Fishing lines: A rod for Her Majesty's family woes

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The Independent Online

I'm astounded the Queen hasn't realised that the solution to the problem of her recalcitrant offspring lies in her own family tree. I'm not talking about the Henry VIII answer to tricky domestic issues, either.

No doubt Her Majesty would like to revive beheadings on Tower Green for some of the clan. But namby-pambies would squeal about human rights. The lesson of how to deal with royal children is presented by a more recent monarch: Queen Victoria. She kept her offspring so busy that they didn't have time for affairs of state. What with polo, a few weeks in Venice and a welter of hunting, shooting and fishing, they were far too preoccupied to worry about frivolities such as the Balkan situation.

These musings were inspired by an unusual item in a London auction next Saturday. Lot 596 at the Angling Auctions sale in Chiswick is a rather battered fishing rod. Normally, you could buy such a rod for £20, even though it is more than 100 years old. But this one is special. It was once owned by Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria.

It is a typical ladies' salmon rod: a genteel 11ft 6in long (the men would wield poles up to 18ft long). That said, it is made of greenheart and hickory, woods whose virtue was strength rather than lightness.

It was made by John Forrest of Kelso, an enduring tackle-maker that started in 1837 and closed in 1967. The rod is not particularly ornate or noteworthy (no silver fittings, no royal crest), but on the butt are the words: "HRH The Princess Louise, 8th March 1879".

Princess Louise was born in 1848, died in 1939 and married the Marquess of Lorne (1845-1914) in 1871. He became the 9th Duke of Argyll. They had no children, but were both keen anglers. They spent much of their time in Canada, where they fished the Cascapedia river in Quebec.

This is still one of the world's finest salmon rivers. An average salmon weighed 24lb last year, while fish of 40lb are common. It was the subject of one of angling's great books, Edmund Davis's Salmon Fishing on the Grand Cascapedia.

I'm told that the royal couple went to Canada in the 1880s, ostensibly to tour the country and wave the flag but really to go fishing. I don't know how many schools they opened; not too many, if the rod is anything to go by. They fished the Cascapedia heavily, and by the well-worn state of Princess Louise's rod, she caught a fair few fish on it.

However, it requires some restoration, which is why there is a low estimate on it – £300 to £350. The rings are rusty and need rewhipping. But it's interesting as an early example of suction ferrules. Collectors may be more interested in the Princess's name than those early ferrules.

Angling Auctions, 29 September, at Chiswick Town Hall , Heathfield Terrace, London W4. Catalogues: 0208 749 4175.

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