9th Duke of Argyll, Duchess of Argyll, Duke of Argyll, Govenor-General of Canada, King Edward VII of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Princess Beatrice, Princess Louise of the United Kingdom, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain
In 1878, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli chose Lorne to be Canada’s Governor General, and he was duly appointed by Queen Victoria. Louise thus became his viceregal consort. As viceregal consort, she used her position to support the arts and higher education and the cause of female equality, although she said “the subject of Domestic Economy lies at the root of the – highest life of every true woman.”
Her stay in Canada was unhappy as a result of homesickness, dislike of Ottawa and a bad sleighing accident. Louise, Lorne, and two attendants, were hurt in a sleigh accident on February 14, 1880. 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.
After returning to Britain in 1883, Louise continued to take an interest in Canada. During the North-West Rebellion of 1885 she sent a certain Dr. Boyd medical supplies and a large fund of money for distribution. 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.
Louise returned to Britain, from Quebec, with her husband on October 27, 1883, and landed at Liverpool. 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.
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. 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.
Further rumours spread that Louise was having an affair with Arthur Bigge, later Lord Stamfordham, the queen’s assistant private secretary. Beatrice mentioned the rumours to the queen’s physician, calling it a “scandal”, and Prince Henry claimed to have seen Bigge drinking to Louise’s health at dinner. Louise denied the rumour, claiming that it was started by Beatrice and Helena to undermine her position at court.
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. 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.
Louise was determined to be seen as an ordinary person and not as a member of the court. When travelling abroad, she often used the alias “Mrs Campbell”. Louise was known for her charity towards servants.
Following Victoria’s death in 1901, Louise entered the social circle established by her elder brother, the new king, Edward VII, with whom she had much in common, including smoking. She had an obsession with physical fitness, and if she was sneered at for this, she would retort by saying: “Never mind, I’ll outlive you all.”
Meanwhile, Louise’s husband, 9th Duke of Argyll since 1900, took his seat in the House of Lords. The Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, offered him the office of Governor-General of Australia that year, but the offer was declined. Louise continued her sculpture, and in 1902, designed a memorial to the colonial soldiers who died in the Boer War. In the same year, she began a nude study on a married woman suggested by the English painter Sir William Blake Richmond.
Louise’s marriage survived thanks to long periods of separation; the couple reconciled in 1911 and she was devastated by her husband’s death in 1914. 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 December 3, 1939 at the age of 91.