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Louise of Stolberg Countess of Albany

(September 20, 1752 - January 29, 1824). Louise was born in 1752 in Mons, which was then in the Austrian Netherlands. She was the eldest daughter of Prince Gustav Adolf of Stolberg-Gedern, a well-connected if poor aristocrat who was an officer in the Habsburg army. Her father was killed in battle in 1756, and three years later, her mother sent her and her sister to St Waudru’s Convent in Mons, whose nuns specialised in educating the daughters of poor nobility. In 1771, Louise’s sister married the son of the English Duke of Berwick, whose family, under pressure from King Louis XV of France to ensure the continuation of the Jacobite Stuart line, arranged the marriage of the 20-year-old Louise to the 55-year-old Charles Edward Stuart, the former "Bonnie Prince Charlie" then living in exile in Rome after the failure of the 1745 rebellion against the Hanoverians in England. For two years, Louise lived with Charles in Rome. Although the couple were happy together, Louise was unable to have a child and Charles resumed his heavy drinking. They moved to Florence in 1774 using the titles "Count and Countess of Albany". In 1778, Louise began a secret affair with the Italian poet Count Vittorio Alfieri, and left her husband two years later, claiming he had physically abused her. She was supported financially by the Pope, via Charles’ brother, Cardinal York. She obtained a legal separation from her husband in 1784 and lived openly with Alfieri from 1786. Her husband’s death in 1788 led to her receiving a pension from the King of France, which enabled her and Alfieri to live comfortably, first in Paris then in Florence. In both cities she hosted literary and intellectual salons. Following Alfieri’s death in 1803, she lived with the artist François-Xavier Fabre, who painted a famous portrait of her in her old age. She died in Florence in 1824 and was buried in the Santa Croce Basilica Church there, not far from Alfieri.

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