Sunday, January 24, 2010

Princess Louise, Dutchess of Argyll

Born in 1858 at Buckingham Palace in London, Louise Caroline Alberta was the sixth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She was the first British royal since 1515 to marry a commoner, John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne and heir to the Duke of Argyll. Few in the royal family, including the Prince of Wales, approved the marriage, but the queen did and Louise loved him so that was that.

This was another marriage that the queen wanted, in part, because it would mean her daughter would be living close to her, since John was, at least a Brit. He later served in parliament, which didn't go over too well with the royal family either, of course (one should not show favoritism to any political party.) Another reason the queen favored the marriage was that she was looking to improve the blood of the royal family, realizing that so much close intermarrying wasn't good. (Her own husband, Prince Albert, had been her first cousin, like so many of the others.)

Between 1878 and 1883, Louise's husband was governor-general of Canada. At first Louise didn't like Ottawa, but the winter climate grew on her over time.

Louise was badly injured in a sleigh accident in 1880, when it overturned and was dragged by the frightened horses for a quarter-mile. She had a bad concussion (not sure if there is a good one, but this one almost fractured her skull) and her earring was also snagged and it ripped out the bottom of her earlobe. Well I thought that was interesting.
This is a portrait in oils of Louise, painted by her mother, Queen Victoria, in 1851.

Louise was probably the most revolting of Queen Victoria's daughters. I mean rebellious, not revolting (she was the prettiest daughter) in that she was always mingling with the common people. Well, she married one, too. Here is a fun story about her:

Once, when she was visiting Bermuda, she decided to walk to a reception instead of ride. It was farther than she had thought and she became thirsty. She stopped at a house and asked for a drink of water. A black woman by the name of Mrs. McCarthy answered the door and told her that she would have to go out to get water and was reluctant to do so because she was ironing. The Princess Louise said she would continue ironing for her if she would go get the water. The lady told her she wanted to finish the ironing right away so that she could go to the big reception for Princess Louise - had she not heard that the princess was in town? At this point, Louise asked the woman if she thought she would remember he face if she ever saw her again and the woman said maybe, maybe not (all white people look alike, or something like that) so Louise told her to take a good look at her so if they met again at the reception she would remember her. I don't know what happened, if the woman saw her at the reception or not, and I was disappointed that she never seemed to get her water. It also didn't ring true to me that there wouldn't be any drinking water in the house and that the woman would have had to go some distance to get some and didn't want to leave that long. But it was a good story anyway. Louise seemed pleased that she wasn't recognized. I liked the part about Louise ironing. Her father had taught all the royal youngsters carpentry too, I think. I love legends.

Louise was accused of having many affairs, but it would be indiscreet of me to mention them, so I won't. Her marriage survived, probably because they were often apart.

After Queen Victoria died, Louise became closer to her brother, the new king. They had much in common, including smoking. Oddly, Louise was otherwise rather fanatical about physical fitness to the sneers of the others. "Never mind", she said, "I'll outlive you all." She didn't, of course. One can't outlive everyone.

It was about this time that Louise's husband was offered the job of governor-general of Australia, but he declined.

Louise died in December of 1939 at age 91, wearing her wedding veil of 68 years previous. She was cremated. The Canadian province of Alberta is named after her.


  1. I don't actually find the legend implausible (which doesn't make it true, just credible). It's sweet.

    Early you said she loved her husband; later you said their marriage survived because of distance. There seems a contradiction there, but, hey, people are strange.

    I find it interesting how many of the daughters of Victoria married for love (yet, incidently, royals elsewhere). Seems many knew how to make the most of their situations.

    I knew none of these stories, so I'm enjoying myself.

  2. Though they loved each other at first, so the books say, they grew apart over the years. Some say their marriage, in the end, lasted as long as it did only because of those long separations. Yet in his last years, when he was totally senile, she nursed him faithfully, spending more time with him than she had in years.

  3. Liking all your royal posts (of course). If I remember rightly wasn't it Louise who was the artist? Did some beautiful work too.

  4. Thank you, Alison. Louise was indeed a very fine artist. Sculptor too. It ran in the family - other of the children liked to draw, and the queen herself was good, but Louise was the best they say. You sure seem to know a lot about everything. :)



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