by Brenda Ralph Lewis
It is nothing unusual these days for British royals to marry outside their
own blue-blooded ranks. In the 19th century, though, the story was very
different, which is why the marriage of Princess Louise, fourth daughter and
sixth child of Queen Victoria to John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, Marquis of
Lorne and heir to the dukedom of Argyll created such a stir when it took place
The Royal Family were outraged, but Victoria pulled rank on all of them, and
made it known that if the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Ireland and all her possessions beyond the seas thought the Marquis was right
for Louise, who else had anything to say about it'
It was not surprising that Louise made a 'different' marriage. She was a
'different' princess, not overfond of royal ritual or the rather stuffy royal
social round, and was clearly made for life beyond the limitations which her
birth had imposed on her. She was born at Buckingham Palace on 18 March 1848,
a lively, talented and intelligent child who, from the first, was clearly
destined to grow into a beauty. She was later accounted the loveliest of
Victoria's daughters, and the others were no mean lookers, either.
Though a formal career was not possible for a princess in Louise's time, her
abilities in painting and sculpture were not allowed to go to waste. She was
permitted to attend art school and in 1863, when she was fifteen, the famous
sculptress, Mrs. Mary Thorneycroft, became her tutor.
Two years earlier, Louise had been at Windsor Castle when her father Prince
Albert died there. When her sister, Princess Helena, married Prince Christian
of Battenburg in 1866, she succeeded her as companion to their widowed mother.
It was a demanding job, since her beloved husband's early death brought out
the most selfish aspects of Queen Victoria's character, but Louise was so good
at it that her mother described as 'amiable, attentive and cheerful.' for such
a demanding parent, so intent on damping down all and every sign of enjoyment
that might distract those about her from the proper solemnity of mourning,
this was quite an accolade.
By the late 1860s, the business of Louise's marriage came under review. At
this juncture, it was practically a royal family custom for eldest sister
Vicky, Crown Princess of Prussia, to get out her 'Almanach de Gotha' and start
matchmaking. Vicky favoured a Prussian prince, but she had forgotten an
important factor which was uppermost in Louise's mind. Louise was well aware
of the problems her elder sister had encountered in Europe where royal courts,
headed by absolute rulers, were extremely repressive and liberal-minded
English princesses were widely distrusted. Louise resolved not to be sidelined
and ostracised like Vicky. She realised, besides, that her own already growing
interest in philanthropy and the advancement of women would mark her out as a
troublemaker just as Vicky was, and that it could hardly be pursued in such
a brutally reactionary atmosphere.
Her best future, Louise decided, lay in Britain. That, of course, meant a British husband which, in turn, meant a non-royal and a commoner. Unlike Germany, with its plethora of small states, orFrance with its mass of dispossessed and ambitious royals and pseudo-royals,
there were no princes going spare in Britain, so that the royal marriage
market there did not really exist. The British Royal Family was not, in any
case, the aloof, arrogant sort which, in Germany, made even talking to a
commoner, apart from the servants, something that was just not done. This, in
fact, is why European royalty often looked askance at the British Royal
Family who, in their supremely snobbish view, sullied themselves by their
willingness to connect with ordinary people.
Louise could never have lived happily in an atmosphere like that, and
fortunately, the logic of her thinking was not lost on others. Her engagement
to the Marquis of Lorne in the autumn of 1870 was supported not only by her
mother but also by her mother's Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. Disraeli
knew Lorne, a commoner despite his descent from the Kings of Scotland, for a
gentle, good-tempered man of 'bright cultivated intelligence' who was just
right for the artistic Louise. The match also pleased the British public which
had feared yet another of the 'German marriages' which, in their view, had
already occurred too often in the Royal Family.
After her marriage in 1871, Louise embarked on an unusual life for a
princess, as the wife of a Member of Parliament, and one who was able, as most
other royals were not, to surround herself with artists and philanthropists,
the people whose company both she and her husband preferred.
The Marquis naturally became prominent in British public life because of his
marriage, and served as Governor-General of Canada between 1878 and 1883.
Louise, as Governor's lady, made her own mark in the Dominion and later, her
time was marked by naming Lake Louise, near Laffan in the Rocky Mountains,
On their return to Britain, the couple organised their own quiet life, giving
few parties and none of the ostentatious variety expected of the aristocracy,
even though they lived in some splendour at Kensington Palace in London.
Louise was aware, even so, that her royal status gave her an edge when it came
to supporting good causes, and she put it good effect for the Ladies' Work
Society which helped poor women earn a living from needlework. Improved
education for women was another campaign which attracted Louise, and in 1872,
he became first president of the National Union for the Higher Education of
women founded in that year. She was no figurehead, though, but an active
campaigner who promoted her causes tirelessly, with speeches and letters to
Louise was also a working artist and sculptor, well respected for her
considerable skills. The best of her work was seen around London - the marble
statue of Queen Victoria which overlooked the Round Pond in the grounds of
Kensington Palace, or her design for the memorial in St. Paul's Cathedral to
Canadian casualties of the Boer War of 1899-1902.
Louise became Duchess of Argyll in 1900 when her husband succeeded as 9th
Duke, but sadly the couple never had children and when the Duke died in 1914,
he was succeeded by a nephew. Despite this lack in their lives, Louise and
Argyll were very happy together and when he developed what appears to have
been Alzheimer's Disease, she nursed him devotedly.
This was undoubtedly one of the great unsung royal love matches and Louise
never quite recovered from her husband's death. There was an echo of Queen
Victoria in the way she reacted, though she did not go quite as far as her
mother who made mourning for her lost Prince Albert a whole way of life in the
forty years of her widowhood. Nevertheless, Louise, now 66, became somewhat
reclusive after Argyll died, although in 1919 she accepted the colonelcy-in-
chief of the Sutherland Highlanders and she was always willing to appear in
public for a charitable cause.
Louise became the first honorary freeman of the Royal Borough of Kensington
and in 1935, when her nephew King George V celebrated his Silver Jubilee,
Louise was at Kensington Town Hall to greet him and his queen, Mary.
This, though, was virtually her last public appearance. Louise died four
years later at Kensington Palace on 3 December 1939. She was 91 and Queen
Victoria's longest-living and most accomplished daughter.
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