As the fourth daughter of the perpetually in-mourning Queen Victoria, Princess Louise’s life is more a gilded prison than a fairy tale. Expected to sit quietly next to her mother with downcast eyes, Louise vows to escape the stultifying royal court.

Blessed with beauty, artistic talent, and a common touch, she creates a life outside the walled-in existence of the palace grounds by attending the National Art Training School—where she shockingly learns to sculpt nude models while falling passionately in love with famed sculptor Joseph Edgar Boehm.


Princess Louise was born on 18 March 1848 during a year when revolution was sweeping throughout Europe and the Queen prophetically remarked that her fourth daughter would be “something peculiar.”

From an early age, Louise showed artistic talent, however her rank as a royal princess prohibited any serious thoughts of her pursuing art as a career. When her father died unexpectedly in 1861 and plunged her mother into deep grief, Louise and her siblings were subjected to a long period of mourning which meant any sort of entertainment at court was banned. Louise, the most headstrong of the princesses, chafed against the stifling atmosphere at court and tried to cajole her mother out of her mourning but it failed and invariably caused tension between mother and daughter.

A bored Louise soon turned her attentions to her brother Leopold’s tutor, Robinson Duckworth, who was fourteen years her senior but he was dismissed when the Queen discovered her daughter’s infatuation. Louise was also rumoured to have had a liaison with another tutor of Leopold’s, Walter Stirling, which may have resulted in the birth of an illegitimate child although this has not be proven. Louise would go on to be connected to a series of other men, such as Arthur Bigge, her mother’s assistant private secretary, and Joseph Edgar Boehm, an Austrian-born British medallist and sculptor.

While the affair with Stirling is mentioned in An Indiscreet Princess, there is no mention of a child and Blalock often alludes to the fact Louise was probably made infertile after a serious illness when she was young. Louise and Boehm were alleged to have had a long standing love affair by historian Lucinda Hawksley and it is this affair that forms the basis of An Indiscreet Princess.

I really like how Louise was portrayed in this novel and her constant desire to have something beyond her life as a princess is very realistic. I enjoyed her confrontations with her mercurial mother as Louise was the only one of Queen Victoria’s children who would stand up to her bullying and her eventual realisation she is more like her stubborn mother than she would ever have thought is quite amusing. I also enjoyed Louise’s relationship with her brother Leopold as the two were very close during his lifetime but Leopold’s death is glossed over which is a pity as it hurt her deeply.

Louise’s relationship with Boehm is an interesting one since the author only has conjecture to base it on, however it is developed quite well if a little lacklustre at times. Louise is able to frequently visit Boehm at his studio thanks to the discretion of her ladies-in-waiting who love the princess so much they are happy to keep her secret. They circle around each other over the next few years with neither being able to commit to a serious relationship but the grand passion isn’t really there. In fact, when Boehm dies in his studio, it is merely mentioned in passing which is odd considering the ensuing scandal is what fuelled the rumours they were having an affair in the first place.

Frustrated by the constant interference from her mother, Louise reluctantly decides to marry in the hopes it will give her the freedom she craves. After assessing possible suitors, Louise eventually chooses John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne, despite the objections of her older brother, Bertie, who believes Lorne is too lowly ranked. However, Queen Victoria is in agreement with her daughter and retorts it is time for new blood.

Louise and Lorne were married on 21 March 1871 and the press were given the idea it was a love match which the couple had to support by being seen together in public whenever possible. The book portrays Lorne as a slovenly individual who constantly whines about his position and the lack of respect he receives from Louise’s family. I don’t know enough about Lorne to comment on this portrayal but he quickly becomes annoying and you can see why the marriage is an unhappy one. The book also accepts the rumours that Lorne was homosexual and that Louise was well aware of this when she decided to marry him. The rumours have never been substantiated.

The last few chapters of the book rush through Louise and Lorne’s time in Canada and the sleigh accident that left the princess with debilitating injuries. Louise returns to England to recover but is tormented by the physical weaknesses that leave her unable to sculpt so it is some time before she renews her relationship with Boehm. When Louise finally recovers, she anonymously submits a proposal for a statue of her mother in her coronation robes to the Kensington Golden Jubilee Memorial Executive Committee. The design of the statue greatly pleases Queen Victoria who acknowledges how much she admires her daughter for always fighting for what she wants and it reminds her of how she had to do the same when she ascended the throne at such a young age.

The book ends with the statue being unveiled by Queen Victoria in Kensington Gardens on 28 June 1893 with Louise’s talent being publicly acknowledged by her mother which the princess has long craved. It seems the most important relationship in this book was actually between Louise and her mother rather than with Boehm.