A Royal love affair with the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight’s most famous resident, and the person responsible for its continued success as one of Britain’s leading tourist destinations, is Queen Victoria.

Having visited the Island as a child, Queen Victoria and her beloved husband Prince Albert, built Osborne House in East Cowes in 1845 as a summer home and rural retreat. This Italianate Renaissance style residence was designed by Prince Albert and the view from the terraces to the beach below apparently reminded him of the bay of Naples. After the house was finished the royal family stayed for long periods each year – over Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s birthdays and before Christmas, turning the Isle of Wight into a highly fashionable place for Victorians to visit on holiday.

Prince Albert, was very much involved in the layout of the gardens and even the planting at Osborne. One plant that has stood the test of time is the Mrytle that grew from a sprig of Myrtle in a nosegay that was given to Queen Victoria when they left Prince Albert’s parents home in Germany in 1845. This was planted at the base of the central steps from the upper terrace to the lower terrace, and began a tradition that continues to this day – a sprig of myrtle from Osborne is put in every royal bouquet – including the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Inside the house, Osborne is an opulent trove of treasures from around the world with the famous Durbar Room taking centre stage. The Durbar Room was built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s role as Empress of India so it is ironic that she never actually set foot there. Looking past all of the sumptuous decor and glorious art, there is a definite sense of family throughout the house and the love that they all shared, from the beautiful fabric used in Queen Victoria’s bedroom, which has hidden within its pretty floral pattern profiles of Albert and Victoria, to Prince Albert’s creation of the Swiss Cottage for his children to allow them to experience being 'ordinary citizens'. The children even had their own vegetable patch and grew flowers and food that their father would buy from them at market value.

Further on past the Swiss Cottage is Osborne's own private beach, where Queen Victoria was known to go swimming in her bathing machine – which has been restored. Osborne has opened up access to the private beach from April to October, and refurbished the existing bathing pavilion into a café, with seating, toilets and changing facilities for swimmers. During the summer months there are events for the family such as traditional Punch & Judy shows.

Victoria was known to have said: “ It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot” and this stands true to this very day. After the death of her beloved husband Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria lived out the rest of her life at Osborne House, finally dying here in 1901 after 64 years reigning as monarch of the United Kingdom. After her death Osborne House was presented to the nation by King Edward VII and is now run by English Heritage.

Stay… at Osborne

Fancy living the Royal lifestyle? Then way why not stay at the Pavilion Cottage at Osborne? Built in the early 1900s for sporty cadets at the Royal Naval College, it later became a store room, before being used to house livestock. Today, fully restored, with its long, south-facing veranda and elegant interiors, this is the perfect spot to escape it all – and the beach is all yours from 6pm every night…

Alix Robinson

30 September 2017

By Alix Robinson in Articles

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