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Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, (Louisa Caroline Alberta; March 18, 1848 – December 3, 1939) Louise was born on 18 March 1848 at Buckingham Palace, London She was the fourth daughter and sixth child of the reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria, and her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Her birth coincided with revolutions which swept across Europe, prompting the queen to remark that Louise would turn out to be “something peculiar”.The queen’s labour with Louise was the first to be aided with chloroform.

Albert and Victoria chose the names Louisa Caroline Alberta. She was baptized on 13 May 1848 in Buckingham Palace’s private chapel by John Bird Sumner, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Though she was christened Louisa at the service, she was invariably known as Louise throughout her life. Her godparents were Duke Gustav of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (her paternal great-great-uncle, for whom Prince Albert stood proxy); Princess Marie Frederica of Hesse-Cassel, Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen (for whom her great-aunt Queen Adelaide stood proxy); and Princess Augusta of Cambridge, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (her first cousin once-removed, for whom the Duchess of Cambridge stood proxy). During the ceremony, Princess Mary, the Duchess of Gloucester, one of the few children of King 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. From her early years, Louise was a talented and intelligent child, and her artistic talents were quickly recognized.

On his visit to Osborne House in 1863, Hallam Tennyson, the son of the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, remarked that Louise could “draw beautifully”. Because of her royal rank, an artistic career was not considered. However, the queen first allowed her to attend art school under the tutelage of the sculptor Mary Thornycroft, and later (1863) allowed her to study at the National Art Training School, now The Royal College of Art. South Kensington.

Her father Prince Albert, died at Windsor on December 14, 1861. 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. 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. 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.


The queen comforted herself by rigidly continuing with Prince Albert’s plans for their children. Princess Alice was married to Prince Ludwig, the future Grand Duke of Hesse and By Rhine. at Osborne on June 1, 1862. In 1863, Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, married Princess Alexandra of Denmark. 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.

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.” 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. 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.

Part II tomorrow.