GeorgeII.—The Story of Flora Macdonald
AFTER the battle of Prestonpans, Charles returned to Edinburgh and remained there for some days gathering men and money. It was a gay time. There were constant balls and parties, and Bonnie Prince Charlie was loved more and more each day. The Bonnie Prince, who "could eat a dry crust, sleep on peas-straw, take his dinner in four minutes, and win a battle in five," was toasted everywhere.
At last Charles and his army were ready and marched into England. But although no one resisted him, although he took several towns without a blow being struck, hardly any of the English joined him. The Highlanders grew weary of marching through strange country, and home-sick for their mountains, and many of them deserted and went home. By the time Charles reached Derby, the leaders were so disheartened that they persuaded him to turn back to Scotland. Yet the people in London were awaiting his coming in terror, and King George was ready to run away.
It is difficult to guess what might have happened had the Prince gone on. But he did not. He turned again towards Scotland, and began the long, sad march homeward.
The wearied army reached Glasgow at last, having marched six hundred miles through snow and rain and wintry weather in less than two months.
Charles now decided to take Stirling Castle. He met the King's army at Falkirk and defeated them, but after that, instead of trying to take Stirling, as he had intended, he listened to the advice of some of the Highland chiefs and marched northward.
As Charles had defeated two generals, King George now sent his own son, the Duke of Cumberland to command his army. At Culloden, near Inverness, the last Jacobite battle was fought. The royal army was much larger than the Jacobite one, and although the Highlanders fought with all their usual fierce courage, they were utterly defeated. Charles would have been glad to die with his brave followers, but two of his officers seized the bridle of his horse and forced him against his will to leave the field. The battle was turned into a terrible slaughter, for the Duke of Cumberland behaved so cruelly to the beaten rebels that ever after he was called the Butcher.
The Stuart cause was lost, and Bonnie Prince Charlie was a hunted man. The King offered £30,000 to any one who would take him prisoner. But although the money would have made many a poor Highlander richer than he had ever imagined it possible for any one to be, not one of them tried to earn it. Instead, they hid their Prince, fed him, clothed him, and worked for him. At last, after months of hardships and adventures, he escaped to France.
Many people helped Prince Charles, but it was a beautiful lady, called Flora Macdonald, who perhaps helped him most. She served him when he was most miserable and in greatest danger. The whole country round was filled with soldiers searching for him. He scarcely dared to leave his hiding-place, and was almost dying of hunger. No house was safe for him, and he had to hide among the rocks of the seashore, shivering with cold and drenched with rain.
With great difficulty and danger to herself, Flora Macdonald reached the place where the Prince was hiding, bringing with her a dress for him to wear. The Prince put it on, and together they went to the house of a friend, where Flora asked if she and her maid "Betty" might stay that night. This friend was very fond of Flora, and very glad to see her. She was a Jacobite, and when she was told who "Betty" was she made ready her best room for the Prince. A little girl belonging to the house came into the hall while Betty was standing there, and ran away frightened at the great tall woman, but no one suspected who she was.
Disguised as Flora Macdonald's maid, Prince Charlie travelled for many days, escaping dangers in a wonderful way. For the Prince made a very funny-looking woman. He took great strides, and managed his skirts so badly that, in spite of the danger, his friends could not help laughing. "They do call your Highness a Pretender," said one. "All I can say is that you are the worst of your trade the world has ever seen."
When there was no need for Flora to go further with the Prince, they took a sad farewell of each other. "I hope, madam," said he, bending over her hand and kissing it, "we shall yet meet at St. James's." By that he meant that he still hoped to be King some day, and welcome her in his palace of St. James's in London. Then he stepped into the boat which was waiting for him, and Flora sat sadly by the shore, watching it as it sailed farther and farther away.
This rebellion is called "The Forty-five" because it took place in 1745 A.D.
Prince Charlie reached France safely, but the rest of his life was sad. He was a broken, ruined man, and he lived a wanderer in many lands. At last, he died in Rome, on 30th January 1788 A.D., the anniversary of the day on which Charles I. had been beheaded.
In St. Peter's at Rome there is a monument, placed there, it is said, by King George IV., upon which are the names, in Latin, of James III., Charles III., and Henry IX., kings of England. They were kings who never ruled, and are known in history as the Old Pretender, the Young Pretender, and Henry, Cardinal of York, brother of the Young Pretender.