Osborne House was Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s private home on the Isle of Wight that lies off the south coast of England. It is separated from the mainland by a deep strait known as The Solent.
‘It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot,’ wrote the Queen after a visit to Osborne House. In 1845 the royal couple purchased the property with an estate of 342 acres, along with the adjacent Barton Manor to house equerries and grooms and to serve as the home farm.
The Spectacular Osborne House, East Cowes, Isle of Wight
Osborne was built specifically for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and its architecture and furnishings reflect the royal couples passions, taste and style. Their aim was to create a private home away from court life in London and Windsor and to provide a retreat reflecting a more ‘normal’ experience for their growing family.
The exquisite pair of Italianate Towers that dominate the landscape
Prince Albert commissioned Thomas Cubitt
– a master builder who developed much of Belgravia, Pimlico and Bloomsbury, in central London to advise him on the best way to improve the house and grounds. Cubitt recommended demolishing the old house and building a new house more suited to their needs. Along with Prince Albert, Cubitt designed the more appropriate building that can be seen today, which was finally completed in 1851.
The garden terraces- the views across the Solent reminded Prince Albert of the Bay of Naples.
The newly restored Durbar Room, was designed by Rudyard Kipling’s father, John Lockwood, and master carver Bhai Ram Singh. With its wonderfully intricate Indian-inspired carved white plaster ceilings and walls, this room is a prestigious setting for dining amid a glittering collection of treasures given to Queen Victoria.
Durbar-room Indian-style plaster work- English Heritage
The spectacular banqueting table is a stunning centrepiece and seats up to 24 guests. The room was the venue for ceremonial dinners for European royalty and the backdrop to Queen Victoria’s favourite theatrical entertainments- reflecting Queen Victoria’s status as Empress of India.
It was here using the Durbar Room and the extensive grounds at Osborne that the motion picture Victoria & Abdul
Judy Dench, with Camilla on a recent visit to the newly restored Durbar Room July 2018
The interiors of Osborne House abound with opulence in both architectural design and decoration, including the splendidly decorated library; a masterpiece designed by Robert Adam.
Statues & Corridor inside Osborne House
Marble sculptures, commissioned by Victoria and Albert, line the classically designed Grand Corridor of the house and recall the royal couple’s love of the arts. Works by Gainsborough, Rembrandt, Reynolds, Turner and Vermeer hang on a background of opulent interior decor. Portraits and frescos adorn the walls, serving as a reminder of the family’s links to the crowned heads of Europe, and of the unrivalled supremacy of the British Empire at that time.
An image of The Grand Corridor looking south, during Queen Victoria’s reign
The Audience Room, with its array of sumptuous original furnishings, was where the ministers of the Privy Council gathered before their meetings with the queen in the Council Room.
Osborne-state Rooms- with marble pillars and gold fabric covered furniture
The Swiss Cottage situated within the grounds about a mile or so to the east of the house, was built for the royal children between 1853-54. Here The family could ‘escape’ and live a ‘normal life’, where the children could play, learn to cook and grow their own fruit, vegetables and flowers. In 2014 The Swiss Cottage was restored and re-presented as a child/family friendly educational resource.
The Swiss Cottage
Queen Victoria’s Private Beach
In 2012 Queen Victoria’s private beach was opened to the public. “We have quite a charming beach to ourselves,” Victoria wrote in 1845 and it was here that the Queen regularly bathed, and where her children learned to swim.
The beach was said to be the deciding factor behind Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s decision to buy Osborne House.
Judi-Dench-and-Camilla-duchess-of-Cornwall on Osborne beach July 2018|Chris Jackson
An original wooden bathing machine used by queen Victoria has been returned to the beach. It ran down a ramp into the sea and from there,Queen Victoria would emerge in her swimming suit with her modesty preserved. Not surprisingly it was more ornate than most of those used by aristocratic women in the 19th Century- it even has a plumbed-in loo as well as a changing room with a veranda and curtains!
Judy Dench & The Duchess of Cornwall enjoy ice cream on the beach at Osborne- July 2018
Queen Victoria used Osborne for more than 50 years as a place where she could entertain foreign royalty and visiting ministers as well as enjoy her own extensive family.
Friends of Osborne House
Dame Judi Dench became the first Patron of the Friends of Osborne House, after having spent Summer 2016 at Osborne filming ‘Victoria and Abdul‘,
Dame Judi quickly accepted the invitation to become Patron and wrote:
“We had a wonderful Time filmimg at Osborne and everyone there was absolutely wonderful. I am delighted to continue this association.”
The money raised by the Friends of Osborne is used to support English Heritage’s commitment to maintain Osborne House for the Nation. In 2015 the Friends became a registered charity. Since 1987 the Friends and its predecessor organisation have helped English Heritage with many renovation projects to the House and grounds as well as for educational projects.
Victoria & Abdul: The extensive grounds and rooms at Osborne House were used for the motion picture Victoria & Abdul -The extraordinary true story of an unexpected friendship in the later years of Queen Victoria’s remarkable rule.
Osborne House is cared for by English Heritage and is open to the public year round.