Hawksley (March, Women, March: Voices of the Women's Movement from the First Feminist to Votes for Women, 2013, etc.) does a yeoman’s service providing an illuminating biography of Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise (1848-1939).
Denied access to the Royal Archives, those of the National Gallery, and other sources, the author also had to contend with records that had been scrubbed. Besides the Canadian records of the years Louise’s husband, the Marquess of Lorne, served as Governor General, the diaries of Queen Victoria were brutally edited and partially destroyed by her youngest daughter, Beatrice. Still, Hawksley ably shows how difficult it was to be a child of Victoria; her children were constantly afraid of displeasing her, knowing she was quick to punish. The queen was self-obsessed, and she rarely acknowledged love for her children and forced them to adopt a skill in lying that became second nature. Louise acted out often as a child. Her parents thought her mentally deficient, but they recognized her artistic ability, found her tutors, and built her a studio. Part of the reason so many records are locked away is the widely held rumor of Princess Louise’s illegitimate son, Henry Locock, fathered by Walter Stirling. Companion to Louise’s brother, Stirling was dismissed but given a lifelong pension, as was the adopting family. Louise was closest to brothers Leopold and Bertie, the Prince of Wales, whose wife, Alix, brought out the best in Louise simply because she was kind to her. Her tutor, John Edgar Boehm, long believed to be her lover, encouraged her sculpting and painting. Her artistic accomplishments, her ease in public duties, her sense of style, and her beauty led the public to hold her in much higher regard than the queen or her siblings.
Hawksley conveys Louise’s story fully and clearly, but just as importantly, she shows the devastating damage Queen Victoria inflicted on her extensive family.