Princess Louise was the sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. She was born Louisa Caroline Alberta on March 18, 1848 at Buckingham Palace and was named after Albert’s late mother, Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. Curiously, Louise was born at a time when European revolutions were raging throughout the continent in places such as France, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Italy, and the Austrian Empire. Even Louise’s mother took note of her daughter’s connection to the Revolutions of 1848 and remarked that Louise would be “something peculiar” once she aged. Her siblings were:
Like the rest of her siblings, Louise was educated under a
rigid structure of teaching created by her father. Louise and her sisters were
gifted intellectually and exceeded in art and dancing. She was so talented at
drawing and sculpting that her mother permitted her to attend the National Art
Training School in 1863. She was known for her amusing and inquiring nature, as
well as her intelligence, which made her a favorite of her father.
Unfortunately for Louise, she lost her father in late 1861 when she was just
thirteen years old. Louise was displeased with the now gloomy and morbid nature
of the court, as well as her mother’s grim depression from the death of her
husband. She became extremely bored with her now dull and dreary life,
prompting her angry mother to label her as imprudent and belligerent. Despite
her displeasure, the Queen decided to make her eldest unmarried daughter
her unofficial secretary and as all of Louise’s other older sisters were
married at the time, she took up the position in 1866. Surprisingly for the
critical Victoria, her daughter proved to be very adept at her new job,
although Louise found her duties to be rather boring and unsatisfying. The Queen began to search for suitors for her daughter around this
time. As the daughter of the British sovereign, Louise was a sought-after bride
for the royalty of Europe, not to mention that she was also considered to be
the most beautiful of the Queen’s daughters. There were some drawbacks to her
attractability, however, as she was criticized unjustly by the press of having
various affairs with other men. Louise was also a firm believer in liberalism
and feminism, ideologies that would disinterest many possible spouses. Louise’s
mother also wanted her daughter to remain close by when married, therefore, her
spouse would have to be comfortable with living in England.
- Victoria, Princess Royal (1840-1901) married: Frederick III, Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia - had issue
- Edward VII, King of the U.K. (1841-1910) married: Princess Alexandra of Denmark - had issue
- Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse (1843-1878) married: Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse - had issue
- Prince Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1844-1900) married: Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia - had issue
- Princess Helena (1846-1923) married: Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein - had issue
- Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (1850-1942) married: Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia - had issue
- Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany (1853-1884) married: Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont - had issue
- Princess Beatrice (1857-1944) married: Prince Henry of Battenberg - had issue
|Princess Louise and her fiancée, John|
Campbell, Marquess of Lorne
Louise had already dabbled a bit in romance during her time as her mother’s unofficial secretary. Sometime between 1866 and 1870, she became attracted to the Reverend Robinson Duckworth, who served in the royal household as her brother Leopold’s tutor and was fourteen years her senior. However, the Queen quickly found out about her daughter’s infatuation and didn’t hesitate to send Duckworth away, thus ending the romance. When searching for a proper suitor, the Queen disliked all the prospects of the foreign princes suggested. Louise herself was not keen with any of the men either, as she was opposed to marrying a prince. This was because she had fallen in love again with another man below her class – John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne and heir to the Dukedom of Argyll. When Louise proposed Campbell to her mother as the man she wished to marry, she faced a wave of opposition from the nobility, including her own brother, Prince Albert, who found the notion of a royal princess marrying a subject to be quite appalling. Indeed, such a marriage would go against over three hundred centuries of tradition, for the last time a royal had officially married a subject was in 1515 when Princess Mary Tudor wed Charles Brandon, the first Duke of Suffolk, a union that was also not accepted by both royalty and society. Despite this opposition, the ultimate decider, the Queen herself, actually supported the marriage. She found the idea of “new blood” in the royal family to be thrilling, for all European royal houses of the time were related to one another in some way after centuries of intermarriage.
|Princess Louise on her wedding day|
The marriage took place on March 21, 1871 at St. George’s Chapel three days after Louise’s twenty-third birthday (her spouse was three years her senior). During the ceremony, Louise wore a gown of white silk covered in an array of national and royal symbols with deep flounces of flower-strewn Honiton lace. She wore a veil of the same lace, which she designed herself, which was held in place by two diamond pins in the shape of daisies. She also wore a gorgeous bracelet made of sapphire and peals that was a gift from her fiancée, the center of which could be worn as a pendant ornament. Louise actually wore this pendant on her wedding day separately from the bracelet on a diamond necklace. The Marquess and his new Marchioness left their home in Britain seven years later when Campbell was given the position of Governor-General of Canada. The couple lived at Rideau Hall in Ottawa and, despite their cool welcome, attempted to immerse themselves in Canadian society by venturing about the country and meeting with people from all classes and backgrounds. Yet, the press saw them as too haughty and often wrote of them negatively, which horrified and upset Louise. This opinion was actually untrue, as Louise and Campbell were far more relaxed and personal than any of their predecessors, in lieu of Louise’s royal background. Although Louise was unhappy in the cold, new country and was homesick, she made the best of her life in Canada by taking up sleighing and skating and beginning the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts with her husband.
On February 14, 1880, Louise and her husband were involved in a sleigh accident when the carriage they were in overturned due to severe weather. Louise suffered a concussion when she hit her head on the iron bar supporting the roof of the carriage and the blow caused her ear lobe to tear in two. Due to the seriousness of her injuries, Louise had to recuperate for some time and, as her condition was toned down by the Canadian and British media, the Canadian people believed that her absence from public life was simply because she was ignoring her duties. After Campbell completed his term in office in late 1883, the couple moved back home to England and resided in apartments in Kensington Palace, which the Queen had given them. Louise would call this residence home for the remainder of her life. While Campbell continued his career in politics and achieved a seat in Parliament as a Liberal, Louise remained interested in events occurring in Canada. Later, in 1905, the province of Alberta, which was one of her middle names, was named in her honor. Relations between Louise and her husband began to deteriorate, as they had little in common and possessed clashing personalities. They fought over political beliefs, especially since Louise supported Irish Home Rule, liberal ideas, and suffragists.
The marriage, which was also childless, was so strained that the two began to go their separate ways, despite the Queen’s efforts to keep them living happily together. Now that the couple was clearly no longer close, public rumors began to spread that Campbell was a secret homosexual. Louise was also jealous of her younger sister, Beatrice, and the loving relationship she had with her own husband, the handsome and popular Prince Henry of Battenberg. It’s possible that Louise wished Henry was her own husband instead of her sister’s and certainly after his death in 1896, she claimed that she was his confidante and that he had never loved Beatrice (oddly enough, after Henry’s death, the previously poor relationship between Louise and Beatrice improved). Then, rumors started to emerge that Louise was having an affair with her mother’s assistant private secretary, Arthur Bigge, who would later become Lord Stamfordham. Louise denied this accusation but more whispers circulated that the Princess was having affairs with various men, such as the sculptor Joseph Edgar Boehm, his assistant Alfred Gilbert, the artist Edwin Lutyens, her equerry Colonel William Probert, and an unnamed music master. But, there is no significant evidence to back up any of these alleged relationships and it is extremely unlikely that Louise was intimately involved with anyone but her husband.
|John Campbell, Duke of Argyll|
Louise was an exceptional royal, just as her mother predicted she would be at her birth, in that she was resolute in her desire to be viewed as an ordinary woman instead of a royal princess when traveling outside the country. She would often simply call herself “Mrs. Campbell” in foreign nations and, also unlike most royals, she cared for her servants and treated them respectfully. In 1900, Campbell’s father died and he became the 9th Duke of Argyll, thus making Louise the Duchess of Argyll at the age of fifty-two. Soon after, in early 1901, Queen Victoria died and gave Kent House to Louise in her will, making her a neighbor of her sister, Beatrice, who was given Osborne Cottage. Louise’s oldest brother, Prince Albert Edward, ascended to the throne as Edward VII after their mother’s death. She had much in common with her brother and was instantly a member of his social circle at court. Out of all her siblings, she was closest to her brother, Leopold, and was distraught by his early death in 1884. During Edward’s reign, Campbell’s health began to fail and when he became senile in 1911, Louise loyally devoted her time to caring for her sick spouse. Although the couple had poor relations before, they were now closer than ever. Campbell took a turn for the worst when he developed bronchial problems that preceded double pneumonia and died on May 2, 1914 at the age of sixty-eight. Louise was so saddened by his death that she suffered a nervous breakdown soon after his passing and became extremely lonely.
|Princess Louise, Dowager Duchess of Argyll|
(Philip de László, 1915)
Louise, now Dowager Duchess of Argyll, lived out the rest of her years at Kensington Palace in rooms next to her sister, Beatrice. She was very close to her nephew George V’s son, Prince George, Duke of Kent, and his wife, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark. She continued to make some public appearances until her heath began to worsen in the late 1920’s. By the time her grandnephew, George VII, was crowned, she was too ill to move about and was constricted to her home in Kensington. In the last year of her life, she had neuritis in her arm, inflammation of the nerves between her ribs, sciatica, and experienced fainting fits. Although she smoked and was in poor health later in life, she had been healthy for the majority of years, as she had been obsessed with being physical fit. Many people laughed at her extreme care for her health and she mocked them in return by countering: "Never mind, I'll outlive you all." She proved to be correct, for she died at the impressive age of ninety-one on the morning of December 3, 1939. Because World War II had erupted shortly before her death, the Princess Louise was given a rather modest funeral and was then cremated. Her ashes were placed in the Royal Burial Ground near Windsor.