cover image Queen Victoria’s Mysterious Daughter: A Biography of Princess Louise

Queen Victoria’s Mysterious Daughter: A Biography of Princess Louise

Lucinda Hawksley. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-05932-1

Hawksley, a British historian and biographer (and Dickens descendant), addresses rumors head-on in this sympathetic portrait of Queen Victoria’s “unconventional” daughter, the accomplished sculptor Princess Louise (1848–1939). Rebellious rather than mysterious, Louise found palace life stultifying. Though the widowed queen kept her brood of nine on short leashes, she found Louise “very indiscreet.” Perhaps this explains the long-standing rumor that Louise was a teen mother whose child was adopted by a family on the royal payroll. Hawksley’s attempts to access the U.K.’s Royal Archives on the matter were thwarted, indicating “that there is something in them that the archivists... feel the need to conceal.” She found better evidence of Louise’s romance with her (married) art tutor, and the princess may have been involved in his tragic demise; his archives have vanished from the National Gallery. What is well documented is that in 1871, Louise married the Duke of Argyll, a reputed homosexual in a country where Victoria made “life as unpleasant as possible for homosexual men.” Yet, after a long childless marriage, Louise and the duke made their peace with each other. While her occasional first-person narrative distracts, Hawksley shows that Louise was “ahead of her time” in supporting women’s rights and was “one of the most intriguing of Victorian women.” Photos. [em](Dec.) [/em]