April 26th, 2012
Queen Victoria: the maternal dragon who gave name to the Victorian era had eight children and was none too fond of any particular one. In fact to one degree or another she managed to emotionally cripple each one well into adulthood.
The child who may have given her the most trouble was Louise. Princess Louise, Victoria and Albert’s fourth daughter, was born with a will to live her life as she chose not as her parents chose. To this day many of the Royal Archive and other files on the Princess have been sealed, secret. What about Louise could be so dangerous to public knowledge?
A bit of background: I read about Louise’s youngest Beatrice last year and took away an overwhelming irritation for the Queen Mother. Mostly we learn about how Victoria was loved, less about her smothering, stifling, critical and obtuse qualities. Victoria kept her youngest daughter by her side for her entire lifetime, panicking at the thought of her children growing up and having a life of their own. As far as I can tell, Queen Victoria’s ultimate goal was to keep all her children close to her for comfort in her long bereavement, and to have all surrounding her mourn as deeply as she insisted on doing, for decades after her widowhood.
It was an age of severe restrictions for children, they were meant to be perfect models of obedience without displaying any kind of individuality that did not suit the parents. For Princess Louise, this led to a lifetime of looking for acceptance and attention while indulging her artistic and naturally candid and warm temperament, to the shock and dismay of many; and to the delight of many more.
The author made an extensive and thorough search into all available records and memories of Louise and has here produced a competent account of Louise’s lifetime and a fairly clear picture of the Princess’ personality. Ultimately, there doesn’t seem to be any mystery. Partly because so many records are sealed or have been removed, and partly because the ‘shocking’ truths amount to Louise’s affairs and I’m not sure much else.
The Princess herself seems to have been a great lady however, worthy of being remembered. Louise was warm-hearted, incredibly open and accessible to the common people. She was vivacious and a incorrigible flirt who charmed men and children everywhere, but not always their mothers and wives. Louise was truly tireless in her support of women’s rights, children’s welfare and multitudes of similar charities down til her death at 91. She had no children, and remained healthy and vigorous into old age.
‘A Biography of Princess Louise’ is clearly written; neither boring nor heavy-handed, but it isn’t very exciting or especially fascinating either. The most avid readers of Victorian era biographies or insight into Queen Victoria will enjoy this, otherwise it seems to only serve as a timeline of Louise’s life; and as one of the earliest royal rebels, is well deserved. On a last note, if Hawksley ever finds out what is contained in those forbidden records, I expect a revising of this novel would be very interesting.
This is an interesting post I found that contains short biographies on their children: