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February 4th 1746

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Prince Charlie and the Dunblane serving girl

There are all too many stories told of acts of loyalty and heroism shown to Prince Charles Edward in the days of the ’45. Probably many are apocryphal but the task of separating the facts from the myths is not always easy.

There is the story of the serving girl in Dunblane who spent the whole night watching over Prince Charles and polishing his boots as he lay asleep in Balhaldie House on his way south with his Highlanders in 1745. As he awoke in the morning he stretched out his hand in a princely gesture to the girl, but she, overcome with emotion, kissed his boots instead and with tears streaming down her cheeks cried out, “Oh my Prince, my Prince, but there’s ten to one against you.”  The whole incident seems inherently unlikely but there is no doubt that the Prince did command intense devotion from his followers, especially his female followers.

After the retreat from Derby the Prince’s army moved north followed by the Duke of Cumberland. The Duke stayed at Dunblane for the night of February 4th 1746. Next morning as he rode down Millrow in Dunblane on his grey charger a young girl appeared at the window of an old mansion house. In her hand was a pail of boiling water which she flung down upon horse and rider.

It missed the Duke but struck his horse which reared up in fright and pain throwing the Duke to the ground. He was not badly hurt and was later able to make his way north. His soldiers rushed into the house but by this time the girl had left from the back and entered the underground culvert which carried the Minnie Burn beneath the town to the Allan Water. Here she finally emerged and made her escape. She is later reputed to have married a local farmer. But then she would, wouldn’t she?

There is an even more unlikely twist to the tale. Some months later a male child was born. He was named James Steuart and in due course became Minister of Anderson Relief Church in Glasgow. He was believed to be of royal descent, which rather flattering rumour he never bothered to deny. His congregation even presented him with a pulpit beautifully carved with Jacobite roses.

It has to be said that all the historical evidence is that, particularly at that time in his career, the Prince was far more concerned with gaining a throne than with more amorous pursuits. But if he should have felt the need for a little feminine company in Dunblane that night, the serving girl was certainly in the right place at the right time.

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