Sunday, March 24, 2013
Heroine of the Weekend
Princess Louise Caroline Alberta was born at Buckingham Palace, the 6th child and 4th daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, in the middle of a year of revolutionary upheaval in Europe, which led her mother to say Louise would surely turn out to be "something peculiar". She was always lively and vivacious--her family nickname was "Little Miss Why," and her artistic talent was recognized early on. She was even allowed to attend classes at the National Art Training School in South Kensington, and even though as a royal she could never be a professional she later sculpted many memorials, among them a memorial to the Boer War and one for her brother-in-law Prince Henry of Battenberg, as well as a famous sculpture of her mother now at Kensington Gardens.
Her liveliness was strained after the death of her father in 1861, when the royal court went into prolonged mourning. She wasn't allowed a debutante ball, as her older sisters had, and she was bored and dissatisfied. She served for a time as her mother's personal secretary, writing letters and attending to duties Victoria was unable to. Her mother, who had sometimes despaired of her pretty, energetic daughter, said, "She is (and who would some years ago have thought it?) a clever dear girl with a fine strong character, unselfish and affectionate."
"That which you object to [that Louise should marry a subject] I feel certain will be for Louise's happiness and for the peace and quiet of the family ... Times have changed; great foreign alliances are looked on as causes of trouble and anxiety, and are of no good. What could be more painful than the position in which our family were placed during the wars with Denmark, and between Prussia and Austria? ... You may not be aware, as I am, with what dislike the marriages of Princesses of the Royal Family with small German Princes (German beggars as they most insultingly were called) ... As to position, I see no difficulty whatever; Louise remains what she is, and her husband keeps his rank ... only being treated in the family as a relation when we are together .. "
Louise moved into the apartment at Kensington Palace where she lived for the rest of her life, and became preoccupied with her own artistic work, as well as family quarrels (especially with her sister Beatrice, who thought Louise was too close to her own husband, the handsome Prince Henry of Battenberg). She became obsessed with physical fitness and diet (her family made fun of her for it, but she lived longer--and looked better--than any of them!). She also became interested in women's suffrage, and made a point to patronize female physicians.
For more info, Jehanne Wake has a great biography of the princess, Princess Louise: Queen Victoria's Unconventional Daughter (1988)