Princess Louise’s Charitable Work

Louise_1865.jpg Although Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, and her husband, John Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll were often short of funds, the Princess managed to live a life her siblings could not imagine. Campbell, who was still the Marquess of Lorne at the time of their marriage, would eventually inherit a noble patrimony deeply in debt. With that in mind, the couple originally leased a five-storey townhouse in Belgravia’s Grosvenor Crescent, but they soon discovered, despite Louise’s attempts at economy, that the house was beyond their means. Constantly aware of her children’s doings, Queen Victoria made an attempt to ease some of her daughter’s situation by offering the couple an apartment in Kensington Palace. On the surface this would seem very generous of the Queen, but Victoria was always aware that her daughter’s circumstances were a reflection upon her. Kensington was a state residence, and Queen Victoria had the say as to who could and could not reside in the palace’s many apartments. Victoria had been born at Kensington Palace, and so she held the place in great fondness.

Louise_Marquis_Lorne_001.jpg Victoria chose the apartments that had once been the Duchess of Inverness’s [the widow of Queen Victoria’s uncle, the Duke of Sussex], who had recently passed, home and requested public money to remodel the suite of rooms to make them suitable for the daughter of a queen. For a country estate, at the expense of £30,000, Lorne chose Dornden, near Tunbridge Wells in Kent. It was smaller than Victoria thought appropriate for one of her daughters, but the Lornes took well to the area. Now that they were settled, the couple turned to more pleasurable pursuits. 

Louise was a ‘different’ princess, not overly fond of royal ritual or the rather stuffy royal social rounds, and was clearly made for life beyond the limitations which her birth had imposed on her. Though a formal career was not possible for a princess in Louise’s time, her abilities in painting and sculpture were not allowed to go to waste. She was permitted to attend art school and in 1863, when she was fifteen, the famous sculptress, Mrs. Mary Thorneycroft, became her tutor. After her marriage in 1871, Louise embarked on an unusual life for a princess, as the wife of a Member of Parliament, and one who was able, as most other royals were not, to surround herself with artists and philanthropists, the people whose company both she and her husband preferred. [Britannica]

Living up to her reputation as “different,” Louise, for example, enjoyed fly fishing, an activity highly discouraged by society for women, but an activity upon which she would really find disfavor of the Queen was Louise’s association with the Ladies’ Work Society, a charity, which she founded and one she underwrote with her financial support. The Ladies’ Work Society aided women of middle and upper middle class who through circumstances beyond their control had fallen into poverty. At the Ladies’ Work Society they were taught crafts such as embroidery, repairing fine art items, needlework, etc., to aid them in earning a living. The organization displayed and sold the work/items of those they helped at a shop in Sloane Square.

Louise also sponsored an “Educational Parliament,” specifically the Girls’ Public School Day Company, an organization that provided middle-class parents extra money to send their daughters to the Girls’ Public School in Chelsea. Thirty-three schools for girls were eventually established through this initiative. This was not a popular “charity” at the time because men thought an educated woman was a threat to their power. 

John_Campbell,_9th_Duke_of_Argyll.jpgLorne, on the other hand, was not so much into charity work, but rather an exploration of his interest in literature, specifically poetry. In 1875, Lorne published his first book of poems, Guido and Lita—A Tale of the Riviera, a narrative poem, published by Macmillan. The poem dealt with a medieval struggle between Christians and Muslims. The hero and heroine of the poem was Guido and Lita. Lorne sold 3000+ copies of the book in Britain alone, with more sales in the United States and Canada. 

Lorne followed that effort with a rewriting of the Psalms. He published The Book of Psalms, Literally Rendered into Verse in 1877. He was criticized for his attempt to make the Psalms better, as the Biblical passages did not require alteration.

 Louise_1868.jpg Louise, meanwhile upped her involvement in arts and literary circles. From her teen years, Louise had immersed herself in art and sculpture. The members of these arts-based groups were often ostracized by the conventional arts community. Louise’s royal respectability rubbed off on some of London’s most controversial artists. lending them a “name” in the artistic community. 



About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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