The Story of Bonnie Prince Charlie & Flora MacDonald

Posted by Michael Mortimer on 25th Jan 2018

Flora MacDonald's farewell painting 

The Story of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora MacDonald, is regarded as one of the most romantic in Scottish History.

Flora MacDonald is famously known for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from Scotland after the defeat of the Jacobite’s in the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Bonnie Prince Charlie [Prince Charles Edward Stuart] led the second Jacobite Uprising of 1745 to overthrow King George II. The part that Flora played in the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie ‘over the sea to Skye’ is immortalised in the ‘Skye Boat Song’, published in 1884:

Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing,
Over the sea to Skye,
Carry the lad thats born to be King,
Over the sea to Skye…”


So goes the famous Skye Boat Song, which owes its origins to the daring mission of mercy undertaken by Flora MacDonald, a young Highland woman who risked her life out of compassion for a fugitive Prince who had staked everything on a bid to win a kingdom and lost.

Flora MacDonald’s adventure with ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ began in 1764 on the Outer Hebridean island of South Uist.  Flora’s benefactor, Lady Clanranald, was a Jacobite sympathiser, so Flora was kept closely informed of the Prince’s whereabouts after the defeat of his troops at Culloden.  Although not an ardent Jacobite supporter herself, Flora was touched by the unfortunate plight of the Prince, who now had a price of £30,000 on his head, was being hunted all over the Highlands and Islands by government soldiers.  So when a plan was hatched to smuggle the Prince to the relative safety of Skye, Flora agreed to play a part in it.

In June 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie finally landed on South Uist with a couple of loyal supporters.  There they met Flora, and arrangements were made to disguise the Prince as ‘Betty Burke’, an Irish maidservant, and conduct him to Skye.  After a few days’ preparation, they sailed in a small boat ‘over the sea to Skye’, just as the militia landed nearby.  The Prince was dressed in a calico gown, quilted petticoat and headdress to disguise his face.

After landing safely on Skye, the Prince’s perilous wanderings continued for a few more weeks, until finally he managed to escape mainland Scotland on a ship bound for France.  He and Flora were destined never to meet again.

Shortly afterwards, Flora was imprisoned in London for her part in the ‘Young Pretender’s’ escape, but she was soon released and became a society heroine, for even then the story of her courage captured the imagination of the public.  She was even introduced to the Prince of Wales, and had her portrait painted by fashionable artists of the day.

Flora married the son of McDonald of Kingsburgh and emigrated with him to North Carolina, where he became a Brigadier General on the royalist side in the American War of Independence.  He was taken prisoner there but eventually he and Flora returned once more to his ancestral home, Kingsburgh, on Skye.

Flora MacDonald died in Skye in 1790, and her grave can be seen today, not far from the place where she first landed with ‘the lad who was born to be King’.

THE WALKERS STORY…                     

Walkers Shortbread Old Logo

It was in the 1960’s that we decided to incorporate the painting into our logo when refreshing the design of our corporate identity.

Because it is one of the most romantic scenes in Scottish History, the Walker family felt it was a perfect fit for the brand and ethos of the company giving our history and heritage.

In 1998, Walkers Shortbread bought ownership rights of the picture and still to this day it continues to be at the heart of our logo, with swooping Walkers ribbon surrounding its presence.  The original painting also hangs in Aberlour House at Walkers Shortbread Head Office.

The Story of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora MacDonald and Walkers Shortbread will always have one thing in common… both are steeped in Scottish History!