Published by William Morrow on September 27, 2022
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384 •Format: E-Book •Source: Overdrive
Before Princes Margaret, before Duchess Meghan, there was Princess Louise: royal rebel.
As the fourth daughter of the perpetually in-mourning Queen Victoria, Princess Louise’s life is more a gilded prison than a fairy tale. Expected to sit quietly next to her mother with downcast eyes, Louise vows to escape the stultifying royal court. Blessed with beauty, artistic talent, and a common touch, she creates a life outside the walled-in existence of the palace grounds by attending the National Art Training School—where she shockingly learns to sculpt nude models while falling passionately in love with famed sculptor Joseph Edgar Boehm.
Although Louise cultivates artist friends, artistic success, and a life outside the palace, she quickly learns that even royal rebels must heed the call of duty. For twenty years, Louise fights to maintain her relationship with Joseph and what freedom she can glean within the strict requirements of Queen Victoria’s court. When a near fatal accident forces her back under Queen Victoria’s iron rule, Louise must choose between surrendering to the all-consuming grief of lost love and dreams that plagued her mother or finding the strength to keep fighting for her unconventional life.
I love a good historical fiction novel and have been on a kick with watching British Monarchy content lately (probably thanks to the latest season of The Crown on Netflix). I’ve especially started being more intrigued by the lesser known royal figures who often had fascinating stories of their own. I believe I came across An Indiscreet Princess while browning Goodreads one day, and was immediately interested in a story regarding Queen Victoria’s most rebellious daughter. I decided to give it a shot and really enjoyed this novel exploring the life of Princess Louise and her fight for freedom from the constraints of her royal standing and gender.
Princess Louise is perhaps best known for her artistry, specifically her sculpture work. Therefore it makes sense that the novel largely focuses on Louise’s passion for art and her campaign to be allowed to attend art school alongside normal subjects. Louise was certainly ahead of her time, not only as a royal hoping to mingle with folks who were not part of the aristocracy, but as one of the only women in her classes and her field. Not only does she have to beg, plead, and manipulate Queen Victoria in order to attend school (she is surprisingly anti-feminist) but once at school has to simultaneously work harder to show her worth as a female sculpture, but also struggles to have her work evaluated fairly due to her standing (no one wants to criticize a royal, especially to their face). Going to school opens the art world to Louise, as she explores parties, studios and scandalous relationships, most notably with one of her teachers.
The novel spans quite a long period of time, covering not just Louise’s time at school but her marriage (one of convenience), exile to Canada (where her mother hope she will stay out of trouble) and the unfortunate deaths of many close to her. Eventually a near death experience lands her back in the U.K. where she’s once again trapped under Queen Victoria’s austere rule and, even decades later, still struggles to live her own life without her mother’s interfering.
One of the most interesting aspects for me was getting to see Louise’s interactions with her other siblings, as Queen Victoria had many children and due to their strategic marriages now SO many monarchs are all somewhat related through her. She had siblings in powerhouse positions (her bother the heir, her sister who married the Prince of Prussia, etc) and siblings who were even more stifled by the queen than her (her brother with hemophilia, her youngest sister who the Queen tried to raise to be her personal companion, etc.) There were also some spicy revelations that I didn’t know about (like the Queen’s likely longstanding affair with a servant despite her constant state of mourning for her husband).
Overall: If you’re interested in less known and more unique stories of British Royalty, I think you’ll enjoy this one!