Outlander history: Did Bonnie Prince Charlie really dress as a woman?

Outlander -- Courtesy of STARZ
Outlander -- Courtesy of STARZ /

We’d thought we’d heard the last “mark me” in Outlander Season 3, but Bonnie Prince Charlie returned in Season 6. We saw him dressed as a woman to escape. Was that true to real history?

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. There are things that pop up that you may not believe really happened, and the idea of Bonnie Prince Charlie dressing as a woman would be one of them. Is it really possible that he chose to dress as a woman to get out of Scotland?

We have to remember that there was a huge bounty on Charles’s head. The Crown was willing to pay £30,000, but there were Jacobite sympathizers out there, even though they knew they could be imprisoned. Flora MacDonald was one of those sympathizers, and she worked with those plotting to get Charlie out of the country.

Bonnie Prince Charlie dressing as a woman in Outlander

During Outlander Season 6, Episode 5, we went back to 1746. We thought we were done with “mark me,” but Bonnie Prince Charlie came back. It was time to see how he got out of the country, and sure enough, we got the story of him dressing as a woman so Flora MacDonald could row the boat to Skye.

This is based on real history. Charlie did dress as a woman called “Betty Burke,” and Flora did row the boat to Skye. It’s where the Skye Boat Song comes from.

Walkers Shortbread shares that Charles dressed in calico gown, quilted petticoat and headdress to disguise his face. The headdress was important as Charlie would have been one of the more recognizable people in the area.

Scotsman goes into a little more detail. Flora sent a swatch of the dress that Charles wore to get away from the Crown. Flora had stitched the dress for Charlie to wear, and the hood actually followed the Irish fashion rather than the Scottish.

Charlie had to remain in the gown until he managed to leave Scotland in full. That would take a few more days, but he eventually got to mainland Europe, where he would die 40 years later.

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