ALBERTA AND LAKE LOUISE
(For Victoria’s vivacious daughter)
In 1878, Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, became the first princess to cross the Atlantic Ocean when her husband John Campbell, Lord Lorne, became the fourth Governor General of Canada since Confederation. For the first time royalty moved into Rideau Hall, and the Canadian public was fascinated by the resident princess.
The Ottawa correspondent for The Times of London wrote on December 24, 1878: “Matters of state pale in popular estimation in comparison with the movements of the Princess. The fact that she has been skating, she has been out walking daily, visiting the Chaudière Falls and city shops, she carries a light cane while walking — these matters call forth lively comments wherever men or women congregate.”
There had already been “lively comments” about Louise’s activities before she left Britain. Louise was the first princess to attend a public educational institution, attending the National Art Training School in London to develop her talents as a painter and sculptor. She was also an advocate of women’s rights, encouraging education for girls and meeting privately with suffragists. And her marriage to Lord Lorne marked the first time an English princess had married a non-royal husband since 1515.
Lord Lorne and Princess Louise encouraged Canadian artists to exhibit their works in Canada, rather than going abroad to the United States or Great Britain, as was the usual practice at the time. They founded the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and the National Gallery of Canada, with Louise donating one of her paintings to the collection.
Unfortunately, Louise was injured in a sleighing accident in 1881 and spent long periods of time recovering her health in Bermuda and Europe. Although her absence led to speculation that she did not enjoy Canadian society, she in fact maintained an interest in Canada long after Lord Lorne’s term as Governor General ended in 1883.
There might have been a province called Louise today, except that when the then-district was being named after her in 1882 the princess preferred that it carry the name she had inherited from her father — Alberta. Her other famous namesake landmark — Lake Louise in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains — is known for its quiet beauty and is one of Canada’s best-known tourist attractions. The princess herself was evidently fond of Alberta. She wrote in 1924, “I am intensely proud of this beautiful and wonderful Province being called after me, and that my husband should have thought of it.”
42 Princess Louise, Montreal, 1878.