The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter – Lucinda Hawksley
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.
What I Thought:
In recent months, I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction books written by the British biographer Lucinda Hawksley, and enjoyed them all. So I was drawn to read this biography of one of Queen Victoria’s daughters as much by the author as by the promise of the blurb: ‘packed with intrigues, scandals and secrets, (this is) a vivid portrait of a royal desperate to escape her inheritance.’
I was not disappointed. Lucinda Hawksley has a knack for bringing stories alive on the page, and Princess Louise is a wonderful character. Outspoken, creative, and sensual, she smoked cigarettes, rode bicycles, and refused to wear a crinoline. It is rumoured she had an illegitimate baby, smuggled out of the palace by the queen’s doctor, and one of her lovers’ may have died in her arms. It is impossible to know the truth because – nearly 70 years after her death – her archives are stoutly locked away and no-one is permitted to read them. A fascinating mystery, indeed.
You may also enjoy my blog on Lucinda's book March, Women, March! about the Suffragettes' movement in Great Britain, and my post on my research books on the Pre-Raphaelite circle of artists, in which I mention Lucinda's book Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel.
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