The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria's Rebellious Daughter Hardcover – 21 Nov 2013
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"Satisfyingly replete with eye-popping stories of life at the various palaces" (Rachel Cooke Observer)
"The fullest biography yet of a princess who was friends with Josephine Butler, a feminist and advocate for the health of sex workers, well deserves its place on the shelf" (Lucy Worsley Sunday Express)
"Lively, engaging and buoyantly enthusiastic, Hawksley's gallant but necessarily speculative book should encourage the royal archivists to stop being so protective" (Miranda Seymour Sunday Times)
"I've always wanted to know more about Princess Louise... Biographies of Kate Perugini and Elizabeth Siddal – who moved in similar artistic circles – drew Hawksley to her. Court secrecy meant that resourcefulness was needed to write it" (Ruth Richardson Times Higher Education)
"Hawksley's entertaining and lengthy book gives a vivid insight into Victorian royal life and the repressions and sexual hypocrisies of those days" (Anthony Looch UK Press Syndication)
Spirited biography and quest to unearth the secrets of Princess Louise - a royal desperate to escape her inheritanceSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What a fascinating, absorbing and engaging read! Considering Lucinda Hawksley was stonewalled by the archives, the research that has gone into this book is incredible, and it's not... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Brightmount
Didn't know anything about this princess so really enjoyed learning about her and her domineering motherPublished 5 months ago by linda
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... Read morePublished 7 months ago by C. Ball
Wonderful BOOK! will the royal family ever release her diaries and notes.... probably no - closest thing we are ever going to get: will someone please make the FILMPublished 9 months ago by Ms. BMac
Too much time taken in talking about a child who probably never existed.Published 13 months ago by Amazon Customer