For those of you who have read the complete Moon Stealer series you will know that the climax to the story occurs at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight – a very grand house that was once the home of Queen Victoria. Today I thought I’d revisit it…
The Isle of Wight is known for its unique and beautiful ambience, and this was recognised by the 19th century royal family. The property on which Osborne House is located was purchased by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1845, after they had leased the previous house for several years. This location had become their sanctuary, as their growing family meant that they needed more time away from court life and the pressures that it included. The original house became too small for the family’s needs and Prince Albert designed Osborne House in the Italian Renaissance style. Architect Thomas Cubitt, who was also instrumental in the expansion of Buckingham Palace, built the house between 1845 and 1851 and the residence became the royal family’s home.
Prince Albert took great pleasure in moulding the residence and surrounding gardens to the family’s needs until his death in 1961. The queen found comfort in living here due to the special memories that were associated with it. The expansion of the property continued, and the queen remained here until her death on 22 January 1901. Her successor, King Edward VII, ordered her royal quarters sealed. Even though Osborne House had been special to Queen Victoria, her children did not share the same sentiment and Edward gave the estate to the nation on Coronation Day, 1902.
As the British military expanded, there grew with it the need for more training grounds. In 1903, the Royal Navy College Osborne was established here, and much of Osborne House itself became officers’ quarters. Temporary buildings were erected on the site to accommodate the military training, and these were demolished in the decade following the college’s closure in 1921.
The public were also given access to many ground floor areas in 1904, and Osborne House today continues to provide an inside look at the lives of royalty. The house is divided into four connecting blocks, three of which were built in Albert’s lifetime, arranged around two courtyards. Inside there are views across the terrace to the sea, made possible by the large plate glass windows of the reception room on the ground floor. The children’s nursery, where the couple’s nine kids played, has miniature furniture which has made it one of the attraction’s favourite rooms. Prince Albert’s private quarters remain much as he left them and in 1954, Queen Elizabeth II gave permission for the queen’s quarters to be reopened with public access allowed. Guests are able to stand on the same balcony where the king and queen would listen to nightingales sing together during their evenings there.
In 1986, English Heritage assumed the management of the grounds and organised much needed repairs and redecoration. Queen Victoria’s private beach, where the queen bathed and her children learned to swim, has since been opened to the public. Visitors can now go inside her bathing machine where the queen got undressed, and take a dip in the waters or a casual stroll along this ‘charming beach.’