The second child of Prince Louis of Battenberg (later, Louis Mountbatten, Marquess of Milford Haven) and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine was Princess Louise, born July 14, 1889. While most royal were promptly shuttled into marriage, Louise was an independent, progressive young woman whose heart was set on marrying for love.
There were suitors, to be sure, but Louise was insistent that she would never marry a king or a widower, and of course, that the union be based on love. This led her down some blind alleys, most notably with a Scottish portrait and landscape artist living in Paris, whom she met when they worked together at a military hospital during the First World War. Alexander Stuart-Hill was charming but eccentric, and was decidedly not rich. Fearing her family’s reaction, Louise kept the pair’s engagement secret for two years; by the time she revealed her secret, her parents asked that she delay marriage until the war had ended.
After Alexander visited the Mountbattens a few times, earning the nickname ‘Shakespeare’ from his would-be in-laws, Louis Mountbatten had to sit his poor daughter down and explain to her that there were people called homosexuals, and he believed her fiance was one. It’s unclear precisely how this resolved between Louise and Alexander, beyond the fact that the engagement ended in 1918.
Princess Louise would find love at last, however, and in a most unexpected place. Sweden’s Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf, recent widower of Louise’s mother’s cousin, visited London in 1923 and took a real shine to Louise, then into her 30s. Sure, he was a widower, and sure, he was destined to be King of Sweden, but at long last, Louise had fallen in love with someone who loved her back. Her new in-laws loved her, and she became the devoted step-mother of Gustav’s children. As Princess and then Queen Consort, she was beloved by the people of Sweden for her rejection of royal airs, belief in gender equality and civil rights, humanitarian work during World War II, and democratic reforms to the monarchy.
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