Rebel Heroines

Flora may not have really been a rebel heroine, in the sense that she was not an active Jacobite and almost certainly was not party to the plan before it was sprung on her, but the overriding sense of Flora’s story is that she kept going: surviving extreme circumstances as many other women did and still do.

It’s worth noting the contribution of other women involved in the Jacobite rebellion who didn’t achieve the same legendary status as Flora but were still very much, if not more concerned with the cause than she was. Some were dragged into it by their husbands or male relatives and some freely chose to involve themselves. Some women raised armies while others worked behind the scenes preparing food and accommodation or writing letters to keep communication flowing. Many women were involved in the hiding of fugitives or providing distraction so that prisoners could escape.

  • Lady “Colonel” Anne Mackintosh raised an army of men for the Jacobites despite her husband being loyal to the government. She also masterminded the Rout of Moy when about 70 Jacobites including the Prince were staying with her and she received news that 1500 Redcoats were marching towards them. Not sharing the news with the Prince, she conspired with a local blacksmith and a handful of his friends to run up and down just behind the peak of a hillside firing their muskets and making as much noise as possible to try to appear to be a full army ready for battle. It worked and the government troops retreated.
  • Lady Winifred Maxwell smuggled her husband out of the Tower of London dressed as a woman. To give him a head start, she sent him out disguised in her friend’s clothes while she remained in the cell pretending to have a conversation with him to fool the guards into believing he was still there.
  • Anne Mackay nursed prisoners who were kept in the basement of the house where she was a tenant. She smuggled a prisoner to freedom and was made to stand for three days and three nights in an attempt to get her to divulge his whereabouts. Her son was killed by soldiers trying to intimidate her.
  • Clementine Walkinshaw was in a long term romantic relationship with Bonnie Prince Charlie, quite possibly secretly married to him, but left him when his drunken violence became too much to bear.
  • Bella Lumsden is remembered for hiding her husband under her very wide skirt and calmly sitting at her spinning wheel while government troops carried out a spot check of their house.

Recommended reading: Flora Macdonald. The Most Loyal Rebel – Hugh MacDonald;  Damn Rebel Bitches. The Women of the ’45 – Maggie Craig; Flora MacDonald. The Jacobite Heroine in Scotland and North America – Ruaridh H. MacLeod