Louise of Stolberg-Gedern – Countess of Albany and wife of the Young Pretender (Part two)

(public domain)

Read part one here.

Louise finally found some measure of happiness again. Count Vittorio Alfieri wrote of their time together, “During these two years in Rome, I led a truly happy existence. This Villa Strozzi, near the Baths of Diocletian, afforded me a delightful retreat. The long mornings I spent wholly in my study, never moving from the house, except for an hour or two spent in riding over those boundless solitudes of the deserted neighbourhood of Rome, that invited me to reflect, to mourn, and to compose verses.” Louise’s brother-in-law caught on to the affair after two years, and Count Vittorio Alfieri left Rome before being expelled. He wrote, “It was the fourth day of May 1783 – which will ever be, and has been till now, my bitterest remembrance – that I then removed from Her who was more than half of myself.” However, their relationship wasn’t truly over, and they kept in touch. In 1783, Charles obtained a legal separation from Louise, and it permitted her to reside only in the Papal States. At the end of 1784, she wrote, “I am quite comfortable in this place. I am staying with the Princess Lambertini, of whom I am very fond and whom I am helping to divert in her present situation, for she has just been brought to bed.”

Louise kept up her correspondence with Count Vittorio Alfieri, who was in Pisa. However, this correspondence has not survived. She then travelled to France – with the permission of the Pope – with no intention of returning until her husband had died. Count Vittorio Alfieri joined her at least part of the time. This would cost her the support of her brother-in-law, however. Luckily, Louise had secured a pension from the French Queen Marie Antoinette, whom she had known as a child and her wish came true – her husband finally died.

Count Vittorio Alfieri wrote, “The February (of 1788) had scarcely begun when my Lady received news of the death of her husband, which took place in Rome, whither he had retired after leaving Florence two years before. [..] And indeed, despite the disparity of age, her husband might have found in her an admirable companion and a true friend, if not a loving wife, had he but refrained from harassing her continually with his peevish, cruel and drunken ways.”

Surprisingly, in 1791, Louise paid a visit to England, causing some excitement in society, she had, after all, been married to the Pretender. A courtier wrote,” Well, I have had an exact account of the interview of the two Queens, from one who stood close to them. The Dowager was announced as Princess of Stolberg. She was well dressed, and not at all embarrassed. The King talked to her a good deal, but always about her passage, the sea and general topics; the Queen in the same way but less. Then she stood between the Dukes of Gloucester and Clarence and had a good deal of conversation with the former, who may perhaps have met her in Italy.”

Count Vittorio Alfieri and Louise now began to live together in Paris, but the French Revolution forced them to flee, and they barely escaped being arrested. Louise at, last, returned to Florence and begged for financial help from the British government. They settled together in Florence, but the loss of income and the threat of revolution hung over their heads. Louise and Count Vittorio Alfieri would live together until his death in 1803. He died in his chair by the fire on 8 October. According to Louise, he passed away, “like a bird without a struggle, like a lamp whose oil had escaped.” She wrote to a friend, “You know by experience how deadly a blow it is for me to lose One with whom I have lived for twenty-six years, and who had never caused me a moment’s annoyance; One whom I have ever loved, respected and adored. I am the most unhappy creature alive. By this cruel blow, I have lost my consolation, my companion, and almost my very mind. I am lone now in a world that had grown odious to me. The greatest happiness, and indeed, the only happiness I can look for, will be to go and join this Incomparable Friend.” Louise was determined to stay in Florence and began to edit Count Vittorio Alfieri’s poetry with the help of François Xavier Fabre.

In 1809, Louise was summoned to Paris by Napoleon Bonaparte who demanded to know if she had ever given birth to the Pretender’s child. She denied it, and he replied, “Then it’s a pity!” He had hoped to cause an insurrection in England. She returned to Florence a year after this meeting. She never liked Napoleon though she did know Joséphine from her Paris salon. After the death of the Cardinal-Duke of York, Louise once more applied for a pension from the British government and this time her request was granted.

Louise spent the final years of her life in Florence, corresponding with friends all over the world. They were years of peace, and she followed the same routine. Louise died on 29 January 1824 at the age of 71.

Her final days were described, “The Countess of Albany was naturally inclined to dropsy, and certain symptoms had for many years past caused her some degree of ill-health. But four years before her death, very grave symptoms appeared, while finally she was attacked by a feverish catarrh, causing an intolerable thirst, constant accessions of high fever, a weakness of the pulse, lack of appetite and other distressing signs of illness. Still, she suffered no acute pain and never thought her end was near. At last, however, she was warned by faithful friends that her malady was gaining on her and that her life was threatened, where she fortified herself with those aides that pious Mother Church offers to her own children at their last moments on earth. And thus in the full possession of all her faculties, by turns prating and comforting her grief-stricken friends, she passed away.”1

  1. Vaughan, Herbert (1910) The Last Stuart Queen (UK & US)

About Moniek Bloks 2743 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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