Antiqua Print Gallery Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll
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Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll

The Princess Louise (born Louise Caroline Alberta, also known as Marchioness of Lorne and Duchess of Argyll by marriage; 18 March 1848 – 3 December 1939) was a member of the British Royal Family, the sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Louise's early life was spent moving between the various royal residences in the company of her family. When her father, the Prince Consort, died on 14 December 1861, the court went into a period of intense mourning, to which Louise was unsympathetic. Louise was an able sculptor and artist, and several of her sculptures remain today. She was also a supporter of the feminist movement, and corresponded with Josephine Butler and visited Elizabeth Garrett.
As an unmarried daughter of Victoria, Louise served as an unofficial secretary to her mother between 1866 and 1871. The question of Louise's marriage was discussed in the late 1860s. Suitors from the royal houses of Prussia and Denmark were suggested, but Victoria wanted new blood in the family, and therefore suggested a high-ranking member of the aristocracy. Despite opposition from members of the royal family, Louise fell in love with John, Marquess of Lorne, the heir to the Duke of Argyll, and Victoria consented to the marriage, which took place on 21 March 1871. Despite a happy beginning, the two drifted apart, possibly because of their childlessness and the Queen's constraints on their activities.
In 1878, Lorne was appointed Governor General of Canada. Louise thus became viceregal consort, but her stay was unhappy as a result of homesickness and dislike of Ottawa. Following Victoria's death on 22 January 1901, she entered the social circle established by her brother, the new King, Edward VII. Louise's marriage survived thanks to long periods of separation, but 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, she became a gradual recluse, undertaking few public duties outside of Kensington Palace. She died at Kensington on 3 December 1939 at the age of 91.

Viceregal Consort of Canada

Inauspicious arrival

Princess Louise in Canada

In 1878, British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, chose Lorne to be Canada's new Governor General, and he was duly appointed by Queen Victoria. Louise thus became his Viceregal Consort. On 15 November 1878, the couple left Liverpool and arrived to be sworn in at Halifax on 25 November.
Louise became the first royal to take up residence in Rideau Hall, officially the Queen's royal residence in Ottawa. However, the hall was far from the splendour of British royal residences, and, as each viceregal couple decorated the hall with their own furnishings, and thus took them when they departed, the Lornes found the palace sparse in décor upon their arrival. Louise put her artistic talents to work and hung many of her watercolour and oil paintings around the hall also installing her sculpted works. The arrival of the new Governor General was not welcomed by the Canadian press, which complained about the imposition of royalty on the country's hitherto un-regal society. Relations with the press further deteriorated when Lorne's private secretary, Francis de Winton, threw four journalists off the royal train. Although the Lornes had no knowledge of de Winton's action, it was assumed by the press that they did, and they earned an early reputation for haughtiness. Louise was horrified by the negative press, and when she heard about reports of "a nation of flunkies" at the viceregal court, taking lessons in the "the backward walk," Louise declared that she "wouldn't care if they came in blanket coats!" Eventually the worries of a rigid court at Rideau Hall and the "feeble undercurrent of criticism" turned out to be unfounded as the royal couple proved to be more relaxed than their predecessors.

Canadian entertainments

Louise's first few months in Canada were tinged with sadness as her favourite sister, Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse, died on 14 December 1878. Although homesick over that first Christmas, Louise soon grew accustomed to the winter climate. Sleighing and skating were two of her favourite pastimes. In Canada, as the monarch's direct representative, Lorne always took precedence over his wife, so that at the Canadian State Opening of Parliament on 13 February 1879, Louise was ranked no differently than others in attendance. She had to remain standing with the MPs, until Lorne asked them to be seated. In order for Lorne to meet every Canadian member of parliament, he held bi-weekly dinners for 50 people. However, some of the Canadian ladies responded negatively to the British party. One of Louise's ladies-in-waiting reported that some of them had an “‘I'm as good as you’ sort of manner when one begins a conversation.” Court entertainments were open; anyone who could afford the clothing to attend functions was simply asked to sign the visitor's book. Louise's first state ball was given on 19 February 1879, and she made a good impression on her guests when she ordered the silk cordon, separating the viceregal party from the guests, be removed. However, the ball was marred by various mishaps, including a drunken bandsman nearly starting a fire by pulling a curtain over a gas lamp. The open house practice was criticised by guests who complained about the low social status of other guests. One attendee was horrified on discovering that they were dancing in the same social set as their grocer.
Louise and Lorne founded the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and enjoyed visiting Quebec, which they made their summer home, and Toronto. Lorne's father, the Duke of Argyll, arrived with two of his daughters in June, and in the presence of the family, Louise caught a 28 pounds (13 kg) salmon. The women's success at fishing prompted the Duke to remark that fishing in Canada required no skill.[40]

[edit] Sleigh accident

Louise, Lorne, and two attendants, were the victim of a sleigh accident on 14 February 1880.[41] The winter was particularly severe, and the carriage in which they were travelling overturned, throwing the coachman and footman from the sleigh. The horses then panicked, and dragged the overturned carriage 366 metres (1,200 ft). Louise was knocked unconscious when she hit her head on the iron bar supporting the roof, and Lorne was trapped underneath her, expecting “the sides of the carriage to give way at any moment”.[42] Eventually, as they overtook the sleigh ahead, the horses calmed, and the occupant of that sleigh, Princess Louise's aide-de-camp, ordered an empty carriage to convey the injured party back to Rideau Hall.[43]
The doctors who attended Louise reported that she was severely concussed and in shock, and that “it was a wonder her skull was not fractured”.[43] Louise's ear had been injured when her earring caught on the side of the sleigh, tearing her ear lobe in two.[43] The press played down the story on instructions from Lorne's private secretary, an act that was described by contemporaries as “stupid and ill advised”.[44] Knowledge of Louise's true condition might have elicited sympathy from the Canadian people. As it was, one MP wrote: “Except the cut in the lower part of the ear I think there was no injury done worth mentioning.”[44] Therefore, when Louise cancelled her immediate engagements, people thought she was malingering. News of the accident was also played down in Britain, and in letters home to the anxious Queen Victoria.[44]

(Source Wikipedia)