Princess Louise: The career of a royal artist, part 3

18 March 2019
Louise_1860s-93570.jpg Princess Louise, a royal artist
In the latest instalment of her series, Ann Galliard explores the princess's forays in design and architecture, as well as a statue that might well be her finest work.

In the latest instalment of her series, Ann Galliard explores the princess's forays in design and architecture, as well as a statue that might well be her finest work.

Louise was known to the public as a painter and sculptor, but her talents also extended to practical architecture and design. The Castle at Rosneath became a favourite sanctuary of the Lornes, who both enjoyed country life. They planted trees, enjoyed gardening in the grounds and taking walks in the locality. Although Lorne was the owner, it was actually financed by Louise, and she saw the estate as a personal project.

In the 1890s, when Lorne was busy designing improvements to the mausoleum at Kilmun, Louise turned her attention to the old ferry inn overlooking the Gareloch. After years of living in grand castles, she had a notion for life in a cottage. Living there would be easier to manage than opening up the castle when she made visits on her own.

Louise was friendly with Gertrude Jekyll, the famous garden designer, who introduced Louise to Edwin “Ned” Lutyens. The “set” was a favourite of Louise, who occasionally travelled incognito as part of their party when on trips to the Continent. Lutyens was a breath of fresh air, and the princess and he became very friendly (to the great annoyance of his fiancé). They enjoyed working together, travelling by train to Scotland to oversee the building work. Lutyens became the foremost architect of the Arts & Crafts movement, and this was one of his first commissions as an independent architect.

The Princess had her own ideas about the design of the Ferry Inn and the collaboration with Lutyens resulted in a house designed for comfort and pleasure; a masterpiece of the Arts & Crafts style. The whole was pleasing to the eye, with beautiful views from the drawing room, and it was convenient for the ferries which called. Lutyens was also commissioned to carry out improvements at Rosneath Castle which were completed in 1897 and he also found himself overseeing other of Louise’s minor projects.

Louise’s dream of a simple life staying at the Inn was not to be. Queen Victoria was enraged when a cartoon appeared in Punch magazine depicting Louise as a barmaid being asked by a local drinker: “and how’s your old mother?” She forbade Louise to stay there and the princess had to stay in the Castle.

Louise’s Finest Work?

Louise executed three very similar and important works sometime between 1896 and 1906. The statue (pictured left) which revealed this link has remained out of sight in the Argyll Mausoleum for over 100 years and is said to have been a tribute by Princess Louise to her late father-in-law the 8th Duke of Argyll who died in 1900.

Recent research has thrown some light on two other statues which appear identical or very similar, and on the models who posed for the work. The information lies tucked away in obscure contemporary personal papers. The second statue lies in St Mildred’s Church, Whippingham on the Isle of Wight, and the third is displayed in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Dating the individual works proved difficult and the order in which they were produced is currently unknown, although the Kilmun version is signed and dated 1906 and the St.Paul’s version was signed 1904 and installed in 1905. The diary of Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower dates work in progress on the Whippingham statue in the early months of 1898 and there are also other records which indicate that this was the first work.

The sculpture in the Kilmun Mausoleum is said to have been crafted by Princess Louise in memory of her father-in-law, the 8th Duke, who died in 1900. This beautiful sculpture was found to be of hollow metal, identified by the specialist restorer as electrotype. It is about 3ft tall, and stands on a marble pillar. This was placed in front of the medieval effigies of Sir Duncan Campbell and his wife, showing neither of the two very different works of art to advantage. Louise’s work is now in the Visitor Area of St. Munn’s Church where it is easier to appreciate. It shows the Angel of Mercy, or Redemption, supporting the arms of Christ on the Cross, and is in the style of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

There is mention of his wish to include an angel in the Mausoleum as part of the renovation of the 1890s detailed in Lord Lorne’s notes on the burial place. He included a rough sketch (shown here). This predates the death of the 8th Duke, and it may be that Louise’s interpretation (which includes an Angel) was installed in 1906 when it was realised that there were no funds to complete all the intended work to the mausoleum.  There is no record of the placing of this work in the mausoleum, and only an assumption that it was a tribute to the 8th Duke.

“the tomb of Sir Duncan shall be seen underneath it, and that on the narrow bridge –like arch  there shall stand the Angel of the Resurrection   -  a figure over life-size-with face looking down and back blown waving hair, and great upward raised wings that shall seem as though still raised from  flight- a figure  that has just alit upon the arch, with one arm aloft, the palm of the hand towards the tombs, the forefinger pointing heavenward, and the other arm should be lower and slightly retired and in its hand, as though putting them half away from him, the angel should hold the martyr’s palm and wreaths of laurel, meaning that these although well won by the dwellers in the tombs, are as nothing to the hope of the Resurrection.”

The Whippingham Sculpture

Louise fashioned one of the special memorials when she lost a dear friend, Prince Henry of Battenberg (below left) who was known to the family as Liko. The Prince died from malaria after going to the Ashanti war in Africa. (Ghana). The end came when he was aboard HMS Blonde and returning home on 20 January 1896. He was only 37 years old.

 A very handsome man, Henry was married to Louise’s sister, Princess Beatrice, and he was not only a great favourite of Victoria, but the whole family, who were devastated by his untimely death.

There was some speculation about the relationship between Louise and the attractive Prince, as they had spent a lot of time together and seemed very close. When he died Louise was jealous of the attention given to his widow, claiming aloud that she was Liko’s confidante and Beatrice was relatively unimportant in his life.

Prince Henry was buried on the Isle of Wight, in the church used by the Royal Family when they stayed at Osbourne, and where he and Princess Beatrice were married. The funeral took place on 20tFebruary 1896 at St Mildred’s Church, Whippingham, and a special chapel, known as the Battenberg Chapel, was formed in his memory.

Content continues after advertisements

The Princess’s memorial, described as bronze, and said to be “heavy” was in the Pre-Raphaelite style which Louise favoured and is one of the three similar works. The precise timing of Louise’s sculpture, or of its installation in St. Mildred’s is unknown, but in January 1898 Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower noted in his diary

“On 6th at Kensington Palace, Princess Louise showed me a monument she is working at for Prince Henry’s tomb at Osbourne – a Crucifixion, with the Angel of the Resurrection supporting the head of the Saviour – an ambitious work, and a very original idea.”

It is recorded that Louise’s husband thought the statue

“More mediaeval German than anything else”

But Lorne had also been charmed by Liko, and his own tribute was a poem.

“So proud of him, we say farewell”

The Colonial or St Paul’s Sculpture

The third of the statues has many similarities, and the main figures look identical, but the work is designed to be displayed on a wall. This is the memorial to the Colonial men who died in the South African war. The St Paul’s memorial is difficult to access, high on the outside wall of the south transept and partially obscured by the Royal Standard of Australia. Present staff were unable to take a close look, but thought that it looked like black marble. (The statue itself is cast; this is probably a reference to the plaque) The inscription reads

“To the Glory of God and to the undying honour of those 4,300 sons of Britain beyond the seas who gave their lives for the Motherland in the South African War 1899 – 1902”

The memorial was unveiled on Empire Day in May 1905. The Princess hurried home from Italy in April to prepare everything for the ceremony. On 4 May she visited the Foundry to “work on the crown on Christ’s head”. There is a marking on the statue “H. YOUNG & Co. Ltd/FOUNDERS LONDON SW”

Part 4: How Louise's three major statues were manufactured

Explore the first two parts of the series from the hub page.

About the author

With a background in NHS Personnel Management, Ann Galliard enjoys reading and writing about local history and World War I. She has had several articles and two books published (including Sandbank: War and Peace, a Scottish Village), researched & recorded the history of the Argyll Mausoleum  (the burial place of the Dukes of Argyll) and is currently writing a history of Ardkinglas. Recently a Committee Member of the WW1 Commemoration Steering Group for Argyll & Bute, and Organiser for the WW1 events in Cowal, she is a member of the Management Committee of the Friends of the Argyll Papers and volunteers in the Archive at Inveraray.

 The Argyll Papers at Inveraray Castle are the family and estate archive of the Campbell family, dukes of Argyll, and provide an unbroken record of nearly eight hundred years of the family’s fortunes from the 13th to the 21st century. The archive reflects the historically important role of the Campbell family in Scottish, British and international affairs, as well as documenting the history of the landscape of Argyll and its people. The archive is open to the public by appointment. Please contact the archivist, email or tel: 07943 667673.

The Friends of the Argyll Papers (Scottish Charity SCO45835) has been established to support the development of the Argyll Papers and to promote its use and enjoyment by a wide audience. Please help to support our work and secure the future of this very special archive by becoming a friend. Find out more at on the website.

Images: Kilmum statue copyright Ann Galliard; Lorne sketch courtesy of Inveraray Archive, from bundle 948; Princess Louise by Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderi, Royal Collection.