Monday, 21 May 2012

Osborne House - A Royal Holiday Home

Source for this image here.

Osborne House was commissioned by Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, in 1944, to be used as a vacation retreat by the Royal family so that they could enjoy some privacy away from the eyes of the public. It is situated on the Isle of Wight near to the seaport village of Cowes, which is famous for holding boating regattas during the summer months. The house has beautiful sea views and was designed to look as if it was an Italian palace. The Royal family spent a lot of time there - not just in the summer, but to celebrate birthdays, holidays and other special occasions too.

Like most Royal properties, Osborne House is very opulent and elegant. It has 39 rooms and a separate Swiss play house for the Royal children, which was actually built out of a real wooden Swiss chalet that was dismantled and brought by ship to be rebuilt in the grounds of Osborne House, where it was furnished as a proper house - but with everything in miniature, so that it was suitable for children! It was used not just as a play house, but as a way of training the Royal children to know the skills needed for ordinary men and women of the time. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert believed their children should not be cushioned from reality, and as well as letting them see what real life was like for ordinary people, they also taught them to understand the value of money - something they would ordinarily not have ever needed to worry about. Prince Albert encouraged them each to have a small garden plot, where they grew vegetables which they were then encouraged to sell to him! The Royal couple were also concerned to make an example to their subjects of how parents should raise their children. They were devoted to each other and to their 9 children and enjoyed an extremely happy marriage which many people admired - and still do today.

As well as the childrens' vegetable plots (which you can still see if you visit Osborne House now) the extensive grounds boast beautiful rose gardens, a walled kitchen garden, gracious cedar and pine trees, paddocks and more besides. If you are lucky enough to visit the Isle of Wight (Papa Bear and I enjoyed our honeymoon here - quite a long time ago! We had a wonderful time and spent the last day of our honeymoon at Osborne House, a truly unforgettable experience) then you will be impressed at how lavish and well kept the grounds are, and the house inside has many of the rooms set out just as they were when the Royal family occupied them. Not all of the rooms were used just for privacy - some of them where where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert liked to entertain and these are very lavishly decorated.

Some of the furnishings in Osborne House have an Indian theme to them as they were given to Queen Victoria, who from 1876 was "Empress of India" and recieved many gifts from important Indian statesmen and kings. There are beautiful embroidered tapestries, heavy silk and satin drapes, luxurious rugs, and ornaments and paintings from all around the world, including gifts that were presented to Queen Victoria when she celebrated her Golden and Diamond Jubilees - our present Queen, Queen Elizabeth II, will be celebrating her Diamond Jubilee next month.

But the parts of the house that weren't used as rooms for the Royal family - such as the kitchens - are also interesting to see, and there are plenty of examples of ordinary life in the Victorian times visible, such as the utensils needed for preparing meals, and the bathing facilities - the Royal family had one of the very first working "showers" in their holiday home!
Queen Victoria loved Osborne House so much that it was here that she passed away. After her passing, Osborne House was not used by members of her family, and it has been passed into the ownership of the State - which means it is now open to the public. We were very pleased to be able to visit there, and in a few years' time, when we have a "special" wedding anniversary to celebrate, Papa Bear and I intend to revisit it, and enjoy sharing a glimpse into the life of a very special Royal couple.