Princess Argyll
British duchess, later princess
Princess Argyll
The Princess Louise was a member of the British Royal Family, the sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and her husband, Albert, Prince Consort. Louise's early life was spent moving among the various royal residences in the company of her family.
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  • 1939
    She died at Kensington Palace on the morning of 3 December 1939 at the age of 91 years, 8 months and 15 days, the same age to the day as her younger brother Prince Arthur, wearing the wedding veil she had worn almost 70 years earlier.
    More Details Hide Details Following a simple funeral, owing to the war, her remains were cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on 8 December. Her ashes were quietly placed in the Royal Crypt at St. George's Chapel on 12 December, with many members of the Royal and Argyll families present. Her ashes were moved to the Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore near Windsor, on 13 March 1940. Louise's will stated that if she died in Scotland she should be buried at the Campbell mausoleum in Kilmun next to her husband; if in England, at Frogmore near her parents. Her coffin was borne by eight NCOs of her own regiment, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Louise bestowed her name on four Canadian regiments: The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's) in Hamilton, Ontario; the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards in Ottawa, Ontario (inactive since 1965); the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise's) in Moncton, New Brunswick; and the Princess Louise Fusiliers in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
  • 1937
    Among the younger generations of the family, Louise's favourite relatives were the Duke and Duchess of Kent. At the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937, Louise lent the Duchess the train that she designed and wore for the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1902.
    More Details Hide Details A war hospital in Erskine, Scotland, is named after Louise. It took her name as she was the first patron of the unit. It was originally called Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers. The name changed over the years to Erskine Hospital and then just Erskine. The charity is close to its centenary year and has grown to become the biggest ex-service establishment in the country. Louise had artistic training from childhood, first with Susan Durant from 1864, then Mary Thornycroft from 1867, and further lessons with Edgar Boehm. She also then attended National Art Training School, or NATS, which marks the first time a member of the British royal family attended a public education institution. Like many women artists in the nineteenth century, Louise had to make do with training intended for industrial designers and art teachers rather than fine artists. There was no training from the nude model, as there was for male art students.
    Her last public appearance occurred in 1937, at the Home Arts and Industries Exhibition.
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  • 1936
    In December 1936, Louise wrote to the British prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, sympathising with him about the crisis.
    More Details Hide Details Following the accession of Edward's brother King George VI, she became too ill to move around, and was confined to Kensington Palace, affectionately called the "Auntie Palace" by Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. She developed neuritis in her arm, inflammation of the nerves between the ribs, fainting fits, and sciatica. Louise occupied herself by drafting prayers, one of which was sent to Neville Chamberlain, reading "Guide our Ministers of State and all who are in authority over us... "
    Between these occasions, her great nephew, King Edward VIII, abdicated on 11 December 1936.
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  • 1935
    In 1935, she greeted her nephew, King George V, and his wife, Queen Mary, at Kensington Town Hall during their Silver Jubilee celebrations, and was made an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Kensington.
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  • 1925
    Louise spent her last years at Kensington Palace, occupying rooms next to her sister Princess Beatrice. She made occasional public appearances with the royal family, such as at the Cenotaph at Whitehall on 11 November 1925.
    More Details Hide Details However, her health deteriorated.
  • 1914
    He developed bronchial problems followed by double pneumonia. Louise was summoned on 28 April 1914, and he died on 2 May.
    More Details Hide Details Following his death, Louise had a nervous breakdown and suffered from intense loneliness, writing to a friend shortly afterwards: "My loneliness without the Duke is quite terrible. I wonder what he does now!"
    In spring 1914 Louise stayed at Kensington Palace while her husband remained on the Isle of Wight.
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  • 1911
    The Duke of Argyll's health continued to deteriorate. He became increasingly senile, and Louise nursed him devotedly from 1911.
    More Details Hide Details In these years Louise and her husband were closer than they had been before.
    Louise's marriage survived thanks to long periods of separation, but the couple reconciled in 1911, and she was devastated by her husband's death in 1914.
    More Details Hide Details After the end of the First World War in 1918, at the age of 70, she began to retire from public life, undertaking few public duties outside Kensington Palace, where she died at age 91.
  • 1902
    Louise continued her sculpture, and in 1902, designed a memorial to the colonial soldiers who died in the Boer War.
    More Details Hide Details In the same year, she began a nude study on a married woman suggested by the English painter Sir William Blake Richmond. Louise spent much of her time at Kent House, and she frequently visited Scotland with her husband. Financial pressures did not disappear when Lorne became Duke, and Louise avoided inviting the King to Inveraray, Argyll's ancestral home, because the couple were economising. When Queen Victoria had visited the house before Lorne became Duke of Argyll, there were seventy servants and seventy-four dogs. By the time of Edward VII's accession, there were four servants and two dogs.
  • 1890
    Rumours of affairs did not surround only Bigge. In 1890, the sculptor Joseph Edgar Boehm died in Louise's presence at his studio in London, leading to rumours that the two were having an affair.
    More Details Hide Details Boehm's assistant, Alfred Gilbert, who played a central role in comforting Louise after Boehm's death, and supervised the destruction of Boehm's private papers, was rapidly promoted as a royal sculptor. Louise was also romantically linked to fellow artist Edwin Lutyens; her equerry, Colonel William Probert; and an unnamed music master. However, Jehanne Wake, Louise's biographer, argues that there is no substantial evidence to suggest that Louise had sexual relationships with anyone other than her husband. During Victoria's last years, Louise carried out a range of public duties, such as opening public buildings, laying foundation stones, and officiating at special programmes. Louise, like her eldest sister Victoria, was more liberally minded, and supported the suffragist movement, completely contrary to the Queen's views. Louise privately visited Britain's first female doctor, Elizabeth Garrett. Queen Victoria deplored the idea of women joining professions, especially the medical profession, and described the training of female doctors as a "repulsive subject".
  • 1885
    Louise's relationship with the two sisters closest to the Queen, Beatrice and Helena, was strained at best. Beatrice had married the tall and handsome Prince Henry of Battenberg in a love match in 1885, and they had four children.
    More Details Hide Details Louise, who had a jealous nature, had grown accustomed to treating Beatrice with pity on account of the Queen's constant need for her. Beatrice's biographer, Matthew Dennison, claims that in contrast to Beatrice, Louise remained strikingly good looking throughout her forties. Louise and her husband were no longer close, and rumours spread about Lorne's alleged homosexuality. Thus, Beatrice was enjoying a satisfying sexual relationship with her popular husband, which Louise was not. Louise may have considered Prince Henry a more appropriate husband for herself. Certainly, following Prince Henry's death in 1896, Louise wrote that: "he Henry was almost the greatest friend I had—I, too, miss him more than I can say". In addition, Louise attempted to champion her late brother-in-law by announcing that she was his confidante and that Beatrice, a mere cipher, meant nothing to him.
  • 1883
    Louise returned to Britain, from Quebec, with her husband on 27 October 1883, and landed at Liverpool.
    More Details Hide Details Queen Victoria had prepared apartments at Kensington Palace, and the couple took up official residence there. Louise retained those apartments until her death there 56 years later. Lorne resumed his political career, campaigning unsuccessfully for the Hampstead seat in 1885. In 1896, he won the South Manchester seat, entering parliament as a Liberal. Louise, unlike Lorne and his father, was in favour of Irish Home Rule, and disappointed when he defected from Gladstonian Liberalism to the Liberal Unionists. Relations between Louise and Lorne were strained, and, despite the Queen's attempts to keep them under one roof, they often went their separate ways. Even when he accompanied Louise, he was not always received with favour at court, and the Prince of Wales did not take to him. Out of all the royal family, Lorne was the only one to be identified closely with a political party, having been a Gladstonian liberal in the House of Commons.
    After returning to Britain in 1883, Louise continued to take an interest in Canada.
    More Details Hide Details During the North-West Rebellion of 1885 she sent a certain Dr. Boyd with medical supplies and a large fund of money for distribution. Her express instructions were that assistance was to be rendered to friend and foe indiscriminately. To fulfill her wishes, Boyd accompanied the Militia Medical Staff, under Dr. Thomas Roddick to the sites of the Battle of Fish Creek and the Battle of Batoche to help give medical treatment to the wounded, including the Métis opposition. In 1905, the province of Alberta was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta. In the province, there is Lake Louise, and Mount Alberta is named in her honour.
    In 1883, for reasons of her fragile health, she spent the winter in Bermuda, popularising a trend for wealthy North Americans to escape to Bermuda's relatively mild climate during the winter months.
    More Details Hide Details Her visit brought such attention to Bermuda that a palatial hotel, which opened in 1885, intended to cater to these new visitors, was named after her; the Princess Hotel was built on the shore of Hamilton Harbour, in the parish of Pembroke.
  • 1880
    Louise, Lorne, and two attendants, were hurt in a sleigh accident on 14 February 1880.
    More Details Hide Details The winter was particularly severe, and the carriage in which they were traveling overturned, throwing the coachman and footman from the sleigh. The horses then panicked, and dragged the overturned carriage over more than of ground. Louise was knocked unconscious when she hit her head on the iron bar supporting the roof, and Lorne was trapped underneath her, expecting "the sides of the carriage to give way at any moment". Eventually, as they overtook the sleigh ahead, the horses calmed, and the occupant of that sleigh, Princess Louise's aide-de-camp, ordered an empty carriage to convey the injured party back to Rideau Hall. The doctors who attended Louise reported she was severely concussed and in shock, and that "it was a wonder her skull was not fractured". Louise's ear had been injured when her earring caught on the side of the sleigh, tearing her ear lobe in two. The press played down the story on instructions from Lorne's private secretary, an act that was described by contemporaries as "stupid and ill advised". For example, one New Zealand newspaper reported, "Excepting immediately after the blow, the Princess was perfectly sensible during the whole time " Knowledge of Louise's true condition might have elicited sympathy from the Canadian people. As it was, one Member of Parliament wrote: "Except the cut in the lower part of the ear I think there was no injury done worth mentioning."
  • 1879
    Louise's first state ball was given on 19 February 1879, and she made a good impression on her guests when she ordered the silk cordon, separating the viceregal party from the guests, be removed.
    More Details Hide Details However, the ball was marred by various mishaps, including a drunken bandsman nearly starting a fire by pulling a curtain over a gas lamp. The open house practice was criticised by guests who complained about the low social status of other guests. One attendee was horrified to find the attendee's grocer dancing in the same set. Louise and Lorne founded the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and enjoyed visiting Quebec (where they made their summer home), and Toronto. Louise served as patroness of the Ladies' Educational Association, of the Woman's Protective Immigration Society, of the Society of Decorative Arts and of the Art Association, all of Montreal. One of her works as a sculptor is the statue of her Royal mother Queen Victoria, which now stands in front of the Royal Victoria College, Montreal, now the Strathcona Music Building of McGill University. Lorne's father, The Duke of Argyll, arrived with two of his daughters in June, and in the presence of the family, Louise caught a 28-pound (almost 13 kg) salmon. The women's success at fishing prompted the Duke to remark that fishing in Canada required no skill.
  • 1878
    Louise's first few months in Canada were tinged with sadness as her favourite sister, The Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine, died on 14 December 1878.
    More Details Hide Details Although homesick over that first Christmas, Louise soon grew accustomed to the winter climate. Sleighing and skating were two of her favourite pastimes. In Canada, as the monarch's direct representative, Lorne always took precedence over his wife, so that at the Opening of the Parliament of Canada on 13 February 1879, Louise was ranked no differently from others in attendance. She had to remain standing with the MPs, until Lorne asked them to be seated. In order for Lorne to meet every Canadian member of Parliament, he held bi-weekly dinners for 50 people. However, some of the Canadian ladies responded negatively to the British party. One of her ladies-in-waiting reported that some had an "'I'm as good as you' sort of manner when one begins a conversation." Court entertainments were open; anyone who could afford the clothing to attend functions was simply asked to sign the visitor's book.
  • 1871
    Victoria settled an annuity on Louise shortly before her marriage. The ceremony was conducted at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on 21 March 1871, and the crowd outside was so large that, for the first time, policemen had to form chain barriers to keep control.
    More Details Hide Details Louise wore a wedding veil of Honiton lace that she designed herself, and was escorted into the Chapel by her mother, and her two eldest brothers, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh. On this occasion, the usually severe black of the Queen's mourning dress was relieved by the crimson rubies and blues of the Garter star. Following the ceremony, the Queen kissed Louise, and Lorne – now a member of the royal family, but still a subject – kissed the Queen's hand. The couple then journeyed to Claremont in Surrey for the honeymoon, but the presence of attendants on the journey, and at meal times, made it impossible for them to talk privately. The short four-day visit did not pass without an interruption from the Queen, who was curious about her daughter's thoughts on married life. Among their wedding gifts was a maplewood desk from Queen Victoria, now at Inveraray Castle.
  • 1870
    Louise became engaged to the Marquess of Lorne on 3 October 1870.
    More Details Hide Details Lorne was invited to Balmoral Castle in Scotland, and accompanied Louise, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hatherley and Queen Victoria's lady-in-waiting, Jane, Marchioness of Ely on a drive. Later that day, Louise returned and announced to the Queen that Lorne had "spoken of his devotion" to Louise, and she accepted his proposal in the knowledge of the Queen's approval. The Queen later gave Lady Ely a bracelet to mark the occasion. The Queen found it difficult to let go of her daughter, confiding in her journal that she "felt painfully the thought of losing her". The new breach in royal tradition caused surprise, especially in Germany, and Queen Victoria wrote to the Queen of Prussia that princes of small impoverished German houses were "very unpopular" in Britain and that Lord Lorne, a "person of distinction at home" with "an independent fortune" was "really no lower in rank than minor German Royalty".
  • 1866
    However, when Louise fell in love with her brother Leopold's tutor, the Reverend Robinson Duckworth (14 years her senior), between 1866 and 1870, the Queen reacted by dismissing Duckworth in 1870.
    More Details Hide Details He later became Canon of Westminster Abbey. Louise was bored at court, and by fulfilling her duties, which were little more than minor secretarial tasks, such as writing letters on the Queen's behalf; dealing with political correspondence; and providing the Queen with company, she had more responsibilities. As a daughter of the Queen, Louise was a desirable bride; more so as she is regarded as the Queen's most beautiful daughter by both contemporary and modern biographers. However, she was accused by the press, without substantiation, of romantic affairs. This, coupled with her liberalism and feminism, prompted the Queen to find her a husband. The choice had to suit Victoria as well as Louise, and the Queen insisted that her daughter's husband should live near her, a promise which had also been extracted from the husband of Helena, Louise's sister. Various suitors were proposed by the leading royal houses of Europe: Princess Alexandra proposed her brother, the Crown Prince of Denmark, but the Queen was strongly opposed to another Danish marriage that could antagonise Prussia. Victoria, Louise's eldest sister, proposed the tall and rich Prince Albert of Prussia, but Queen Victoria disapproved of another Prussian marriage that would have been unpopular in England. Prince Albert was also reluctant to settle in England as required. William, Prince of Orange was also considered a suitor, but because of his extravagant lifestyle in Paris, where he lived openly with a mistress, the Queen quickly vetoed the idea.
    The Queen made it a tradition that the eldest unmarried daughter would become her unofficial secretary, a position which Louise filled in 1866, despite the Queen's concern that she was indiscreet.
    More Details Hide Details Louise, however, proved to be good at the job: Victoria wrote shortly afterwards: "She is (and who would some years ago have thought it?) a clever dear girl with a fine strong character, unselfish and affectionate."
  • 1865
    For her seventeenth birthday in 1865, Louise requested the ballroom to be opened for a debutante dance, the like of which had not been performed since Prince Albert's death.
    More Details Hide Details Her request was refused, and her boredom with the mundane routine of travelling between the different royal residences at set times irritated her mother, who considered Louise to be indiscreet and argumentative.
  • 1862
    The Queen comforted herself by rigidly continuing with Prince Albert's plans for their children. Princess Alice was married to Prince Louis, the future Grand Duke of Hesse, at Osborne on 1 June 1862. In 1863, Edward, the Prince of Wales, married Princess Alexandra of Denmark.
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  • 1861
    Louise's father, Prince Albert, died at Windsor on 14 December 1861.
    More Details Hide Details The Queen was devastated, and ordered her household to move from Windsor to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. The atmosphere of the royal court became gloomy and morbid in the wake of the Prince's death, and entertainments became dry and dull. Louise quickly became dissatisfied with her mother's prolonged mourning.
    Her early life was spent moving among the various royal residences in the company of her family. When her father, the Prince Consort, died on 14 December 1861, the court went into a period of intense mourning, to which Louise was unsympathetic.
    More Details Hide Details Louise was an able sculptor and artist, and several of her sculptures remain today. She was also a supporter of the feminist movement, corresponded with Josephine Butler, and visited Elizabeth Garrett. She held that "the subject of Domestic Economy lies at the root of the – highest life of every true woman." Before her marriage, Louise served as an unofficial secretary to her mother, the Queen (1866–1871). The question of Louise's marriage was discussed in the late 1860s. Suitors from the royal houses of Prussia and Denmark were suggested, but Victoria wanted new blood in the family and therefore suggested a high-ranking member of the aristocracy. Despite opposition from members of the royal family, Louise fell in love with John, Marquess of Lorne, the heir to the Duke of Argyll, and Victoria consented to the marriage, which took place on 21 March 1871. Despite a happy beginning, the two drifted apart, possibly because of their childlessness and the Queen's constraints on their activities.
  • 1848
    Albert and Victoria chose the names Louisa Caroline Alberta. Louise was chosen to honour Albert's mother. Though christened Louisa in Buckingham Palace's private chapel by John Bird Sumner, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on 13 May 1848, she was invariably known as Louise throughout her life.
    More Details Hide Details Her godparents were Duke Gustav of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (her paternal great-great-uncle, for whom Prince Albert stood proxy); The Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen (for whom her great-aunt Queen Adelaide stood proxy); and The Hereditary Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (her first cousin once-removed, for whom the Hereditary Grand Duchess's mother The Duchess of Cambridge stood proxy). During the ceremony, The Duchess of Gloucester, one of the few children of George III who was still alive, forgot where she was, and suddenly got up in the middle of the service and knelt at the Queen's feet, much to the Queen's horror. Like her siblings, Louise was brought up with the strict programme of education devised by her father, Prince Albert, and his friend and confidant, Baron Stockmar. The young children were taught practical tasks, such as cooking, farming, household tasks and carpentry.
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