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Bonnie Prince Charlie and the forgotten heroine


ANNE Mackintosh lies in an unmarked grave in North Leith Burial Ground, Edinburgh. A young woman with no military experience, she raised a regiment of 500 men and fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie in defiance of both the English and her own husband. To paraphrase Shakespeare, Anne had greatness thrust upon her – only to be forgotten almost immediately afterwards.

They say rats desert a sinking ship. It takes extraordinary courage to join one. But that is what Anne did. Born in 1723, she was 18 when she married Angus Mackintosh (22nd Chief of Clan Mackintosh) in 1741. Four years later, Prince Charles Edward Stuart stepped off a boat and on to the Scottish island of Eriskay. Grandson of King James II and VII, he was in the eyes of many the rightful king by blood. But not in the eyes of Angus, who refused to bring out Clan Mackintosh for the prince. Instead, he accepted ten shillings a day to fight for King George II.

At first, Anne stayed at home. Then came the news that the Jacobites were losing the war. This was what made Anne decide to fight: wearing a tartan habit trimmed with lace, she mounted a horse and rode off to exhort others to join her. Very quickly, she had raised a regiment of 500 men. 

Boosted by the arrival of Lady Mackintosh’s Regiment, the retreating Jacobite Army turned around and defeated General Hawley at the Battle of Falkirk (January 17, 1746). Hawley bitterly remembered this humiliation. After the Battle of Culloden, with Anne imprisoned, he reportedly said: ‘Damn that woman, I’ll honour her with mahogany gallows and silken cord.’

Before Culloden, however, more British Army officers would experience similar humiliation. Lord Loudon was one. He was stationed in Inverness with 2,000 men when a strange piece of intelligence came in. Bonnie Prince Charlie was apparently sleeping in Moy Hall (the seat of Clan Mackintosh), having left his army in Aviemore. The Young Pretender was alone, apart from the company of Lady Mackintosh and perhaps half a dozen servants.

Loudon’s men marched through the night to arrest the prince. Had they caught him, the war would have been over. But around 2am a breathless messenger arrived, banging urgently on the doors of Moy Hall. The soldiers were only a few minutes away. The prince fled down the side of Loch Moy in his nightshirt. He did not take time to buckle his shoes which flew off as he ran.

What could have been going through Anne’s mind? Surely she could not have believed that she might defeat 2,000 British Army regulars? Presumably, by fighting, she thought she could hold them up long enough to let the prince escape.

What followed next was an incredible incident known as ‘The Rout of Moy’ where Anne and a few servants shot at the soldiers, blew on the bagpipes and shouted for non-existent clans to attack. It was the middle of the night and very dark. The soldiers could not see the enemy that opposed them. They thought they had run into the main body of the Jacobite Army and retreated. 

The prince’s life had been saved but now came the news Anne must have been dreading. Angus Mackintosh, her husband, had been captured at Dornoch and was being taken to Moy as a prisoner of war. When he was brought before her, Anne curtseyed to him and said ‘Your servant, captain.’ In return, Angus bowed and said ‘Your servant, colonel.’

Events were now moving at a fast pace. The Jacobite Army marched to Inverness, knowing that ten thousand English men led by ‘Butcher’ Cumberland were only a short distance away. The Battle of Culloden was about to begin.

Lady Mackintosh’s Regiment led the charge of the clans at Culloden. Prince Charles Stuart had stationed himself so far from the front line that he was never able to give the order to charge. A messenger attempted to deliver the order but his head was blown off by a cannon. For 45 minutes, the clansmen stood to attention under a bombardment of cannonballs, grapeshot and musket-fire. They were waiting for an order that would never come.

Anne’s regiment charged first, hit the British Army front line and took more casualties than any of the other clans that fought that day. Anne was arrested after the battle and held prisoner in Inverness for six weeks while Cumberland decided what to do with her. 

Eventually, he released her into her husband’s custody. The reason for this decision was not recorded. It may have been made in recognition of Angus’s service to the British Government. Given the atrocities that followed the Battle of Culloden, clemency from Cumberland towards Anne seems unlikely. But she was the wife of a serving officer; in the ethos of the time, that may be what saved her.

She may not have been hanged ‘with silken cords’ but there is one respect in which General Hawley probably got his wish. Anne has never been honoured for her courage or for her loyalty to the House of Stuart. To this day, her grave remains unmarked.

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Euan Macpherson
Euan Macpherson
Euan Macpherson is the author of The Last Jacobite Heroine:

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