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Lafayette L4173
Neg. Date: 18-12-1907

copyright V&A

The Duchess of Connaught & Strathearn, née Princess Louise Marguerite of Prussia (1860-1917), photographed by Lafayette in December 1917, possibly in connection with her husband’s recent appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet.

She was a daughter of Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia (1826–1888) and his estranged wife Maria Anna von Anhalt (1837–1906). In 1879, Princess Louise Marguerite married Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, the 7th child and a favourite son of Queen Victoria. The Queen was very much against her son marrying “this child of a broken home”. Nor could she understand why her son was dissatisfied with his bachelor status and wanted to marry at all!

However, for the first time since her widowhood in 1861, the Queen changed out of black and wore a long white veil and court train and the 105-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond for this wedding.

The Duke of Connaught (1850–1942) held several military and diplomatic positions during his lifetime, to which the Duchess duly accompanied him. In 1911 they moved to Canada, where the Duke served as General Governor until 1916 and the obvious popularity of the royal couple has left its legacy with the name “Connaught” being attached to many philanthropic and educational organisations in that country. With the outbreak of the World War I, the Duke focused on military training and the readiness of Canadian troops departing for war, while the Duchess worked for the Red Cross and other charitable organisations. For Christmas in 1915, she sent a card and a box of maple sugar to every Canadian serving overseas as well as thousands of pairs of socks which she had made on a knitting machine.

The Duchess was not much photographed, perhaps due to her weak profile, and in the extant negatives and published portraits she is usually shown full face. Her elegance and graceful demeanour are undeniable and her pose as well as the backdrop were mirrored in a series of portraits of Queen Elizabeth, consort of King George VI, made in 1938 by Cecil Beaton, on the steps of Buckingham Palace.

In this portrait of the Duchess, her waist and the draperies at hip level have been much reduced by the retoucher. She wears an eight-row pearl choker and the pearl and diamond tiara which was a present from the Aga Khan.

Daisy, Princess of Pless had met the Connaughts at various social functions in England, but it was their eldest daughter — Princess Margaret, later the Crown Princess of Sweden (1882–1920) – with whom she made friends. This friendship was tested to the full during the difficult years of the Great War, when Margaret arranged for Daisy to send and receive news from England. In her diary Daisy paid her this tribute: “The Crown Princess of Sweden was more kind to me than I have any words to say. Such a friend. Time, trouble, risk; at need all these were as nothing.”

The Duchess died prematurely at Clarence House in London, a casualty of the 1917–18 influenza epidemic.