In June 1746, after the Battle of Culloden, Bonnie Prince Charlie took refuge on the island of Benbecula and met Flora MacDonald. She agreed to help him escape the island, deceiving her step-father and commander of the local militia, Hugh MacDonald. He granted her permission to leave with a manservant, a crew of six men and an Irish spinning maid, Betty Burke, who was in fact the Prince in disguise. After landing at Kilbride Flora MacDonald was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London but was released in 1747. She later went to America with her husband, Allan MacDonald, who fought in the American War of Independence. They returned home in 1779 and during an attack by a privateer she refused to leave the deck and was wounded. She died on the Isle of Skye in 1790 and is buried at the cemetery in Kilmuir.
The present miniature derives from a portrait by Thomas Hudson. A mezzotint by Johannes Faber of 1747 which is after this work is in the National Portrait Gallery, London, inv. no. NPG D38080.