Jeanie (Jenny) Cameron

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Jenny Cameron

Jeanie (Jenny) Cameron (1695?–1773? or 1724?–1786?) was a hero of the Jacobite risings in Scotland under Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. She was noted for her beauty, charm and manners.[1][2] Her biography may be a compilation of three different people — Jeanie Cameron, who raised troops for the Jacobites; Jenny Cameron, mistress of Charles Stuart; and Jenny Cameron, a milliner from Edinburgh.[3][4] There was significant female support for the Stuart cause, with women providing money, hospitality and acting as spies.[5]

The legend of Jeanie Cameron is remembered in the Scottish ballad Bonnie Jeanie Cameron.[6][7]

Life[edit]

There are several different versions of the life of Jeanie or Jenny Cameron. A spurious biography appeared in 1746 entitled Memoirs of the Remarkable Life and surprising Adventures of Miss Jenny Cameron, A Lady who, by her Attachment to the Person and Cause of the Young Pretender, has render'd herself famous by her Exploits in his Service, and for whose Sake she underwent all the severities of a Winter’s Campaign by the Rev. Archibald Arbuthnot, one of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and Minister of Kiltarlity, in the Presbytery of Inverness. The book was intended as an attack on her reputation, being little more than an elaboration on her alleged sexual activities. "Various scenes and passages of the work are so gross as to be unquotable".[8]

The main source of information about Jeanie Cameron is A Complete History of the Rebellion: From Its First Rise in 1745 to Its Total Suppression at the Glorious Battle of Culloden in April, 1746 by James Ray published in 1752, although some of the details of her life may be invented in an attempt to discredit her and other supporters of the Stuart cause.

In his History of the Rebellion, James Ray says that Jeanie, born in 1695, was the daughter of Hugh Cameron of Glendessary, Scotland. At sixteen she was involved in some scandalous sexual behaviour while at school in Edinburgh and subsequently confined to a convent in France. Her continued scandalous conduct shocked the nuns and she was sent home four years later. On the death of her father and brother she became guardian to her mentally-challenged nephew, who inherited the estates. At the time of the Rebellion, she raised 250 men and joined the Jacobite cause, personally presenting her troops to the Prince and staying with him until the defeat at Stirling Castle. "From thence, the Mock Prince fled with so much precipitation that he neglected to carry off his female Colonel Cameron, who was taken, and, some time after, sent to Edinburgh Castle".[9]

Jenny Cameron with sword and military hat

On 3 February 1746 the Edinburgh Evening Courant reported that Jeannie Cameron was among those taken prisoner at Stirling Castle and confined in Edinburgh Castle. According to The Scots Magazine for November 1746, Jeanie Cameron was granted bail on 15 November, after an imprisonment of nine months.[10]

The Ballad of Bonnie Jeanie Cameron tells that Jeanie fell ill and was near death. She wrote a letter to the Prince providing intelligence on his supporters and enemies. The Prince subsequently went to see her and she won his heart and was restored to health.

The arrest of Jeanie Cameron at Stirling is contradicted by Rev. Robert Forbes in Jacobite Memoirs of the Rebellion of 1745. Forbes, who was also arrested at Stirling Castle and imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle, says that Jeanie Cameron had married an Irish gentleman named O'Neill, but left him and returned to her family. She was with Bonnie Prince Charlie when he raised his standard at Glenfinnan to mark the start of the rebellion. Forbes describes her as "a widow nearer fifty than forty years of age. She is a genteel, well-looking, handsome woman, with a pair of pretty eyes, and hair as black as jet. She is of a very sprightly genius, and is very agreeable in conversation". Forbes goes on to say that Jeanie did not accompany the Prince when the army marched and was never with him except in public.[11]

The woman arrested at Stirling may have been a milliner named Jenny Cameron who went there to care for a relative wounded in the siege. When the Prince's forces fled, the wounded were left behind and taken prisoner by the Duke of Cumberland, Jenny Cameron with them. Cumberland wrote to the Duke of Newcastle that he had captured "the famous Jenny Cameron" and sent her to Edinburgh. When she was released on bail in November, 1746, she returned to her shop in Edinburgh and was showered with business by those who supposed she was the Prince's mistress.[12]

One version of her later days is given in the History of Rutherglen and East Kilbride, by Rev. David Ure (1793). According to Ure, "Mrs. Jean Cameron, a lady of a distinguished family, character, and beauty, whose zealous attachment to the House of Stuart, and the active part she took to support its interest in the year 1745, made her well known throughout Britain" retired to a house called Mount Cameron on Blacklaw Hill in East Kilbride, where she was often visited by her brother, Captain Allan Cameron of Glendessary, and his family. She died there in 1773 and was buried in the grounds.[13]

Other sources say that she ended her life as a poor outcast. In one story, handed down by the family who preserved the ballad and quoted by George Eyre-Todd in Byways of Scottish Story (1930), "a member of the family was, it appears, buying snuff in a shop in Edinburgh when a beggar came in. Without speaking a word the shopkeeper handed the beggar a groat, which the latter as silently took and departed. But the customer had noticed an unusual delicacy in the hand extended to receive the coin. He mentioned the circumstance to the shopkeeper, where-upon the latter informed him, to his surprise, that the beggar was no man, though in man's clothes, but a woman, and no other than Jeanie Cameron, the prince's too ardent sympathiser in the '45. She had, it seemed, followed Charles to France, only to find herself neglected and cast off; and when she returned, forlorn enough, to Scotland, it was to be met by her relatives with set faces and closed doors".[14]

The second volume of Traditions of Edinburgh (1825) by Robert Chambers notes that "Jeanie Cameron, the mistress of Prince Charles Edward (so often alluded to in Tom Jones), was seen by an old acquaintance of ours standing upon the streets of Edinburgh, about the year 1786. She was dressed in men's clothes, and had a wooden leg. This celebrated and once attractive beauty, whose charms and Amazonian gallantry had captivated a prince, afterwards died in a stair-foot somewhere in the Canongate".[15]

In literature[edit]

Younger portrait of Jenny Cameron

Jenny Cameron is mentioned in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding (1749). In Book 11, young Miss Sophia Western is mistaken for Jenny Cameron, mistress of Bonnie Prince Charlie. If she was born in 1695, Jeanie Cameron would have been 50 years old in 1745 and Sophia Western would hardly have been mistaken for her, and the Prince, who was 25 at the time, was unlikely to have a 50-year-old mistress. This has fuelled speculation that there were more than one Jeanie or Jenny Cameron in the Prince's retinue.

Ballad[edit]

Yell a’ ha’e heard tell o’ Bonnie Jeanie Cameron,
How she fell sick, and she was like to dee
And a’ that they could recommend her
Was ae blithe blink o’ the Young Pretender.
Rare, oh rare, Bonnie Jeanie Cameron!
Rare, oh rare, Jeanie Cameron!


To Charlie she wrote a very long letter,
Stating who were his friends and who were his foes;
And a’ her words were sweet and tender,
To win the heart of the Young Pretender.
Rare, oh rare, Bonnie Jeanie Cameron!
Rare, oh rare, Jeanie Cameron!


Scarcely had she sealed the letter wi’ a ring,
When up flew the door, and in cam’ her king;
She prayed to the saints, and bade angels defend her,
And sank in the arms o’ the Young Pretender.
Rare, oh rare, Bonnie Jeanie Cameron!
Rare, oh rare, Jeanie Cameron!

References[edit]

  1. ^ History of Rutherglen and East Kilbride by the Rev. David Ure
  2. ^ Jacobite Memoirs of the Rebellion of 1745, edited from the manuscripts of the late Right Reverend Robert Forbes, A.M., Bishop of the Scottish Episcopal Church, by Robert Chambers, 1834
  3. ^ Byways of Scottish Story by George Eyre-Todd
  4. ^ The Life and Adventures of Prince Charles Edward Stuart by W. Drummond Norrie, 1900, Vol I, pages 170-173
  5. ^ Damn Rebel Bitches - The women of the ‘45 by Maggie Craig
  6. ^ Vagabond Songs and Ballads of Scotland by Robert Ford, 1899
  7. ^ Ancient Scots Ballads, with their Traditional Airs by George Eyre-Todd
  8. ^ Byways of Scottish Story by George Eyre-Todd
  9. ^ A Complete History of the Rebellion by James Ray
  10. ^ Byways of Scottish Story by George Eyre-Todd
  11. ^ Jacobite Memoirs of the Rebellion of 1745, edited from the manuscripts of the late Right Reverend Robert Forbes, A. M., Bishop of the Scottish Episcopal Church, by Robert Chambers, 1834
  12. ^ The Life and Adventures of Prince Charles Edward Stuart by W. Drummond Norrie, 1900, Vol I, pages 170-173
  13. ^ History of Rutherglen and East Kilbride by Rev. David Ure
  14. ^ Byways of Scottish Story by George Eyre-Todd
  15. ^ Traditions of Edinburgh by Robert Chambers

Sources[edit]

  • Craig, Maggie (1997). Damn Rebel Bitches – The women of the ’45. Edinburgh and London: Mainstream Publishing. 
  • Eyre-Todd, George (1930). Byways of Scottish Story. Edinburgh: William Hay. 

External links[edit]