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on 13 January 2014
Although this book gives extra insights into the Princess than hitherto, the number of errors result in the reader losing confidence in the writer. For example, Prince Philip is NOT the great grandson of the Tsarina, his grandmother was her sister. Also, Prince Arthur was married to Louise, NOT Marie; Princess Alice of Athlone was the daughter of Prince Leopold, not Helena and was it the "duke" or "earl" of Somerset involved in the Cleveland Street Scandal ? There are many typographical errors - what happened in the editing. ?

Sorry, but it is not good scholarship. I would like to have learned more about the Princess's reproductive (alleged) makeup, as this could be the key to much of her behaviour and experience. On the plus side, Louise's character does come out.
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on 17 December 2014
I enjoy reading anything about Queen Victoria and her family so wasn't going to avoid this book despite the reviews I had read.

It's important to read it as journalism not history. It is not fact and source based research (even without access to Archives you can still write "historically"). It's journalism where you pick and choose evidence to back up a good story.

Date errors may have been corrected in the paperback but I found the chronology often did not stack up.

As to the putative son, the author surmises that during a 4 month stay with the Royal Family he gets Louise pregnant quick enough for the pregnancy to become apparent (in pre test days) and for him to be dismissed. Now I can imagine he might be found in a compromising position with her and dismissed but that the fact of a pregnancy was known seems implausible.

I suspect the closed archives have more to do with the homosexual activities of her husband than any child she might have had. Since the book alleges she had many lovers I do find it odd she had no more children if indeed she had already had one - this is covered but I did not find the theory plausible. It seems more likely to me she was infertile. Either way the book is all about conjecture - which is fun and has its place.

I gave the book 3 stars because it is eminently readable and if that brings others to the fascinating stories around the family of Queen Victoria and into reading some "proper" history that is all to the good.

I will look out the earlier work which seems to be well thought of in some of the other reviews.
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on 1 December 2013
I feel this book suffers from a lack of source material as a great deal is under wraps in the Royal Archive as Louise obviously lived a colourful life for a daughter of Queen Victoria. She made an unfortunate marriage but much to her credit kept everything together. i warmed to her and thought what a tremendous person she obviously was. In places the style becomes very repetitive and we are told the same things over and over again, it needs good editing! Lucinda agonises about the sexual proclivities of the main characters as she hasnt got the material to prove what she is saying. I do recommend it to those interested in the family of Queen Victoria who is revealed as quite a nasty baggage!! This talented and delightful woman needs this biography.
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on 3 February 2014
I'm surprised that so few people remember a much better book - Princess Louise: Queen Victoria's Unconventional Daughter by Jehanne Wake, which is still available here on Amazon: It came out in 1988 (when I read it) to some rave reviews, and was a serious, unsensationalised but very readable biography. I believe that Mrs Wake did have access to the royal archives, and the book is extremely well researched.
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on 26 December 2013
Warning: this review contains spoilers.

When researching the life of Queen Victoria's sixth child, Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, her biographer Lucinda Hawksley found that the Princess' files in the Royal Archives were closed; she was also denied access to the Duke of Argyll's files in Inveraray, Scotland.

Despite these drawbacks, Hawksley has drawn on rumours, hearsay and circumstantial evidence to provide a convincing account of Princess Louise's private life including an illegitimate child, possible lovers and a hastily arranged marriage to the almost certainly homosexual Lord Lorne.

There are good accounts of the Princess's time in Canada when her husband was Governor-General there. She was a talented painter and sculptor and knew many of the leading artists of the day.

Hawksley is good at conveying the interactions between Queen Victoria's children and the various sibling rivalries that existed.

After her husband's death, Princess Louise's life became less interesting and the latter part of the book is a succession of prize givings, hospital visits, tree plantings and charity work.

However, there are two aspects of the book which trouble me. The first is the number of errors that exist.

Hawksley can be casual about dates. On p291 she refers to Edward VII's coronation: "The month of the coronation was, however, a time of great sadness for Louise and her siblings, as they were struggling to cope with the news of Vicky's death just four days previously". The coronation took place on 9 August 1902; Vicky's death had occurred on 5 August 1901.

Facts are tantalisingly withheld. "For Lorne, the death of his mother-in-law [Queen Victoria] gave him licence to publish a book he had been working on for many years: 'The Life of Queen Victoria'....the new British king and the Kaiser of Germany were united - they were both scandalised by the 9th Duke of Argyll's literary endeavours" (p287). We are not told why the contents of the book upset both monarchs.

Hawksley confuses family relationships. "[Beatrice] travelled to South Africa to spend Christmas of 1924 with Helena's daughter Princess Alice...."(p331). Princess Alice was the daughter of Helena's brother Leopold.

Hawksley can be annoyingly vague: "At the start of January 1926, Louise returned to the French Riviera....A newspaper noted that the elderly princess had been working very hard recently, often standing in for the much younger queen" (p332). One assumes that the 'much younger queen' is the UK's Queen Mary, but this point should have been made more explicit (Queen Mary was only nineteen years younger than Princess Louise, anyway).

The second aspect that concerns me is that, despite the commendable use of quotations from newspapers and other sources, not one single reference is cited.

We will not know the truth about Princess Louise until her files are opened. The fact they are closed convinces me that there is something to hide and Hawksley's solutions are plausible.
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on 9 April 2014
I was initially drawn to this exciting sounding book, only to realise that it is based on surmise rather than research, unlike the other book about Louise by Jehanne Wake. Instead of giving up, the author has ploughed on, despite being 'denied' access to Princess'Louise's archives. The USP is that there must be a big secret that has been hushed up if she was not allowed this access.This is possible, but then again, it makes for unsubstantiated surmise.

Big frou frou bows cover big tummies ripe with child; but hinted controversies and assignations cover up lack of positive documentation.

The usual but interesting information about the life of the Royals is included. Poor reviled Bertie, cossetted Beatrice, the Queen's dislike and revulsion for babies, especially if they were not pretty and her rejecting and harsh attitudes are all reflected here. Which is fine if you didn't know that already.
You are probably better off reading a more well documented account. Jehanne Wake's book is older, but she did have access to the archives.
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Before Princess Diana, there was another 'People's Princess', who won the sympathy and affection of people all across the world and is still remembered fondly in a way that few other of Queen Victoria's children are. Princess Louise is by far the most sympathetic of all Victoria's children, if only because she is the most recognisably modern. She was a bridge between the Victorian and modern world, living through the reigns of Victoria, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI, through the upheaval of WW1 and died just after the outbreak of WW2. She was a rebel at a time when few women were, a woman who tried her best to defy her royal birth and follow her own path. She was a talented artist who mixed with the bohemian set, who had the common touch and was rarely aloof or haughty. And her life may have been even more rebellious than that...

I say 'may', because much material relating to Princess Louise's life is closed to researchers, even now half a century and more after her death, and a result, biographies such as these contain far too much speculation to be treated as fact. I would hesitate to call this book genuine history, as there is just far too much supposition and, well, guesswork. Louise may have had an illegitimate child; she may have had lovers; her husband may have been homosexual. But none of this is fact.

Frankly, it is hard to imagine what revelations in Louise's life could have been so shocking to the Royal Family that her records and papers are still closed. Even if all the above were true, whilst such things may have beyond the pale in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, few people today would bat an eyelid. The vast majority of the population probably don't even know Princess Louise existed, so it's scarcely plausible than any such revelations could rock the foundations of the monarchy. And keeping records of her life hidden and secret only gives rise to rumours and speculation, such as those that populate this book.

None of this, of course, is the fault of the author, who freely acknowledges being stymied by the Royal Archives and red tape. But I'm always hesitant about authors who acknowledge supposition as such when first presented and then proceed as though that supposition were fact. Lucinda Hawksley has written a good book, but the lack of actual truth or hard evidence means it falls into that awkward gap between historical truth and imaginative narrative.
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on 31 December 2013
The printed reviews for this book were not all positive. I read it after visiting Rosneath Church to which Princess Louise used to go on occasions and I loved it. It reads like a novel, is well researched and holds the attention all the way through. I wanted to slap her mother regularly! If you enjoy Victorian books which are not dry, then I heartily recommend this one
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on 20 March 2014
I'm quite interested in anything about Queen Victoria or her children so I found this quite an enjoyable read. I did think it was a bit repetitive and a lot of the "mystery" element is based around conjecture and speculation rather than fact, but not a bad book.
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on 11 January 2014
I must admit that I was really looking forward to reading this but due to lack of source material the content seemed rather lacking. Definitely something just to dip in and out of.
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