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Louise Margaret, Duchess of Connaught: From Prussian Princess to Canadian Vicereine


The Duke and Duchess of Connaught. Images from Wikimedia Commons.

Princess Louise Margaret Alexandra Victoria Agnes of Prussia was born on July 25, 1860. She was the third daughter of Prince Friedrich Carl of Prussia and Princess Marianne of Anhalt.  Prince Friedrich Carl was known as the "Red Prince" of Prussia, notorious as a military man after he captured Marshal Bazaine at Metz during the Franco-Prussian War.  The marriage between Friedrich and Marianne was an unhappy one. After Louise Margaret's birth, the prince was so disappointed of his wife's failure to give him a son that he allegedly boxed Marianne, leaving her deaf for the rest of her life. The couple would have separated had not King Wilhelm I of Prussia and future German Emperor intervened to reconcile the two.

The Duke and Duchess of Connaught and their family.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

The engagement of Louise Margaret to Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, Queen Victoria‘s third son and the seventh child, was received with hesitation by no other than the Queen herself. She was not satisfied with Louise Margaret. She thought she was plain and boring with her broken teeth. Worst, she disapproved of the unhappy marriage and separation of Louise Margaret’s parents. It was clear that Victoria did not want her son to be associated with any scandal that might happen. 

Their marriage, nevertheless, pushed through. The lavish ceremony which took place at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle on March 13, 1879 was well-attended by members of the Royal Family. The couple received expensive gifts and Queen Victoria's gifts "consisted of a magnificent diamond tiara, the brilliants hanging down in sparkling peaks from a central wreath of brilliants of pure." The Prince and Princess of Wales, meanwhile, gave a "ring set with the stone known as cat's eye."

Louise Margaret, who became known as the Duchess of Connaught after her marriage to Prince Arthur, gave birth to three children, who all survived through adulthood: The eldest, Princess Margaret of Connaught, (1882-1920), married Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden. The only son, Prince Arthur of Connaught (1883-1938), served as Governor-General of the Union of South Africa, from 1920 until 1924. He married his cousin's daughter, Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife, with whom he had one son, Alastair, who became the second Duke of Connaught in 1942. The youngest daughter, Princess Patricia of Connaught (1886-1974), married Capt. Sir Alexander Ramsey, third son of the 13th Earl of Dalhousie. On their wedding day in 1919, Princess Patricia, who was an accomplished watercolorist, relinquished her royal title and became known until her death at as Lady Patricia Ramsay. They had a son, Capt. Alexander Ramsay of Mar, who married Flora Fraser, 21st Lady Saltoun, the Chief of the Name and Arms of Clan Fraser.

Since the time they got married until her own death, the Duchess of Connaught was a constant support to her husband. Being a soldier's daughter she had proven herself very much a soldier's wife, too. She joined the Duke in the many "changes of life of an active soldier," traveling with him to India, Ireland, and in Canada, where he was appointed Governor-General from 1911 until 1916. While in Canada, she frequently visited the United States, where she was a guest of Ambassador and Mrs. Whitelaw Reid in New York. At home, she also frequented at Cliveden Manor, the home of Viscount and Viscountess Astor.

The Duchess' health started to decline after she suffered from peritonitis once in 1912 and again in 1913. In April that year, she had undergone operation due to appendicitis, placing her life in critical condition. Her weakened state was a serious concern for her husband, which was actually one of the reasons why the Duke of Connaught considered leaving his post in Canada. The Duchess of Connaught’s health never recovered and she succumbed to influenza and bronchitis on March 17, 1917. That afternoon, the Duchess was still conscious enough to recognize the members of her family, who gathered on her bedside.

Her fortune amounting to L125,615 ($628,655)  was left to her three children. Crown Princess of Sweden, received L25,000, while Princess Patricia was bequeathed L50,000. The rest was inherited by Prince Arthur of Connaught. Edited/updated December 16,2017

Sources:

Duchess of Connaught dies from Pneumonia. The New York Times, March 15, 1917.
A Marriage Bells: A Brilliant Pageant at Windsor. The New York Times, March 14, 1879.
Wealth to Connaught to Heir. The New York Times, August 4, 1917.

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