On 1 May 1850, Queen Victoria gave birth to her seventh child and third son, “a very fine boy” – he was named Prince Arthur. He was christened in the chapel of Buckingham Palace on 22 June with much magnificence. His first attempts at pronouncing his own name earned him the nickname “Arta.” His early years were spent in the nursery under the supervision of Lady Sarah Lyttelton.
The young Prince developed an early interested in the military and after spending several years in the schoolroom, he finally enrolled at the Royal Military College at Woolwich in 1866. His mother gave the instruction to the officers that he was to be treated the exact same way as any other cadet. Shortly after his 17th birthday, he received the Order of the Garter. Arthur transferred to the Royal Regiment of Artillery on 2 November 1868 and on 2 August 1869, to the Rifle Brigade and he joined the Rifle Brigade in Montreal. He wrote, “Most anxious am I to consider for the time being Montreal as my home, and to lose no opportunity of becoming fully acquainted with its institutions, its people and its commerce. The selection of Montreal as my residence is a sufficient proof of the confidence Her Majesty places in the devotion of the city to her throne.” He returned from Canada in July 1870.
Prince Arthur celebrated his 21st birthday at Osborne, and his mother wrote in her journal, “Dear Arthur’s twenty-first birthday… My thoughts were with my dearest Albert, who had been so delighted at the birth of our little third boy on the dear old Duke of Wellington’s birthday.” Arthur was granted an annuity of £15,000, and he devoted much of it to good causes. On 16 October 1873, he was appointed Acting Brigade Major at Aldershot, but he transferred as a Captain to the 7th Hussars the following year. That same year on his mother’s birthday, Arthur was created a royal peer and given titles Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and Earl of Sussex. He continued his life in the military – spending six months in Gibraltar.
Arthur’s future wife was Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia who was the third daughter of Prince Frederick Charles of Prussia – a famous general in the Prussian army – and Princess Maria Anna of Anhalt-Dessau. Frederick Charles was a double cousin of the German Emperor Frederick III, the husband of Arthur’s sister, Victoria, Princess Royal. She had grown up in a soldier’s home and would make a perfect wife for a soldier. The Princess Royal wrote to Queen Victoria, “I could not choose for a sister-in-law anyone I like better than Louise. She will make Arthur a most delightful wife. Each is the complement of the other, and I foresee that each will make the other supremely happy.” Their engagement was announced at the same time as her sister Marie‘s engagement to Prince Henry of the Netherlands. Arthur and Louise were married on 13 March 1879 at St. George’s Chapel Windsor.
Their honeymoon was spent at Windsor and on a cruise in the Meditteranean, and upon their return, they took up residence at Bagshot Park. Arthur was often absent due to his military duties, but otherwise, they settled into country life. The family had quickly embraced Louise as part of the family, and they adored “Aunt Louischen.” On 15 January 1882, Louise gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Margaret. A son named Arthur was born to them on 13 January 1883, following by a second daughter named Patricia on 17 March 1886.
He was promoted to the honorary rank of colonel on 14 June 1871, substantive lieutenant-colonel in 1876, colonel on 29 May 1880 and, on 1 April 1893, he was made a general. Arthur gained military experience as Commander-in-Chief of the Bombay Army from December 1886 to March 1890. He was the General Officer Commanding Southern District from September 1890 to 1893. Arthur hoped to succeed The Duke of Cambridge, as Commander-in-chief of the British Army but this did not happen.
In 1911, Arthur was appointed as Governor General of Canada and Arthur, his wife and their youngest daughter moved to Ottawa. His term as Governor ended in 1916. Shortly after their return to England, Louise was taken ill with influenza and bronchitis. She recovered slowly but then also contracted measles and pneumonia. Her heart had been weakened by an earlier illness and Louise passed away on 14 March 1917. Arthur was devastated.
Two years later, his youngest daughter Patrica gave up her royal status to marry Captain Sir Alexander Ramsay. His eldest daughter Margaret had married Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden in 1905 while the younger Arthur had married Princess Alexandra, 2nd Duchess of Fife in 1913. He became devoted to his grandchildren and always kept a correspondence with Margaret’s children who lived far away. Margaret tragically died on 1 May 1920 and Arthur briefly retired from public life. He was destined to outlive two of his three children. The younger Arthur died on 12 September 1938 of stomach cancer.
After 1928, Arthur mostly retired from public life. He died on 16 January 1942 at the age of 91. He was the penultimate child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to die – his younger sister Beatrice outlived him for two years.1