Revolution storms were blowing across Europe when Louise was born which caused her mother to comment her new daughter was going to be “something peculiar” and she certainly was the most rebellious of the daughters. Like her siblings, Louise had a strict programme of education devised by her father, but the children were also taught more practical tasks, such as cooking, farming, household tasks and carpentry. From an early age, Louise showed a great deal of artistic talent and the Queen allowed her to attend art school where she trained under sculptress Mary Thornycroft and then the National Art Training School at South Kensington.
After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, the vivacious Louise soon became disgruntled by her mother’s long period of mourning and yearned for court entertainment to resume. At the age of seventeen, Louise begged her mother to hold a debutante ball but her request was rejected and Louise soon found herself the subject of her mother’s wrath. In 1866, as the eldest unmarried daughter, it was Louise’s turn to fulfil the role as the queen’s companion despite her mother’s misgivings that her daughter was indiscreet. Louise surprised her mother by being very good at her duties and she was soon back in favour until she fell in love with Leopold’s tutor who was promptly dismissed.
Louise was considered to be the most beautiful of the royal princesses, however she was also criticised for her liberal views, particularly in regard to women’s rights which displeased her mother. The press also accused Louise of having more than one romantic affair which prompted her mother into searching for a suitable husband. Marriages to foreign princes were proving unpopular in Britain, so Queen Victoria was forced to look closer to home with the added advantage of keeping Louise closer to her.
In the end, Louise announced she wished to marry John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne, and heir to the Dukedom of Argyll in Scotland. It was a bold move since no daughter of a sovereign had married a subject since Charles Brandon was allowed to marry Mary Tudor in 1515. Needless to say, there was opposition to the match but Queen Victoria maintained it was time for new blood in the family and gave her consent. Lorne was duly invited to Balmoral and the engagement was announced on 3 October 1870 much to Louise’s delight. The marriage took place on 21 March 1871 at Windsor Castle, drawing such a large crowd, the police had to be called in to help keep control.
In 1878, the British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, chose Lorne as the new Governor General to Canada, a post duly appointed by Queen Victoria. Louise and Lorne sailed for Canada on the 15 November and set up residence in Rideau Hall in Ottawa which the couple ended up having to furnish. The Canadians were initially excited about the prospect of having the daughter of Queen Victoria as their viceregal consort but opinions were soon changed by the negativity shown by the Canadian press. Although Lorne was the youngest Governor General of Canada, he and his wife made many contributions to Canadian society, especially in the arts with the establishment of the Royal Society of Canada, the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and the National Gallery of Canada.
Despite the success of their life in Canada, the cracks in their marriage were becoming more evident and Louise returned to Britain in 1881 while Lorne stayed in Canada for another two years. The couple were given apartments in Kensington Palace but often went their separate ways and rumours about Lorne’s sexuality were prevalent. Louise responded jealously when her sister, Beatrice, married Prince Henry of Battenberg in 1885 and went on to have four children. Rumours also circulated that Louise was having an affair and her name was linked with a series of men but none were substantiated.
Lorne became Duke of Argyll in 1900 and was increasingly active in politics, eventually taking a seat in the House of Lords. He was offered the office of Governor of Australia but declined due to failing health. Louise kept herself busy with her royal duties until her husband’s health began to deteriorate and she nursed him devotedly until his death in 1914. Louise was severely depressed by the loss of her husband and she suffered from great loneliness.
Louise continued to live in her apartments at Kensington Palace but made few public appearances as her own health began to deteriorate and she died on 3 December 1939.