At the Royal Windsor Horse show this weekend, the Queen – who is usually known for her stoicism – looked visibly emotional.
The moment that moved her? A part of the Fell Pony Society centenary parade, in which her so-called “favourite grandchild” Lady Louise Windsor, 18, drove her late husband Prince Philip’s carriage in a touching tribute as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. It was also a homage to Lady Louise and her grandfather’s common hobby, carriage-driving, for which the Queen’s late husband has long been credited for popularising in the UK.
The late Duke of Edinburgh first discovered carriage-driving in the 1970s after he stopped playing polo. “I was looking around to see what was next, I didn’t know what was available,” he once said. “And I suddenly thought, well, we’ve got horses and carriages so why don’t I have a go. So I borrowed four horses from the stables in London, took them to Norfolk and practised and thought – why not?”
It’s a passion he passed on to his granddaughter Lady Louise, who’s so keen ont he sport she competed in the British Indoor Carriage Driving Championships earlier this month. Prince Philip reportedly taught her everything she knows and would regularly watch her train at the Great Park.
“After a competition, he would always ask how it went. His eyes would light up because he just gets so excited when he talks about it,” she said in last year’s documentary Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remember, adding that it was “incredible to have him as a mentor”.
The two bonded over the sport so much so that Lady Lousie inherited Philip’s carriage and horses following his death last year and on the morning of the Duke’s funeral, was spotted in Windsor taking his favourite horses, Balmoral Nevis and Notlaw Storm, out on his carriage.
Despite being 14th in line to the throne, the young royal has largely been kept out of the royal spotlight – although she has made a number of public appearances following the death of Prince Phillip.
In a break to centuries of tradition, she and her brother, Lord James Viscount Severn, 14, are also the only grandhildren of the Queen not to use the Princess and Prince titles – though many royal commentators are already suggestingwe’ll see much more of the young royal in the coming years.
So what do we know of her so far? From her comparatively “normal” childhood to her special relationship with “grandmama”, here’s everything you need to know about the teen that stole the show at Windsor this weekend.
A childhood out of the Royal spotlight
Unlike her royal counterparts, Lady Louise was born in Frimley Park hospital in Surrey, rather than at a London hospital. Her birth was traumatic, with the young royal born a month prematurely via emergency caesarean section, weighing just 4lbs 9oz. Her mother Sophie, Countess of Wessex, came close to death after losing nine pints of blood through internal bleeding while her father, Prince Edward, missed her birth as he was away in Mauritius on Royal duty.
Because of her premature birth, Lady Louise was born with the eye condition esotropia, which turns eyes inwards. “Premature babies can often have squints because the eyes are the last thing in the baby package to really be finalised,” explained her mother Sophie, Countess of Wessex. “Her squint was quite profound when she was tiny and it takes time to correct it. You’ve got to make sure one eye doesn’t become more profound than the other but she’s fine now – her eyesight is perfect.”
The Countess has since worked hard in the preventable blindness arena and is the patron of blindness charity Vision Foundation.
Since making a full recovery, Lady Louise has gone on to have a comparatively understated royal childhood. In fact, she was baffled to learn that the Queen is actually her grandma. “I mean Louise had no concept really that the Queen and her grandmother were one and the same person,” her mother, who used to work at Capital Radio and set up her own PR agency in 1996, once told Sky News. “It wasn’t until she was at school that other children were mentioning it and she’d come home and say, ‘Mummy they say that Grandmama is the Queen.’ And I said, ‘Yes,’ and she said, ‘I don’t understand what they mean.’”
Together with her parents and brother James Viscount Severn, 14, the family live in a £30 million, 120-room mansion in Bagshot Park, complete with 51-acres of land. The Surrey home belongs to the Crown Estate, meaning ownership will pass between monarchs as the years and decades pass. However, the family has lived there since their royal wedding in 1999. While the Earl and Countess of Wessex do not necessarily pay rent, Prince Edward did extend the lease on his family home to 150 years for £5 million.
The property is a short drive away from Windsor Castle, meaning the family regularly visit the Queen, who the children have affectionately nicknamed “grandmama”, according to the Countess.
However, Lady Louise doesn’t spend as much time there as her brother as she boards at St Mary’s School Ascot, where she is currently studying for her A-levels. According to Hello! Magazine, her A-level subjects include english, drama, history and politics.
The Queen’s favourite grandchild?
According to a royal source, the Queen is “incredibly close” with Louise, adding: “She is level-headed, thoughtful and kind, and reminds the Queen of herself as a young woman”.
The source continues: “The Queen loves the fact that Louise and James relish their time at Balmoral, and she has become particularly close to Louise, who seems to have become her favourite grandchild, closely followed by James.”
The two share a passion for horses and the outdoors, with the Queen also supportive of Lady Louise’s artist endeavours and even letting her look through some of the collection of Queen Victoria’s Highlands sketches, which are kept locked away at Balmoral.
The young royal is also revered by her cousin Prince William and cousin-in-law Kate Middleton. During their annual Balmoral trips, Lady Louise reportedly takes it upon herself to look after Princess Charlotte. Last year she reportedly taught her to draw pictures of rabbits and deer, which was greatly appreciated by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
A reluctant Princess who could be the royals’ “secret weapon”
Under the 1917 Letters Patent issued by the Queen’s grandfather, King George V, only the children of the Sovereign, the Sovereign’s grandchildren through the monarch’s sons, and the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales are entitled to a Prince or Princess title in the Royal Family.
But at Lady Louise’s birth, her parents announced that she would be raised without the title of Princess, although she is entitled to it through Prince Edward. It was reportedly discussed and decided with the Queen ahead of her arrival.
In interviews, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, has confirmed that the couple came to the decision in order to allow their children a relatively “normal” life. It is thought to be unlikely that Louise will enter royal life, especially with Prince Charles’ ideas about a “slimmed-down monarchy”, and will instead likely pursue a life and career outside the royal sphere as her cousins Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips have done.
As non-senior royals are expected to work for a living, rather than as working members of the royal family, it was thought that allowing them to grow up without titles would enable them to better adjust to their futures.
“We try to educate them with the understanding that they will most likely have to work for a living,” Sophie told the Sunday Times in 2020. “That is why we made the decision not to use HRH titles. They have them and can decide to use them after 18, but I think it is very unlikely.”
Lady Louise turned 18 in November and has yet to take up a Princess title, though royal commentators have questioned whether she might play an increasingly key role in the future of the royal family going forward.
Expert Phil Dampier told the Telegraph Louise could be a “secret weapon” adding: “She seems to be very mature for her age and she’s shaping up to be precisely the kind of person the Queen can rely on in the future. Could there be a role for her in a slimmed-down monarchy? The Queen and Philip had 1,500 patronages between them. You have to ask yourself who is going to continue their legacy with Harry and Meghan and Prince Andrew off the scene? There’s a huge workload there.”
A source close to the Royal Family told The Sun: “Apparently since Edward and Sophie have had to take on more since Harry and Meghan departed and Andrew was removed, their daughter has been inspired to step up and help alongside her parents.” The source also said Lady Louise is “already getting media training and self defence classes”.
With last night proving she has public approval too, it’s likely we’ll be seeing more of Lady Louise as the royal family enters a new era of transition. Whether that’ll be with or without that Princess title remains to be seen.