“Flora MacDonald's Lament”


"Over hill and lofty mountains Where the valleys were covered with snow... There poor Flora sat lamenting... Crying, 'Charlie, constant Charlie, My kind, constant Charlie, dear.'" She hopes to meet him again, and repeats her refrain


This is one of those ironic little songs because it's so false-to-life. It is apparently not the same as James Hogg's poem of the same title, and the editors of Brown apparently think it was inspired by Flora MacDonald's brief and unhappy visit to what was in the process of becoming the United States.

The problems with this song include the fact that Bonnie Prince Charlie never showed any actual evidence of involvement with Flora MacDonald. The love of his life, if he had one, was Clementina Walkinshaw; his later marriage (in 1772) was a political match, and produced no children.

Flora MacDonald certainly did not spend her whole life mourning; in 1750 married another MacDonald (the son of MacDonald of Kingsburgh); they went to America in 1774. During the Revolutionary War, her husband was (ahem) a British loyalist, and was commissioned a brigadier. He was captured by the rebels in 1776. Flora, reduced to poverty and reportedly with two of her children dead, sold most of her valuables and returned to England in 1779; her husband was released and followed in 1781.

The song also reports that "Flora's beauty is surprising, like bright Venus in the morning"; this too seems to be a bit of romanticism. There is a portrait by Allan Ramsay (now in the Bodleian Library, and reproduced, e.g., facing page 216 of Clennell Wilkinson's _Bonnie Prince Charlie_ and on p. 180 of Fitzroy Maclean's _An Illustrated History of Scotland_ -- though that copy is too small and dark to be useful), and while she was not ugly, I doubt she would win a beauty contest. - RBW

Historical references

  • 1720-1788 - Life of Charles Edward Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie"
  • 1722-1790 - Life of Flora MacDonald
  • 1745-1746 - '45 Jacobite rebellion led by Bonnie Prince Charlie
  • Apr 16, 1746 - Battle of Culloden. The Jacobite rebellion is crushed, most of the Highlanders slain, and Charlie forced to flee for his life.
  • Jun 28-29, 1746 - Aided by Flora MacDonald, and dressed as her maidservant, Charles flees from North Uist to Skye in the Hebrides.
  • 1774-1779 - period of Flora MacDonald's residence in North America

Cross references


  1. BrownIII 368, "Flora MacDonald's Lament" (1 text)
  2. Roud #5776
  3. BI, Br3368


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1952 (Brown)
Found in: US(SE)