As parties of the Macdonald, Macleod, and Campbell militia were roaming over the island of South Uist in quest of Charles, as no person could leave the island without a passport, and as there was a guard posted at every ferry, and the channel between Uist and Skye covered with ships of war, the utter hopelessness of such an attempt appeared evident. Bent, however, upon his plan, O'Neil was resolved to try what effect Charles's own presence would have upon the young lady in inducing her to yield, and he accordingly introduced her to the prince. Miss Macdonald was so strongly impressed with his critical and forlorn state, that, on seeing Charles, she almost instantly consented to conduct him to Skye. she describes the prince at this time as in a bad state of health; and though of a thin and weak habit of body, and greatly worn out by fatigue, yet exhibiting a cheerfulness, magnanimity, and fortitude, which those only who saw him could have credited.

Having thus given her consent to O'Neil's proposal, Miss Macdonald instantly proceeded to Clanranald's house to procure the necessary requisites for the intended voyage to Skye. In crossing one of the fords on her way to Orma clade, she and her man-servant, Neil MacEachan, not having passports, were taken prisoners by a party of militia, and, being detained till next morning, were brought before the commanding officer, who luckily turned out to be her own step-father, Captain Hugh Macdonald. Having stated to him her intention of proceeding to Skye to her mother, she, without difficulty or suspicion, procured a passport from her stepfather, for herself, a man-servant and her maid, who, in the passport, was called Betty Burke, (the name the prince was to assume), and who was recommended by Captain Macdonald to his wife as an excellent spinner of flax, and a faithful servant. Next day at four o'clock in the afternoon, Charles received a message from Miss Macdonald, who had reached Ormaclade, informing him that "all was well"; on receiving which, he and O'Neil resolved to join her immediately; but, to their great consternation, the messenger informed them that they could not pass either of the fords that separated South Uist from Benbecula as they were both guarded by the military. In their perplexity an inhabitant offered to convey them in his boat to Benbecula; and they were accordingly landed on a promontory of that island. They dismissed the boat, after having given orders to the boatmen to meet them on the opposite side of the island, and proceeded on their journey; but they had not gone far when they observed that the land on which they stood was surrounded by water. Thinking that the pilot had made a mistake, they hallooed after the boat, but in vain, as it was already far from shore. As it was high water, Charles and his companion imagined that they could obtain a dry passage on the subsiding of the tide; but they were disappointed. The situation of the prince now appeared dismal. After escaping so many dangers, he had at present no prospect but to starve upon a desert island. Nevertheless, he kept up his spirit; and, after a laborious search, he succeeded in finding a ford, by which he and his companion crossed. Charles and his companion arrived at Rossinish, the place of rendezvous, about midnight, wet to the skin, and exhausted with hunger and fatigue. Finding that a party of military was stationed at a short distance, they retired to another place, about four miles from Rossinish, whence O'Neil went to Ormaclade to ascertain the reason why Miss Macdonald had not kept her appointment. In explanation, she informed him, that conceiving the prince would be safer in North Uist than in Skye, she had engaged a cousin of her own in North Uist to receive him into his house. This gentleman, however, having afterwards declined to run the risk of harbouring the prince, Miss Macdonald made the necessary preparations for her voyage. Having hired a six-oared boat to carry her to Skye, which she ordered to be in readiness at an appointed place the following day, Miss Macdonald left Ormaclade on the 27th of June, along with Lady Clanranald, a Mrs Macdonald and Mac Eachan, all of whom were conducted by O'Neil to the place where Charles lay concealed, about eight miles from Ormaclade. On entering the hovel, they found Charles employed in roasting, for dinner, the heart, liver, and kidneys of a sheep upon a wooden spit. The ladies began to compassionate the prince upon his unfortunate situation; but he diverted their attention from this melancholy subject by some facetious observations. He remarked that the wretched to-day may be happy to-morrow, and that all great men would be better by suffering as he was doing. The party dined in the hut, Miss Macdonald sitting on the right, and Lady Clanranald on the left hand of the prince.

After dinner, Charles put on the female attire, which had been provided for him by the ladies. It was coarse and homely, and consisted of a flowered linen gown, a light-coloured quilted petticoat, a white apron, and a mantle of dun camlet made after the Irish fashion, with a hood. whilst Charles was putting on this extraordinary dress, several jokes were passed on the singularity of the prince's appearance. The ladies and Neil Mac Eachan returned to Ormaclade, and in the evening again met Charles and his companion on the sea-shore, at a mile's distance from that house. They sat down to supper on the sea-side; but before they had finished, a messenger arrived with information that General Campbell and Captain Ferguson had arrived at Ormaclade with a large party of soldiers and marines, in quest of Charles. Lady Clanranald went immediately home, and, on reaching her house, was interrogated very strictly by these officers as to the cause of her absence; but she excused herself by saying that she had been visiting a sick child.

After the departure of Lady Clanranald, Charles and his protectress went down to the beach, where their boat lay afloat, so as to be in readiness to embark in case the military should appear. They kindled a fire upon a rock; but they had scarcely warmed themselves, when they were thrown into a state of alarm by the appearance of four boats full of armed men, apparently making towards the shore. They instantly extinguished their fire, and concealed themselves behind some rocks. Fortunately they were not observed by the boats, which, instead of coming to land, sailed along the shore, within a gun-shot of the spot, where Charles lay concealed. Judging it unwise to put to sea during the day, Charles deferred his voyage till the evening, and accordingly embarked, at eight o'clock in the 28th of June, for Skye, accompanied by Miss Macdonald and Neil Mac Eachan. The prince was extremely sorry to part with O'Neil, his only remaining companion, and entreated Miss Macdonald to allow him to accompany them; but, as she had only three passports, she absolutely refused to accede to the request.

(A few days after parting with Charles, this trusty officer being betrayed by a person in whom he had confided, was taken prisoner. Being brought before Captain Ferguson, and refusing to give any information about the prince, he was stripped, ordered to be put into a rack, and to be whipt. When the last part of this order was about to be executed, he was saved from the intended ignominy by a lieutenant of the Scotch Fusileers, who, drawing his sword, threatened Ferguson with his vengeance if he used an officer in such an infamous manner. O'Neil says that, four days after he was taken, General Campbell sent him word, upon his parole of honour, that if he had any money or effects in the country, and would send them to him, they should be safe; and that as he had always imagined that the word of honour was as sacredly kept in the English army as in others, he went with a detachment for his money and gold watch, which he had hid among the rocks; that he sent to General Campbell by Captain Campbell of Skipness, 450 guineas, his gold watch, broadsword, and pistols; but that his property he repeatedly applied to him to return him his property, he never obtained it).


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