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LOUISE & LORNE: A ground-breaking royal marriage

This May marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria. Margaret Brecknell explores the marriage of Victoria’s daughter Louise – a match that went against the strict conventions of the time
Princess Louise opening the Victoria Hospital for Sick Children at Chelsea in June 1876

With last year’s wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at St George’s chapel, Windsor, still fresh in the consciousness, it is timely to look again at a similarly groundbreaking royal marriage which took place at the same venue during the latter part of the 19th century. Indeed, it may be argued that it set the precedent for many royal marriages since. I am referring to the wedding of Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, Princess Louise, to the marquis of Lorne, eldest son of the duke of Argyll.

The occasion of Louise and Lorne’s wedding on 21 March 1871 marked the first time that a legitimate daughter of the sovereign had married a commoner since Mary Tudor wed the duke of Suffolk in 1515. In her 1991 book Darling Loosy Elizabeth Longford notes that The Times of 1871 described Louise and Lorne’s forthcoming marriage as ‘revolutionary’. So what brought about this seemingly unexpected union and did it prove to be successful for the couple in question?

Princess Louise Caroline Alberta was born on 18 March 1849, the sixth of Victoria and Albert’s nine children. Clearly she was far from being her mother’s favourite child. In a letter of 1859 to her eldest daughter, Vicky, the Queen describes Louise as being ‘very naughty and backward though improved and very pretty and affectionate’. Louise’s father, Albert, seems to have tried to compensate for this lack of maternal affection by singling her out for special attention. However, life was to change forever for Louise and the other young royals with the death of their father in December 1861.

Inveraray castle at the turn of the 20th century
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About History Scotland

After the Great War: Rebuilding a nation Five great reasons to read History Scotland this month * New research on what life was like between the World Wars * Exploring the link between crime and military service * Special report on underwater archaeology at the German High Seas fleet scuttle site in Orkney * The women registrars who broke into an all-male profession * A new study of the controverial marriage of Queen Victoria's daughter Louise BONUS DIGITAL-ONLY CONTENT: Video report on a forgotten treasure trove of Victorian photos Exhibition preview: Russia, Royalty and the Romanovs Video: living history food & drink experience