The secrets of Queen Victoria's sixth child, Princess Louise, may be destined to remain hidden forever. What was so dangerous about this artistic, tempestuous royal that her life has been documented more by rumor and gossip than hard facts? When Lucinda Hawksley started to investigate, often thwarted by inexplicable secrecy, she discovered a fascinating woman, modern before her time, whose story has been shielded for years from public view.
Louise was a sculptor and painter, friend to the Pre-Raphaelites and a keen member of the Aesthetic movement. The most feisty of the Victorian princesses, she kicked against her mother's controlling nature and remained fiercely loyal to her brothers-especially the sickly Leopold and the much-maligned Bertie. She sought out other unconventional women, including Josephine Butler and George Eliot, and campaigned for education and health reform and for the rights of women. She battled with her indomitable mother for permission to practice the "masculine" art of sculpture and go to art college-and in doing so became the first British princess to attend a public school.
The rumors of Louise's colorful love life persist even today, with hints of love affairs dating as far back as her teenage years, and notable scandals included entanglements with her sculpting tutor Joseph Edgar Boehm and possibly even her sister Princess Beatrice's handsome husband, Liko. True to rebellious form, she refused all royal suitors and became the first member of the royal family, since the sixteenth century, to marry a commoner. She moved with him to Canada when he was appointed Governor-General.
Spirited and lively, Queen Victoria's Mysterious Daughter is richly packed with arguments, intrigues, scandals, and secrets, and is a vivid portrait of a princess desperate to escape her inheritance.
Hawksley, a British historian and biographer (and Dickens descendant), addresses rumors head-on in this sympathetic portrait of Queen Victoria's "unconventional" daughter, the accomplished sculptor Princess Louise (1848 1939). Rebellious rather than mysterious, Louise found palace life stultifying. Though the widowed queen kept her brood of nine on short leashes, she found Louise "very indiscreet." Perhaps this explains the long-standing rumor that Louise was a teen mother whose child was adopted by a family on the royal payroll. Hawksley's attempts to access the U.K.'s Royal Archives on the matter were thwarted, indicating "that there is something in them that the archivists... feel the need to conceal." She found better evidence of Louise's romance with her (married) art tutor, and the princess may have been involved in his tragic demise; his archives have vanished from the National Gallery. What is well documented is that in 1871, Louise married the Duke of Argyll, a reputed homosexual in a country where Victoria made "life as unpleasant as possible for homosexual men." Yet, after a long childless marriage, Louise and the duke made their peace with each other. While her occasional first-person narrative distracts, Hawksley shows that Louise was "ahead of her time" in supporting women's rights and was "one of the most intriguing of Victorian women." Photos.