The Mystery of Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter
Princess Louise (1848-1939) was Victoria and Albert’s sixth child and, arguably, the most popular of the royal progeny. Beautiful, intelligent and artistic, she enjoyed the friendship of Whistler, Rossetti and Arthur Sullivan, amongst others, and was herself a successful sculptor. This lively biography charts Louise’s eventful life and her championship for various progressive campaigns for women’s rights. She knew and supported Josephine Butler and Elizabeth Garrett, for example, and was actively involved with a staggering number of charitable institutions helping the poor and disadvantaged. In 1878, her husband, the Marquess of Lorne, became Governor General of Canada, and Louise supported progressive initiatives there, too.
Her private life, however, is more difficult to chart. Rumours have abounded since the 1860s about a hidden illegitimate child, and her possible sexual relationship with the sculptor Joseph Boehm. Mysteriously, the Royal Archives’ ‘Princess Louise’s files are closed’, as are those in her husband’s castle of Inveraray. As Lucinda Hawksley puts it, ‘The decision to hide away (Louise’s) files indicates very strongly that there is something in them that the archivists, even in the twenty-first century, feel the need to conceal.’ The author gives us the information and leaves us to decide for ourselves.