Biography of Princess Louise, Princess Royal and Duchess of Fife

Granddaughter of Queen Victoria

Louise with her mother and sisters in 1887

Hulton Archive / Stringer

 

Princess Louise (February 20, 1867–January 4, 1931) was the eldest daughter of King Edward VII. Also known as the Princess Royal and Duchess of Fife, she had no surviving male offspring, and the direct-line male descendants of her daughters were counted in the line of royal succession.

Fast Facts: Princess Louise

  • Known For: sixth British princess named Princess Royal and granddaughter of Queen Victoria
  • Also Known As: Louise Victoria Alexandra Dagmar, Princess Royal and Duchess of Fife, the Princess Louise, Princess Louise of Wales (at birth)
  • Born: February 20, 1867 in London, England
  • Parents: Alexandra of Denmark and King Edward VII
  • Died: January 4, 1931 in London, England
  • Spouse: Alexander Duff, 6th Earl Fife, later 1st Duke of Fife
  • Children: Princess Alexandra, 2nd Duchess of Fife, and Princess Maud, Countess of Southesk

Early Life

Born at Marlborough House in London, Princess Louise was the first daughter born after two sons in 1864 and 1865 to Alexandra, the Princess of Wales, and Edward, the Prince of Wales, son of Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert. Two more sisters (Victoria and Maud) arrived over the following two years, and the three girls were known for being very active. Close in their youth, all became shyer and more withdrawn as they grew up. They were educated by governesses. In 1895, the three sisters were among the bridesmaids at the wedding of their aunt, Princess Beatrice, the youngest of Queen Victoria’s daughters.

Because her father had two sons who could succeed him (a third son, Alexander John, died in infancy), Louise’s mother did not think the girls should wed and Victoria, who followed Louise, remained unmarried until her 1935 death. Nevertheless, her sister Maud a Norwegian Prince to eventually become Queen of Norway, and Louise herself married Alexander Duff, 6th Earl Fife, a descendent of King William IV through his illegitimate daughter. Duff was created a duke when they married on July 27, 1889, just a month after their engagement. Louise’s son, Alistair, was stillborn in 1890, soon after the marriage. Two daughters, Alexandra and Maud, born in 1891 and 1893, completed the family.

Line of Succession

When Princess Louise’s eldest brother, Albert Victor, died in 1892 at the age of 28, the next and only surviving brother, George, became second to Edward. Until George had legitimate offspring, this made Louise third in line for the throne, followed by her daughters. Unless marriage, death, or royal decree changed their status, they were technically commoners.

In 1893, the princess hosted her brother's wedding to Mary of Teck, who had been engaged to Albert Victor. This made the succession of Louise or her daughters unlikely. She lived quite privately after her marriage. Her father succeeded Queen Victoria in 1901, ascending the throne as King Edward VII with his wife, Queen Alexandra, by his side. In 1905, the King bestowed upon Louise the title "Princess Royal," an honorific reserved—though not always given—for the eldest daughter of a reigning monarch. She was the sixth such princess so named.

At the same time, her daughters were created princesses and given the title of "Highness." They were the only female-line descendants of a British sovereign given the title of "Princess of Great Britain and Ireland." When King Edward died in 1910, George became George V, King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India.

Sons-in-Law

On a trip to Egypt in December 1911, the family was shipwrecked off the Moroccan coast. The duke became ill with pleurisy and died in 1912, the very next month. Princess Louise's eldest, Alexandra, inherited his title as 2nd Duchess of Fife. She married her first cousin once removed, Prince Arthur of Connaught and Strathearn, a grandson of Queen Victoria, and thus had the title "Royal Highness."

Louise’s younger daughter, Maud, became Countess of Southesk when she married Lord Charles Carnegie, 11th Earl of Southesk, and was thereafter known for most purposes as Lady Carnegie rather than Princess. Maud’s son was James Carnegie, who inherited the titles Duke of Fife and Earl of Southesk.

Death and Legacy

Louise, the Princess Royal, died at home in London in 1931, survived by her sisters, her daughters, and her brother, the King. She was buried in St. George's Chapel, and her remains later moved to a private chapel at another of her residences, Mar Lodge in Braemar, Aberdeenshire.