Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll

by Scott Mehl

painting of Princess Louise, 1852, by Queen Victoria (copied from an 1851 portrait by Winterhalter) Photo: Wikipedia

painting of Princess Louise, 1852, by Queen Victoria (copied from an 1851 portrait by Winterhalter).  Photo: Wikipedia

Princess Louise Caroline Alberta was born March 18, 1848 at Buckingham Palace, the fourth daughter and sixth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Louise had eight siblings:

Louise was educated at home with her siblings and developed a strong interest in the arts. In 1863, the Queen permitted Louise to enroll at The National Art Training School, to pursue her interests and she became a very skilled painter and sculptress. Later in life, she sculpted a statue of Queen Victoria which stands today in the grounds of Kensington Palace.

Statue of Queen Victoria sculpted by Princess Louise; Photo Credit – Susan Flantzer

Several foreign princes were put forward as a possible husband for Louise, including the future King Frederik VIII of Denmark, Prince Albert of Prussia, and the Prince of Orange. However, none of these was agreeable to Queen Victoria, and Louise herself wanted nothing to do with marriage to a prince. Instead, she found herself falling in love with John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne and heir to the Dukedom of Argyll. Queen Victoria found this to be a wonderful match, infusing ‘new blood’ into the royal family. Others, including the Prince of Wales, found it appalling that the Princess should marry below her class. Despite these misgivings, the couple became engaged on October 3, 1870. The married at St. George’s Chapel on March 21, 1871, and honeymooned at Claremont House (later the home of Louise’s brother Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany.)

In 1878, Lorne (as he was known) was appointed Governor-General of Canada, and he and Louise took up residence at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. Initially getting a cool welcome, the couple soon ingratiated themselves with the Canadian people, traveling throughout the country and socializing with people from all classes and backgrounds. In 1880, she was severely injured in a sleigh accident, although this was significantly down-played in both the Canadian and British press. Therefore, her subsequent lack of public appearances gave the impression that she was simply shirking her duties. In fact, her health was significantly affected and she spent much time recuperating. Her husband remained Governor-General until 1883 at which point they again took up residence in Britain. Queen Victoria gave them apartments in Kensington Palace, which would be Louise’s home for the rest of her life.

Princess Louise is often credited with helping to develop the tourist industry of the British colony of Bermuda.  In order to take advantage of the warmer climate, Princess Louise spent the winter of 1883 in Bermuda.  This quickly led to a trend of wealthier Americans and Canadians escaping to the tropical climate for the winter.  In 1885, a grand hotel was built on Hamilton Harbor to accommodate the influx of wealthy visitors.  It was duly named The Princess Hotel in honor of Louise’s visit two years earlier.

Years later, in 1905, the Canadian province of Alberta was named in her honor. Initially, to be named Louise, the Princess requested that her third name, Alberta, be used so as to also honor her late father. Lake Louise and Mount Alberta are also named for the Princess.

In 1900, her father-in-law passed away and her husband became the 9th Duke of Argyll. This meant that the couple now had several prominent homes at their disposal, including Inveraray Castle, the seat of the Dukes of Argyll as Chief of the Clan Campbell.

The following year, in January 1901, Queen Victoria died at Osborne House in the presence of most of her children, including Louise. Despite the Queen’s wishes that Osborne remain a royal residence, the new King gifted the house to the nation. Princess Louise was given a small cottage on the estate, Kent House, which she later gave to her niece Victoria of Hesse (later Marchioness of Milford-Haven).

Portrait by Philip de Laszlo, 1915 Source: The de Laszlo Archive Trust

Portrait by Philip de Laszlo, 1915
Source: The de Laszlo Archive Trust

Louise was widowed in 1914 when her husband passed away after a lengthy illness. He had been ill for several years, suffering from what is now believed to have been Alzheimer’s Disease. During these years, Louise devoted herself to caring for her husband. Despite the sometimes distant relationship between the two, she was truly devastated at the loss of her beloved husband. She would go on to survive him by more than 25 years. During this time, she remained an active member of the royal family, taking part in official events and maintaining contact with many of her patronages and charities. By the mid-1930s, her health was declining. She made her last public appearance at an Exhibition in 1937, however, she was unable to attend the coronation of her great-nephew, King George VI that May. She spent her remaining years at Kensington Palace, living in her apartments next-door to her sister Beatrice. She was very close with her great-nephew The Duke of Kent and his wife, Princess Marina of Greece.

The Duchess of Argyll, 1933

Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll  c1933

Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, died at Kensington Palace on December 3, 1939, at the age of 91. Following a private funeral on December 12th, her cremated remains were initially placed in the Royal Crypt at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. A few months later, in March 1940, her ashes were moved to the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore.

Louise is buried in the center grave; Photo Credit –

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