1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Albany, Louise Maximilienne Caroline, Countess of
ALBANY, LOUISE MAXIMILIENNE CAROLINE, Countess of (1752–1824), eldest daughter of Prince Gustavus Adolphus of Stolberg-Gedern, was born at Mons on the 20th of September 1752. In her youth she was a canoness of Ste. Wandru at Mons, but in her twentieth year she was affianced, at the instigation of the duke of Berwick and with the secret connivance of the French Court, to Prince Charles Edward Stuart, “the Young Pretender,” self-styled count of Albany. She was wedded to the prince at Macerata, near Ancona, on Good Friday 1774, and the married pair for over two years resided in the old Stuart palace at Rome. Pretty, intelligent, charming and witty, Louise fascinated Roman society, wherein she gained the nickname of “Queen of Hearts.” The union, however, which was obviously intended to give an heir to the Stuart prince, proved childless, and Louise’s married life became far from happy. In 1774 the pair moved to Florence, where in December 1780 Louise, terrified at her husband’s violence and fearing for the safety of her life, fled to a neighbouring convent and threw herself on the protection of her brother-in-law, Henry Stuart, Cardinal York, who invited her to Rome. Louise had already in Florence formed the acquaintance of the great Italian tragic poet, Vittorio Alfieri, who had been captivated by her engaging manners, her youthful beauty and her literary powers. The poet now followed her to Rome, but the friendship between Alfieri and his sister-in-law does not seem to have aroused any suspicion in the mind of Cardinal York until 1783, when, after a visit to his brother in Florence, he suddenly requested Pope Pius VI. to banish Alfieri from papal territory. In 1784, however, a legal separation between the count and countess of Albany was arranged, and by Charles’s death in 1788 Louise found herself freed from matrimonial bonds. In company with Alfieri (to whom rumour said she had been secretly married) she now visited Paris and London, and was cordially received at the English court, George III. granting her an annual pension of £1600 from the privy purse. Returning to Italy, Alfieri and the countess settled at Florence, where the poet died on the 9th of October 1803, and was buried in the church of Santa Croce beneath Canova’s vast monument erected at Louise’s expense. The countess continued to reside in the house on the Lung’ Arno at Florence, patronising men of science and letters and holding nightly receptions, at which all visitors were expected to treat their hostess with the etiquette due to reigning royalty. She died on the 29th of January 1824 and was buried in Santa Croce, where in the south transept a marble monument by Giovannozzi and Santarelli commemorates her. By her will the countess bequeathed all her property, including many historic objects of art and documents, to the companion of her old age, the French painter, François Xavier Fabre, who ultimately gave the greater part of his legacy to the museum of his native town of Montpellier. Two excellent portraits of the countess of Albany and of Alfieri, painted by this artist, now hang in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence.
See Vernon Lee, The Countess of Albany (1884); Marchesa Vitelleschi, A Court in Exile. (H. M. V.)