Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, was born Louise Caroline Alberta, the sixth of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria’s nine children. While still a teenager, Louise was taught how to model in clay by the sculptor Mary Thornycroft. In 1868, she entered the National Art Training School, South Kensington, but royal duties prevented her regular attendance. Louise’s marriage to the Marquess of Lorne was arranged by her mother in an attempt to bring her free-spirited daughter into line. Although arranged, and despite Lorne’s probable homosexuality, the marriage was initially happy, but by the 1880s the couple were spending increasing amounts of time living separate lives, and Louise was devoting more time to her art. She had been closely associated with the sculptor, Joseph Edgar Boehm, since his engagement as sculptor-in-ordinary to the Queen in 1869. She had taken lessons from him over the years and was at his studio on the evening of his death in December 1890 (her presence there strengthening rumours of their being in a sexual relationship). Louise exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Society of Painters in Watercolour, and the Grosvenor Gallery. The Royal Collection has her marble busts of Princess Beatrice (1864); and Prince Leopold and Prince Arthur (both 1869). Her major works include her statue of Queen Victoria, 1887–93, Kensington Gardens; three memorials from the same model (the crucified Christ supported by an Angel): (i) to Prince Henry of Battenberg (1898; St Mildred’s church, Whippingham, Isle of Wight); (ii) to the Colonial Forces of the Second South African War (1904; St Paul’s Cathedral, London); and (iii) to the 8th Duke of Argyll (1906, formerly the Argyll Mausoleum, now Kilmun parish church, Cowal Peninsula, Scotland). She also designed a font (1861) for St Mildred’s and niche figures of Queen Victoria for the west front of Lichfield Cathedral (1885) and the west porch of Manchester Cathedral (1902). Louise lived at Kensington Palace; her sculpture studio in the palace grounds dates from 1878 and was designed by Edward Godwin.
Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. xxxvi, 201–02, 226–27, 365–68; A. Galliard, ‘Princess Louise – the career of a royal artist’, part 3, history Scotland; D.W. Lloyd and N. Pevsner, Isle of Wight (The Buildings of England), (2006), 2007, pp. 51, 209, 293; Mapping Sculpture; G.T. Noszlopy and F. Waterhouse, Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country, Liverpool, 2005, pp. 218, 219; I. Roscoe et al, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660–1851, New Haven and London, 2009; M. Stocker, ‘Louise, Princess, duchess of Argyll (1848–1939)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004; J. Wake, Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s unconventional daughter, London, 1988; T. Wyke, Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, Liverpool, 2004, pp. 60–61.
Terry Cavanagh November 2022
Princess Louise in Venice, April 1881, Royal Collection (Photo: Fratelli Vianelli; public domain)