On 22 January 1901, Queen Victoria died and was succeeded by Louise’s father who now became King Edward VII. Her elder brother George was invested as Prince of Wales – Prince Albert Victor had died in 1892. On 9 November 1905, Louise was created Princess Royal by her father. The previous Princess Royal – the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria who was also known as the Empress Frederick – had died in 1901. Louise’s daughter also received additional honours. As daughters of a Duke, they were as Lady Maud and Lady Alexandra, but King Edward VII conferred the style and title of “Princess” and “Highness” on them. In 1900, Queen Victoria had granted Louise’s husband a new patent creating him Duke of Fife and Earl of Macduff with the proviso that in default of male heirs, these titles could pass to his daughters and their male issue. Princess Alexandra now stood to inherit the Dukedom.
In 1910, King Edward VII passed away, and Louise’s brother George became King George V. That same year, Louise’s eldest daughter Alexandra had secretly become engaged to Prince Christopher of Greece, the youngest son of King George I of the Hellenes. This engagement was broken off when the family found out about it. The following year, the entire Fife family went on a trip to Egypt and Sudan. In November 1911, they boarded the Delhi at Tilbury. They were battered by storms on the way and were blown into a sandbank on the Moroccan coast. Louise had told her husband, “If we are to be drowned, we will be drowned together.”1 Several ships were already on their way for a rescue operation when the Delhi had failed to appear on time. Louise and her husband refused to leave until all the women and children had been rescued and were among the last to leave. During the rescue, Louise lost her jewel case and both Alexandra and Maud were thrown into the sea by a large wave. The family was soaked to the bone and had lost most of their belongings, but they were alive.
Her husband later wrote, “I thought some of us if not all must have drowned! Yet one had to appear perfectly calm! If I live twenty years, the memory of that night and day will live with me. I am relieved to say that the Princess Royal is fairly well though I think she is beginning to feel the reaction now – she and our children were wonderfully brave! I may add that in my opinion nothing but our excellent life belts saved us and of course the hand of Almighty God.”2 A few weeks later, he became ill with pleurisy. Their personal physician was summoned from London, but he arrived too late. The Duke of Fife died on 29 January 1912 at the age of 62.
Louise’s sister Maud wrote, “How sad it all is this sudden death of poor Macduff – one cannot think of dear Louise’s grief, as fancy what a loss he is to her, she lived for him and their two children, he was her all – it seems impossible to be true, how terribly quickly it was all over, I suppose he must have been ill some time without anyone understanding it was serious.”3 Louise later wrote, “He said he would fight the illness as he fought the waves – he only wanted to wait to help me and our children – and was very tired. He was ready for Heaven and now is at Peace! Doctors, nurses, oxygen, all was done, but of no avail, he always went down, nothing on earth could hold him up. We sat by him and saw his precious life pass peacefully away. He looked like a beautiful saint.”4 The family arrived home with the Duke’s coffin at the end of February. Princess Alexandra returned to England as Duchess of Fife in her own right.
In the summer of 1913, Alexandra became engaged to her first cousin once removed Prince Arthur of Connaught. They were married on the 15 October at St. James’s Palace. Their only child and Louise’s first grandchild was born on 9 August 1914 – he was called Prince Alastair of Connaught. Louise had always preferred to live in seclusion and with the death of her husband, even more so. She briefly left her seclusion on 12 November 1923 when her youngest daughter Princess Maud married Lord Carnegie, the eldest son and heir of the Earl of Southesk. Their only son – named James – was born on 23 September 1929.
Louise’s health became a cause for concern not much later, and she complained of feeling unwell to her eldest daughter. A doctor diagnosed her with a severe gastric haemorrhage. Her health eventually improved somewhat, but it remained a source of worry for the family. She would only occasionally appear with the family and began to have heart trouble. In the autumn of 1929, Louise suffered another gastric haemorrhage, and she was brought to London. She would linger for some 15 months, spending much time in bed. In the afternoon of 4 January 1931, Louise died of a heart attack in her sleep. Her brother King George V wrote to their sister Maud, “Louise suffered so terribly these last few months that one can but thank God. She is at peace with her dear ones. But it’s sad for us, and the loss of a sister comes very near one’s heart.”5