Osborne House – Queen Victoria’s Private Residence

Take your time when visiting Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. When I visited with a few friends in April 2008, we took the train from London Waterloo to Portsmouth, then the boat and in the end a bus. That way you really need a whole day for the visit, surely when you want to enjoy the property and its park, and pay a visit to Whippingham also, where some royals are buried.

In May 1845 the British Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert bought the Osborne estate on the Isle of Wight, on the English south coast. They had a private seaside residence built in Italian style, the main architect was Thomas Cubitt. Ludwig Gruner designed most of the Italian-style internal decoration and the terraces. In contrast to the official palaces, they filled the building with furniture and works of art, that showed their own taste. They wanted it to be a real family home. Prince Albert took great interest in the design of the house and the gardens. Queen Victoria celebrated most birthdays, on 24 May, at Osborne, as did Prince Albert, on 26 August. Victoria used the house until her death there on 22 January 1901. She died on a small couch bed, surrounded by her children.

After Queen Victoria’s death her surviving children were not very interested in the house. In 1903 the Royal Naval College had been established in the grounds of Osborne House, and closed its doors in 1921. The house itself opened its doors to the public in 1904, partly as the Edward VI Convalescent Home for Officers serving in his forces. Having turned in to a nursing home, it closed its doors in 2000. Only in 1954 Queen Elizabeth gave permission to open the most intimate apartments, including the room in which Victoria died, to the public. English Heritage took over the management of Osborne House in 1986.

As a visitor you can nowadays have a look at the household wing, the ground floor, the first and second floors. Victoria herself was responsible for the creation of the Durbar Room in the 1890s, which has a rich Indian interior. She was created Empress of India in 1876, although she never visited the country herself.

Outside you can enjoy the terraces, walled garden, the ice house, as well as the Swiss Cottage and the gardens of the royal children. The Swiss Cottage was a present to the children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on Victoria’s birthday in 1854. Not far from the cottage you will find a few curious artifacts: Victoria’s bathing machine and the Alberta deckhouse, a part of the royal steam yacht Alberta. Victoria used the bathing machine to go swimming in the sea without being seen. When the weather is good, the views are sometimes amazing.

Over the years the house has been redecorated. Items that arrived after 1901 were removed, items that were there before, were returned. In the Summer of 2017 the lower terrace was opened to the public for the first time. This was the place where Queen Victoria liked to write and paint. The restoration of this last major part of the property to be repaired cost £600,000. Previously falling masonry and broken steps made the terrace too dangerous for visitors.

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