by Susan Flantzer
Prince Arthur was born on May 1, 1850 at Buckingham Palace, the third son and the seventh of the nine children of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Arthur had five sisters and three brothers:
- Victoria, Princess Royal (1840-1901) married (1858) Friedrich III, German Emperor and King of Prussia (1831-1888), had four sons and four daughters
- King Edward VII of the United Kingdom (1841-1910) married (1863) Princess Alexandra of Denmark (1844-1925), had 2 sons and 3 daughters
- Princess Alice (1843-1878) married (1862) Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine (1837-1892), had two sons and five daughters
- Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1844-1900) married (1874) Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia (1853-1920), had one son and four daughters
- Princess Helena (1846-1923) married (1866) Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein (1831-1917), had two sons and two daughters
- Princess Louise (1848-1939) married (1871) John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne, 9th Duke of Argyll (1845-1914); no issue
- Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany (1853-1884) married (1882) Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont (1861-1922), had one son and one daughter
- Princess Beatrice (1857-1944) married (1885) Prince Henry of Battenberg (1858-1896), had three sons and one daughter
On June 22, 1850, Arthur was christened Arthur William Patrick Albert in Buckingham Palace’s private chapel. His first two names were given in honor of his two godfathers: Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Commander of the Coalition Army that defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo and a former Prime Minister (the prince was born on the Duke’s 81st birthday) and Prince Wilhelm of Prussia (later Wilhelm I, German Emperor, King of Prussia). Patrick was chosen to show his parents’ gratitude for the hospitality of the Irish people during their visit the previous year, and Albert, as his father wrote, “…Victoria’s love has always insisted on my name to finish up with.” Arthur had one godmother, Princess Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (née Princess Ida of Saxe-Meiningen). Princess Ida was the sister of Queen Adelaide (the wife of King William IV) who had died five months before Arthur’s birth. Prince Albert wrote that Princess Ida was chosen “in memory of poor Queen Adelaide, who would certainly have been delighted at this addition to our family.”
A year later a portrait, painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, was commissioned to commemorate the first birthday of Prince Arthur, the eighty-second birthday of prince’s godfather the Duke of Wellington, and the opening day of the Great Exhibition, which was organized by Prince Albert. The painting (below) shows Prince Arthur and his parents, the Duke of Wellington offering a gift to Prince Arthur, and The Crystal Palace, site of the Great Exhibition in the background.
Arthur was very much like his father in looks and was obedient, conscientious and disciplined. He was Victoria’s favorite son: “This child is dear, dearer than any of the others put together, [after Albert] the dearest and most precious object to me on earth.” Arthur was educated by private tutors.
Considering that Arthur was the godson of one of Britain’s most significant military figures, it was not unusual that he had a 40-year military career. In 1866, at the age of 16, Arthur entered the Royal Military College, Woolwich. He graduated two years later and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Corps of Royal Engineers. On his mother’s birthday, May 24, 1874, Arthur was created a royal peer, with the titles Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and Earl of Sussex.
During his long military career in the British Army, Arthur participated in many missions in various parts of the British Empire. In 1870, he served during the Red River Rebellion in Canada. In 1882, he took part in the campaign under General Wolseley to put down the Urabi Revolt in Egypt by leading the Guards Brigade in the decisive Battle of Tel el-Kebir. Between 1886 and 1890, Arthur served in India as the Commander-in-Chief of the Bombay Army.
On April 1, 1893, Arthur was promoted to General. He hoped that he would be appointed as Commander in Chief of the British Army when his first cousin once removed, Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge, retired in 1895, but instead, he was given command of the southern district of Aldershot. On June 26, 1902, Arthur was appointed Field Marshal. He served as Commander in Chief in Ireland and Commander of the Third Army Corps (1900-1904), Inspector-General of the Forces (1904 and 1907) and Chief of Staff (1904-1907).
Despite being Queen Victoria’s least troublesome and favorite child, Arthur annoyed his mother with his choice of a bride. Princess Luise Margarete (Louise Margaret) of Prussia was born at Marmorpalais (Marble Palace) near Potsdam in the Kingdom of Prussia. Her parents were Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia and Princess Maria Anna of Anhalt. Queen Victoria considered Louise Margaret to be a less than a satisfactory spouse for her son. She was plain looking and had broken teeth. Her parents were unpleasant, had an unhappy marriage, and lived apart from each other. Victoria wanted to avoid associating her family with a possible scandal. Nevertheless, Arthur and Louise Margaret were married on March 13, 1879 at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
Arthur and Louise Margaret had one son and two daughters. The Swedish and Danish Royal Families are their descendants. The family resided at their country home Bagshot Park and at Clarence House, their London residence.
- Princess Margaret of Connaught (1882-1920), married (1905) Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden (1882-1973), had issue, Margaret died before her husband became King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden; Danish and Swedish Royal Families descend from this marriage
- Prince Arthur of Connaught (1883-1938), married Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife (1891-1959), a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, had issue
- Princess Patricia of Connaught (1886-1974), married (1919) The Honorable Alexander Ramsay (1881-1972), had issue, upon her marriage Patricia voluntarily relinquished her title of Princess and her style Royal Highness and was known as Lady Patricia Ramsay
In 1899, Arthur’s nephew Prince Alfred of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the only son of Arthur’s older brother, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, died. Arthur would have been the immediate successor of his brother Alfred, but chose to relinquish his claim and his son’s claim to the duchy. This caused Prince Carl Edward, Duke of Albany, the posthumous son of Alfred and Arthur’s brother Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, to become Alfred’s heir and his successor when he died in 1900.
In 1911, in order to strengthen the links between the British monarchy and Canada, Arthur was appointed the first Governor General of Canada who was a member of the Royal Family. Arthur was accompanied to Canada by his wife and his daughter Patricia. They lived in Rideau Hall in Ottawa and undertook extensive travels in Canada. After the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Arthur and his family remained in Canada. He stressed the need for military training of Canadian troops and gave his name to the Connaught Cup of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a competition in pistol marksmanship Canadian recruits. During the World War I, Arthur served in various emergency services and made hospital visits, while his wife worked for the Red Cross and other organizations. Arthur’s daughter Princess Patricia gave her name to a newly formed regiment, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
After his time in Canada, Arthur returned to the British Army and served for the rest of World War I. Louise Margaret, who had been ill during their stay in Canada, died of influenza and bronchitis on March 14, 1917 at the age of 56. Arthur withdrew from public life in 1928 and died on January 16, 1942 at Bagshot Park at the age of 91. His sister Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll also died at the age of 91, making both Arthur and Louise the longest-lived of Victoria and Albert’s children. Arthur was buried at the Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore.
Arthur’s only son predeceased him in 1938 and at Arthur’s death, his grandson Alastair became the 2nd Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. However, Alastair died a year later, and as he was childless, the title Duke of Connaught and Strathearn reverted to the Crown.