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The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria's Rebellious Daughter Hardcover – 21 Nov 2013

4.1 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; 1st Edition edition (21 Nov. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701183497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701183493
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 287,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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)

Book Description

Spirited biography and quest to unearth the secrets of Princess Louise - a royal desperate to escape her inheritance

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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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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Format: Kindle Edition
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: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Princess-Louise-Victorias-Unconventional-Daughter-ebook/dp/B007GO14W6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1391447574&sr=8-2&keywords=jehanne+wake. 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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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition
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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