12 January 2020

Queen Victoria's Private Home: Osborne, Isle of Wight, 15 October 2019

Located a short ferry ride across the Solent from Portsmouth, UK, the Isle of Wight is best known for its quaint seaside resort towns, family-friendly attractions, temperate climate, and sailing regattas, as well as for Osborne, the idyllic private residence of Queen Victoria between 1846 and her death in 1901. 

Although Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha possessed three royal residences (Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and the Royal Pavilion at Brighton), none of these were thought suitable for raising their young and growing family in the 1840s and 1850s.  Enamoured of the Isle of Wight's seaside privacy and tranquility, and able to journey from Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace to the island in under four hours courtesy of the expanding British railway network, Victoria and Albert leased the Osborne estate of the Blachford family in 1844 and subsequently purchased the property outright in 1845 for £28,000 (over £3 million today).  With the original Osborne House (built 1774-81) unfit to house the Royal couple, their eventual nine children, and household staff, Prince Albert set about designing a new house, acting as architect and designer for the project, assisted by his old friend and artistic adviser Ludwig Gruner.   His design incorporated the latest construction techniques and fireproofing and Albert commissioned London-based builder Thomas Cubitt to demolish the original house and construct the new house in its place.   The new, multi-wing Osborne House was built between 1846 and 1851 in the style of a Renaissance Italian palazzo, as the temperate climate on the Isle of Wight and the sweeping views of the Solent reminded Albert of the Bay of Naples.  For the estate's gardens and landscaping, Albert personally oversaw every aspect of the design, favouring poplars, magnolias, rhododendrons, and azaleas, as well as evergreen-lined drives and walkways; he even personally planted a number of trees on the property.  The Royal Family's private apartments were housed in the Pavilion, the first wing to be completed in 1846, followed by the household wing in 1848, and the main wing in 1851.  In the years that followed, additional structures and amenities built on the sprawling property included gardens and walkways; a Swiss cottage, miniature fort, and museum for the royal children; a model farm to supply Osborne with fresh food; servants facilities; and stables for 50 horses and carriages.  In 1890-91, the Durbar wing was added to Osborne House, featuring a spectacularly ornate, Indian-themed dining room, reflecting Victoria's assumption of the title of Empress of India in 1877.

Queen Victoria and her family spent much time living at their beloved Osborne during more than 50 years.  By 1850, the family had established a regular pattern of visits to Osborne in March, May, part of July and August, and the period between late November and just before Christmas, after which time they would return to Windsor.  Although built as a secluded private residence, Osborne offered no respite to Victoria from her work as head of state, and she spent several hours most days reviewing official papers sent to her in government dispatch boxes, reading and writing letters and telegrams to government ministers, and hosting meetings of the Privy Council in Osborne House's Council Room.  Given the good rail, steamship, and telegraph connections between the Isle of Wight and London and the European continent, Osborne often played host to visiting Prime Ministers, foreign royalty, diplomats, and representatives of the British Empire.  A particularly noteworthy royal visit to Osborne was that hosted by Victoria for Emperor Napoleon III of France and his wife, Empress Eugénie, in August 1857, where the friendly and informal atmosphere of Osborne helped cement the alliance between the United Kingdom and France after the Crimean War.  

On 22 January 1901, Victoria died in her bed in Osborne House, surrounded by members of her family, including her son and heir, Edward (soon to be crowned King Edward VII), and her eldest grandson, German Emperor Wilhelm II.   Although Victoria had left instructions in her will that Osborne was to be kept within the Saxe-Gotha family, Edward VII did not possess his mother's attachment to the property and chose to donate the estate to the nation in 1902.  Several of the house's rooms were thereafter opened to the public, with parts of the main and household wings being converted into a convalescent home for military officers, and some of the grounds used to accommodate the new Royal Naval College Osborne from 1903.  The Royal Naval College Osborne was closed in 1921 and, in 1955, Queen Elizabeth II granted permission for Victoria and Albert's private apartments in Osborne House to be opened to public display, having been previously converted into a museum accessible only by members of the Royal Family.  Taking over management of Osborne from the Department of the Environment in 1986, the English Heritage Trust launched an extensive program of restoration and redecoration, which was extended to include the whole house following the closure of the convalescent home in 2000. 

Today, Osborne is a popular English Heritage tourist attraction, with the current estate encompassing 354 acres of the original property, which measured 2,000 acres at its largest in 1864.  Visitors can tour the royal residence, including the beautifully-restored private apartments of Victoria and Albert, the breath-taking Durbar Room, and several official rooms in the main and household wings; marvel at the house's Italianate terraced gardens; stroll through the 18th century brick-walled kitchen garden with its greenhouses, pergolas, and fruit trees; hike the kilometre from the house to the beach for calming views of the Solent, a treat from the seaside ice cream parlour, and a look at Victoria's modesty-preserving 'bathing machine'; and visit the royal children's Swiss cottage and garden plots.   A minibus runs between the house and the beach for elderly or handicapped visitors, and the gift shop in the former Petty Officers Quarters offers a range of Osborne-themed merchandise and souvenirs.

Without further ado, let's visit Osborne on the Isle of Wight...

The Portsmouth-registered fast catamaran ferry Wight Ryder I, owned and operated by Wightlink, seen moored at the Portsmouth ferry terminal adjacent to the Gunwharf Quays shopping/entertainment district and the Portsmouth Harbour railway station.  Wight Ryder I, like her identical sister ship Wight Ryder II, was built in Cebu, Philippines in 2009 and measures 39.5 metres (129.59 feet) in length.  The voyage across the Solent from Portsmouth to Ryde on the Isle of Wight takes 22 minutes. 

The passenger cabin aboard Wight Ryder I.  The catamaran ferry can carry up to 260 passengers, as well as 20 bicycles.  Passengers wanting to take in the fresh air and sights as they cross the Solent to the Isle of Wight can sit on the open sun deck above.     

The seaside town of Ryde on the northeast coast of the Isle of Wight, as seen from the end of Ryde Pier, where the Wightlink catamaran ferries arrive.

Looking south from the Ryde Pier, towards the town of Ryde in the distance.  Expansive sand beaches at Ryde at low tide necessitated the construction of Ryde Pier in 1813-14, the fourth longest pier in the United Kingdom, measuring 681 metres (2,234.25 feet) in length.  In 1864, a tramway pier was built alongside the original 1814 'promenade' pier to carry horse-drawn, and later electric, trams between the town of Ryde and the pier head.  A railway pier was subsequently constructed beside the tramway pier in 1880, providing a direct steam rail link from the pier head to Ryde and other towns on the island.  The tramway pier was closed in 1969.  Ryde Pier was designated a Grade II listed building in 1976 and today holds the record as the world's oldest surviving seaside pier. 

Looking along the Esplanade in Ryde, near Ryde Esplanade railway station and the Ryde hoverport.  Ryde's seafront architecture reflects the town's growth as a popular summer holiday destination in the 19th century, with shops, hotels, and restaurants lining the Esplanade. 

Island Flyer, one of two twin-engined, 78-seat Griffon 12000TD passenger hovercraft operated by Ryde-based ferry company Hovertravel since 2016 on the route between Southsea in Portsmouth and Ryde.  Travelling at speeds of up to 40 knots (74 km/h), the journey across the Solent between Southsea and Ryde takes less than 10 minutes.  At low tide, the hovercraft crosses a mile of sand to reach the concrete 'landing' pad at the Ryde hovercraft terminal.  Hovertravel, in business since 1965, claims to be the world's only currently-operating commercial passenger hovercraft service.

The gatehouse at the Prince of Wales Entrance to Osborne, located off York Avenue in East Cowes in the north-central part of the Isle of Wight.  The road leads to a large car park for automobiles and motor coaches, located next to the building housing the admissions counters, a cafe, and a gift shop.  Visitors arriving at Ryde can take the #4 bus, operated by Southern Vectis, from Ryde Bus Station to the Osborne House stop, a journey of 23 minutes.    

The Petty Officers' Quarters, part of the military convalescent hospital opened on the Osborne estate after Queen Victoria's death.  Visitors pass through this building to purchase admission tickets.  A cafe and gift shop is also located inside. 

Below: The guide provided to visitors, showing key points of interest and amenities on the Osborne estate.

Below: An English Heritage 2019 promotional pamphlet for Osborne. 

A view of Osborne House, with the principal covered entrance (porte cochère) located next to the base of the flag tower. A carriage ring creates a circular driveway. The central block is the Pavilion, housing the Royal Family's private apartments, while the main and household wings (right) accommodated members of the Royal household, offices, and guests. The Durbar wing (left) houses the spectacularly ornate Indian-themed Durbar Room. Although appearing to be built of stone, Osborne House was actually built of brick with a Medina cement facing coloured to resemble warm Bath stone; the only significant use of real stone is in the porte cochère, which is crafted from Portland stone, a white-grey limestone formation quarried on the Isle of Portland in Dorset.   

Visitors to Osborne enter via the main wing, passing through a special exhibit space that was formerly the dining room for members of the Royal Household (staff).  In 2019, the special exhibit commemorated the 200th birthdays of Queen Victoria (born 24 May 1819) and her husband, Prince Albert (born 26 August 1819), through a showcase of some of the gifts the couple exchanged between their marriage on 10 February 1840 and Albert's death from typhoid on 14 December 1861, aged 42.  Overwhelmed with grief at the death of her husband, Victoria immediately retreated to Osborne, attended by her daughters, staying in seclusion at the house until resuming public duties in March 1862.  She wore black mourning attire and a white widow's cap for the remainder of her life. 

Below: The interpretive pamphlet for the special exhibit, 'Celebration: Victoria & Albert's Birthdays at Osborne'.  Victoria's first birthday at Osborne was her 29th, on 24 May 1848.  She was awakened by the Band of the Royal Marines playing under her window and, after dressing, went to look at her birthday gifts in company with Albert and their children.  Albert's birthday celebrations at Osborne usually included parties held in marquees on the grounds of the estate, to which all of Osborne's staff were invited.  The ritual of presenting tables piled high with gifts for Victoria or Albert on their birthdays contributed to a significant collection of art amassed by the Royal court, most especially during the 1840s and 1850s.  Although birthday tables continued to be presented to Victoria after Albert's death, they no longer served as a major part of family life as they had when he was alive.

Visitors read display panels about Victoria and Albert's birthday celebrations at Osborne in the special exhibit space.  After Albert's death in December 1861, Victoria changed her annual routine, visiting Osborne at Christmas but never again celebrating her birthday there.  A frail and ailing Victoria arrived at Osborne on 18 December 1900 for what would be her last Christmas, dying five weeks later in her bedroom on 22 January 1901.

A display of vases gifted by Queen Victoria to Prince Albert.  The vases in the back of the display are glazed porcelain with silvered bronze mounts, made by the Sevres Manufactory and featuring dancers inspired by the paintings of the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael, whose works Albert admired.  They were purchased by Victoria at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and given to Albert on his birthday that year.  The unglazed, enamel-painted porcelain vase in the foreground was also made by the Sevres Manufactory and purchased by Queen Victoria at the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a gift to Albert on her birthday of that year.  The shape of the vase is copied from an ancient example in the Neapolitan royal collection, and features a painted figure representing fame, based on a design by French painter Jean-Louis Hamon. 

A bronze bust of Queen Victoria on display in the corridor of the household wing alongside other works of art.

Highland Cattle in the Pass of Leny, painted by Gourlay Steell for Queen Victoria in 1876 and now hanging in the household wing of Osborne House.  Victoria had spent 10 days at Invertrossachs in Perthshire, Scotland in 1868 and had recorded in her journal on 9 September: '...drove up the Pass of Leny...we met endless droves of wild-looking and for the most part extremely small, shaggy Highland cattle...'.

The Breakfast in the Desert, painted by Johann Hermann Kretzschmer around 1853 and now displayed in the household wing of Osborne House.  The painting was purchased by Queen Victoria at the Exhibition of Art and Industry, held in Dublin in 1853, one of several such events modelled on the hugely successful Great Exhibition in London in 1851. 

A bust of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, sculpted by Prince Victor, Count Gleichen, in 1883 and on display in the household wing.  Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria's second son, made a career in the Royal Navy and is depicted as a Vice Admiral in this bust.  He eventually attained the rank of Admiral of the Fleet by 1893, the same year he retired from the navy to succeed his uncle as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha until his death in 1900.  The sculptor, Prince Victor, was one of Queen Victoria's nephews.

The Grand Corridor, linking the household and main wings with the Pavilion housing the Royal Family's private apartments.  Prince Albert designed the Grand Corridor with assistance from his artistic adviser, Ludwig Gruner, in Renaissance Italian style.  Resembling the kind of classical sculpture galleries that were popular in 18th and 19th century country homes, the corridor is lined on one side by large windows and on the other by sculptures, pottery, bronze busts, and friezes collected by Victoria and Albert.  Although largely now covered by a runner carpet, the design of the ceramic floor, by Staffordshire pottery company Mintons, contains the arms of Great Britain and maritime symbols.  Queen Victoria would walk the Grand Corridor for exercise when inclement weather precluded outdoor activity. 

A few of the works of art collected by Victoria and Albert on display in the Grand Corridor.  Small plaster copies of friezes from the Parthenon in Athens are mounted high on the walls, while ebonised cabinets and pedestals hold other works, including reduced copies of antique figures and popular works.  Although Victoria continued to collect art work, albeit on a lesser scale, following Albert's death in 1861, she did not significantly alter the appearance of the Grand Corridor after that time. 

The Audience Room, in which Queen Victoria received statesmen and other visitors as head of state.  The high-quality satinwood furniture was specially made for the Audience Room by Holland & Sons in 1851, and the ornate chandelier is crafted from tinted glass and ormolu (gilt brass) and made to resemble Albert's favourite flower, convolvulous, climbing from a basket.  

The Council Room, in which meetings of the Queen's Privy Council were held several times a year when Victoria was in residence at Osborne.  It was in this room that Victoria conferred upon Albert the title of Prince Consort in 1857.  When not being used for such meetings of state, the Council Room served as a second dining room and ballroom, being used for dancing, charades, and plays.  It was first used in 1851 but the colour scheme and elaborately decorated ceiling designed by Ludwig Gruner, Prince Albert's friend and artistic adviser, was not completed until 1859.  The large painting on the far wall is a 19th century copy of 'The Deer Drive' (1847) by Sir Edwin Landseer, the original of which was intended for installation in this room.   

The crests of Victoria and Albert are represented in the surround of the marble fireplace, and pediments over the doors flanking the fireplace contain medallions with reliefs depicting Victoria and Albert supported by Roman gods and goddesses.  The room's silk chenille carpet was made by Templeton's of Glasgow in 1851 and displayed at the Great Exhibition in London which Prince Albert was instrumental in organising that year.  The carpet was purchased by Victoria for Osborne and adapted to fit the Council Room, and was sent to the British Embassy in Washington, DC in the 1920s and thereafter to the Smithsonian Institution, which donated it to English Heritage in 1988 for re-display at Osborne.  It was in the Council Room on 14 January 1878 that Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated his telephone invention, patented less than two years previously; Queen Victoria was impressed by the technology and telephones were installed at Osborne in 1885.  The northeast-facing French doors in the Council Room lead out onto the Pavilion terrace. 

A closer view of the chandelier and the elaborate gilded ceiling decoration in the Council Room.  The chandelier hangs from a plaster medallion featuring the badge of the Order of the Garter and is surrounded by other royal emblems on the ceiling.

A red-carpeted staircase in the main wing of Osborne House.  The elder children of Victoria and Albert lived in the main wing of the house once they were too old for the nursery in the Pavilion. 

The nursery sitting room in the royal nursery suite, located on the second floor of the Pavilion.  The nursery suite was one floor immediately above Victoria and Albert's private apartments, thus giving the royal couple ready access to their children.  The children, who normally lived in the nursery until the age of six, were cared for by the Superintendent of Royal Children; thereafter, they would move to rooms in Osborne's main wing.  Originally the first two rooms of the three-room royal nursery suite served as the bedroom and sitting room of the Superintendent of Royal Children; however, in the 1890s, they became the schoolroom for the children of Prince Henry of Battenberg and his wife Princess Beatrice, Victoria's youngest daughter.  As the original wallpaper of the Royal Nursery Suite was lost during Osborne's stint as a military convalescent hospital, English Heritage has painted the walls in the aqua-green builder's finish used elsewhere in the house.  The child-sized octagonal table and chairs were made between 1846 and 1851 and each chair features a shield with the initials of its royal occupant.        

Looking down onto the Pavilion and lower terraces from a window in the children's nursery suite on the Pavilion's second floor.  In addition to the suite of nursery rooms, the second floor also contained maids' bedrooms and the nursery kitchen. 

The nursery bedroom, restored to its appearance in 1873, when it was used by some of Queen Victoria's grandchildren during their visits to Osborne.  A mahogany swinging cradle in the background was made for Victoria and Albert's first child, Vicky, the Princess Royal, in 1840.  Reproductions of original cots believed designed by Prince Albert feature hinged cane-work sides and upholstered pads.  A nurse who cared for the children slept on a bed in the room.  Many of the paintings hanging in the nursery bedroom today were hung here during Victoria's lifetime with several having special associations for the Queen, such as a painting of an owl by Prince Albert when he was 17.        

Hanging on the wall at the head of the grand staircase is an allegorical fresco, Neptune Resigning the Empire of the Seas to Britannia, painted by William Dyce at Osborne in 1847.  The fresco depicts Neptune, in a shell chariot pulled by three seahorses, handing over his crown to Britannia via Mercury, a messenger to the gods.  Britannia, flanked by the lion of England and figures representing industry, trade, and navigation, already holds Neptune's trident in her hand, with the scene symbolising British supremacy at sea.  

Visitors descend the grand staircase in the Pavilion.  The staircase was designed to resemble that of Claremont House in Surrey, owned by Queen Victoria's uncle, Leopold, King of the Belgians.  Although resembling marble, the walls of the staircase are actually painted.

In the staircase is displayed a life-sized statue of Prince Albert in classical attire and armour, commissioned by Albert from the German sculptor Emil Wolf and gifted to Victoria on her birthday in 1842.  Prince Albert considered the sculpture's bare legs and feet too undressed to be placed in a room and so, in 1849, a more fully-clothed copy was made for Buckingham Palace.

Another view of the grand staircase in the Pavilion. This photo showcases the ornate decor of the staircase, from faux-marble painted walls and elaborate gilded moulding to intricate banisters and delicate painting inside the arches flanking the hallways.

Prince Albert's dressing and writing room on the first floor of the Pavilion, where he could work on his own projects separately from Queen Victoria, especially during his 'golden hour' before Victoria awoke.  The room contains a dwarf wardrobe, washstand and writing table, as well as a harmonium (pump-action organ). It was originally decorated with works from Albert's collection of early Renaissance art, including mostly religiously-inspired paintings by such well-known artists as Andrea Mantegna, Giovanni Bellini, and Fra Angelico.  The wooden box on the writing desk is a dispatch box that held papers related to Prince Albert's role as chairman of the Fine Arts Commission.  Following Albert's death in 1861, Queen Victoria kept this room and Albert's bathroom almost exactly as it was during his life, with servants even continuing to bring bowls of hot water to the room at dressing time 40 years after Albert's death because the Queen neglected to tell them to discontinue the practice.  The widowed Victoria would frequently use Albert's dressing room for private, informal meetings. 

The Queen's sitting room at the centre of the Pavilion's first floor, featuring side-by-side desks, one each for Victoria and Albert.  It was in this room that Queen Victoria worked on state papers delivered in dispatch boxes by messengers from London.  She was assisted by Prince Albert in his role as her private and personal secretary.  Victoria's desk was the one nearest the window and is slightly lower than Albert's, whose long legs also necessitated shallower desk drawers.  The Queen's desk retains the three mid-19th century, battery-powered bell pulls used to summon servants; Albert's desk also featured such bell pulls, which were removed after his death.  Victoria and Albert also used this room for informal after-dinner conversation, either on their own or with close friends.   The large assortment of portraits, busts, and photographs, many of her family, were put on display here by Victoria after Albert's death at age 42 in 1861.  The large windows provide spectacular views out over the Osborne estate and of the Solent beyond.   

Queen Victoria's dressing room, located next door to her sitting room.  It was here that Victoria would change clothes, several times per day depending on the nature of her activities: breakfasting, walking outdoors, meetings with government Ministers, dining, and sleeping.  Her Wardrobe Maids and Dressers were informed of the Queen's planned activities a day in advance in order to ensure that the appropriate clothing was laid out in readiness.  Atop the dressing table in front of the window sits the fine Mintons porcelain dressing table set commissioned by Albert and gifted to Victoria on her birthday in 1853. 

A shower closet in Queen Victoria's dressing room.  In keeping with Victorian-era morality, the shower, as well as a deep copper tub, were concealed behind full-length mirrored doors resembling a large wardrobe when not in use.  The shower and tub were fed by hot water from the furnace in Osborne House's basement.  A toilet was also disguised in a narrow passage in the dressing room.   

Another view of the Queen's dressing room, featuring a small fireplace and various works of art on the walls.

Queen Victoria's bedroom,  The large painting over the fireplace is The Entombment by Gustav Jaeger, commissioned by Prince Albert in 1845.  Despite other parts of Osborne House being opened to the public from 1902, King Edward VII had Victoria and Albert's private apartments in the Pavilion sealed by iron gates, with only members of the Royal Family permitted to enter what became a private shrine to the former Queen and Prince Consort.       

After suffering a minor stroke on 17 January 1901, Queen Victoria died on a small couch bed in this room at 6:30pm on Tuesday, 22 January, surrounded by members of her family, who had begun arriving at the house.  A posthumous portrait of Prince Albert adorns the headboard of the bed, one of several such portraits which the widowed Victoria displayed in each royal residence.  A pocket on the headboard was used by Albert to store his pocket watch before going to bed.  The bronze memorial plaque over the bed was installed after Victoria's funeral, when the bedroom served as a private shrine for the Royal Family, who would visit usually during the Cowes Week regatta in August to place flowers in the room.  In 1955, on the order of Queen Elizabeth II, the royal bedroom and other previously-closed parts of Osborne House were opened to the public.     

Looking up the grand staircase from the ground floor.  The walls were painted to resemble marble by artist Anthony Muller in 1861.  A large skylight provides natural illumination for this three-storey high interior space, complementing the installed light fixtures.

at the base of the grand staircase sits a cannon and a white marble sculpture group, The Amazons and Argonaut, completed by Joseph Engel in 1846.  The sculpture was commissioned by Prince Albert and exhibited at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851.  It depicts a male warrior lying on the ground and looking up in fear at a female figure in phrygian cap wielding an axe and being restrained by a second female figure.   

In the ground floor lobby of the grand staircase, a bust of Prince Albert, flanked by electric lights, sits atop a marble base concealing a ventilator.  The ventilator was part of the heating system installed in Osborne House by builder Thomas Cubitt and was controlled by a coal-fired boiler in the basement.  Cubitt's heating system at Osborne was sufficient to provide background warmth but relied on the supplemental heat provided by fires in the house's fireplaces; Queen Victoria preferred to burn beech logs over coal, though she was famously impervious to the cold and would often maintain the house at temperatures that other members of her family and visiting guests found frigid.  The bust to the left of Albert is of Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (1864-1892), grandson of Queen Victoria; the bust to the right of Albert is of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, (1853-1884), Victoria's youngest son.  

The dining room on the ground floor of the Pavilion, one of the main reception rooms of Osborne House.  The elaborate ceilings were designed by Prince Albert's artistic adviser Ludwig Gruner and completed in 1857.  Food and plates were carried up to the dining room via a set of carpeted stairs from the table deckers' rooms in the basement and laid out on a large mahogany sideboard.  At Christmas, a boar's head would be displayed amongst the dishes arrayed on the sideboard.  Dinner in the 1850s was served at precisely 8pm, but this shifted to 8:45pm towards the end of the century and often began later than that, as diners waited for Queen Victoria to arrive, often at 9:15pm, before sitting down to eat.  The table deckers, the servants responsible for laying out the dining table and arranging the floral displays, used rulers to ensure that every place setting was perfectly aligned.  As Osborne House has no breakfast room, breakfast was often also served here in the dining room, especially when the weather was too cold to permit the Queen to eat outdoors.  It was in this dining room that Victoria's third child, Princess Alice, was wed to Prince Louis of Hesse in 1862 in a ceremony overshadowed by the continued mourning of the death of Prince Albert the preceding year.         

The largest of the paintings in the dining room hangs over the mahogany sideboard and depicts the Royal Family, with Victoria and Albert and the five royal children born by the time the painting was completed in 1849.  It was painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter and was hung in the dining room on Queen Victoria's 30th birthday in 1849.  When the original painting was moved to Buckingham Palace in 1901, a copy was made and installed in the frame here in Osborne's dining room.

Immediately following her death at Osborne on 22 January 1901, Queen Victoria's body lay in state here in the dining room until 1 February.  Her coffin was then carried to a waiting gun carriage and conveyed to the Royal Yacht Alberta at Trinity Pier in East Cowes for the voyage to Portsmouth, during which the yacht passed Royal Navy battleships and cruisers anchored in two rows across the Solent.  Victoria's coffin was then taken to St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle for the state funeral the next day, followed by two days of lying in state before she was laid to rest in the Frogmore Mausoleum next to Prince Albert.

The drawing room, restored to its appearance in the 1890s and featuring an elaborately-painted ceiling and curtains and upholstered furniture in yellow damask satin.  Originally lighted by three cut-glass chandeliers, the room had full-length mirrors in heavy shutters to reflect the candlelight; the chandeliers were wired for electricity in 1893.

The drawing room was sparsely and more formally furnished until the 1870s, when the furniture was re-arranged to more comfortably accommodate social engagement.     

A desk looking out onto the terrace.  Seen in this photograph are a few of the idealised statues of Victoria's children carved by Mary Thornycroft between 1845 and 1860.  The drawing room also contains a number of portraits and landscape paintings.

The drawing room was used to receive visiting foreign royalty, though the Queen and Prince Albert also generally retired to this room after dinner to play cards, sing, and play the piano with members of the royal household.  Famous musicians invited to Osborne also performed in the drawing room, such as the soprano Jenny Lind, known as the 'Swedish nightingale', who sang here in 1847.  

The billiard room, linked to the drawing room.  Set at a right angle to the drawing room and outfitted with a columned screen and heavy curtains, its design allowed Prince Albert and his male guests to play billiards after dinner while Queen Victoria was in the drawing room with the women.  The linked nature of the two rooms meant that, technically, the men were still in the presence of the Queen and were required by protocol to remain standing unless given permission by Victoria to sit.  The room is dominated by the slate billiard table, featuring marble-painted enamelled legs and frieze panels designed by Albert.  Albert also designed the large light fixture above the table, electrified in 1893.  The painting above the raised bench is Cardinal Wolsey at the Gate of Leicester Abbey, by Charles West Cope.  Queen Victoria learned to play billiards in this room and noted in her journal the games she played with female members of her household after lunch.     

The horn room, a sitting room for visitors to Osborne.  It is decorated largely with furniture crafted in Frankfurt from the antlers of stag deer and purchased by Prince Albert in 1845.  Even the circular table against the rear wall by the door features a tabletop inlaid with sections of antler.  The room also features original 19th century carpet and wallpaper.  Several paintings of Victoria's favourite horses and dogs are hung on the walls.  For Victoria's first two birthdays celebrated at Osborne (1848 and 1849), her birthday gifts were arranged on display in the horn room.

Queen Victoria's lift (elevator), installed in what was part of the ground floor housing a guest bedroom until 1890 when it became part of the corridor linking the Pavilion to the newly-built Durbar wing.  With Victoria increasingly frail, suffering from rheumstism and failing eyesight, and challenged by stairs, this lift was installed in 1893 to permit her to travel between the ground floor and her private suite on the house's first floor.  It was manually operated by an attendant in the basement.    

The corridor leading from Osborne's oldest wing, the Pavilion, to its newest addition, the Durbar wing. The walls of the corridor are adorned with paintings of Indian rulers and people, many of them by Austrian-born artist Rudolph Swoboda.  Swoboda was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1886 to travel to India in order to paint portraits of the Indian people, both notables and commoners.  During his two-year trip, he painted 43 portraits of a wide-cross section of Indian society. 

An 1888 painting of Sir Pratap Singh, Maharajah of Idar, by Rudolph Swoboda.  Singh was one of two Indian princes whose portraits Victoria personally suggested Swoboda paint on his 1886-1888 trip to the subcontinent.  Singh is depicted in Durbar (court) dress, seating on a gilded and inlaid chair; he wears the badge and star of the Star of India, as well as the Jubilee medal.  

An 1854 painting of The Maharajah Duleep Singh, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter.  Singh was deposed as the Maharajah of the Punjab at the age of 13 when Britain annexed the Punjab in the Second Anglo-Sikh War of 1849.  Having sought exile in Britain in 1854, Singh was a favourite of Victoria and Albert and visited Osborne several times at their invitation.  Singh's lifestyle led to financial difficulties and his disaffection with British politics led him to become involved in various international intrigues designed to regain his throne; he died in exile in Paris in 1893.  The German-born Winterhalter came to London in 1842 and became the principal portraitist at the court of Queen Victoria during the first half of her reign.

A marble bust of Maharajah Duleep Singh, sculpted sometime between 1850 and 1856 by Baron Carlo Marochetti.  This bust was given by Victoria as a gift to Albert for his 37th birthday in 1856.  

The corridor to the Durbar wing continues, flanked by walls adorned with paintings of Indians.  In addition to housing the large banquet hall known as the Durbar Room, the Durbar wing also included first floor apartments for Prince Henry of Battenberg, his wife, Princess Beatrice (Queen Victoria's youngest child) and their children.  The ageing widow Queen had become dependent on Beatrice as her helper and companion and had initially opposed Beatrice's marriage to Prince Henry, only relenting on condition that Beatrice and her husband reside at Osborne.

Some of the 43 portraits of Indians painted by Rudolph Swoboda at Queen Victoria's instigation.  Over the course of his two-year visit to India, Swoboda painted a range of subjects, from eminent Indian soldiers and administrators to lowly street sweepers.  This collection of 43 portraits, along with other portraits of some of the Queen's Indian servants, were hung as a group in the Durbar corridor after its completion. 

An oil painting of Risaldar-Major Ali Mohamed Khan of the 2nd Bengal Lancers, by Rudolph Swoboda, completed prior to 1897.  Khan was an Imperial Service Officer appointed to command a mounted troop (risala) in 1895; he was selected as part of the Indian contingent that travelled to Britain in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, marking 75 years on the throne.        

The spectacular Durbar Room, in Osborne's Durbar wing.  Fascinated by Indian culture, but unable to visit the subcontinent in person, Queen Victoria had the Durbar Room built to bring a bit of India to England.  'Durbar' is derived from an Indian word meaning both a state reception and the building in which it is held.  The room's ornate Indian-themed decoration, briefly popular in the late 19th century, was designed by John Lockwood Kipling, director of the Mayo School of Art in Lahore and father of author Rudyard Kipling.  Kipling worked hard to preserve and promote the traditions of Indian craftsmanship and met Victoria's son, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, during the latter's military service in India in the 1880s; it was Arthur who introduced his mother to Kipling, which led to the commission for the Durbar Room in 1890. The ornate plasterwork of the walls and ceiling was designed by Indian master craftsman Bhai Ram Singh, a colleague of Kipling's.

The completion of the Durbar Room in 1891 permitted Osborne to host large banquets for the first time.  In addition to the decor, Queen Victoria also employed a number of Indian servants from 1887 onwards to reflect her adoption of the title Empress of India in 1877.  These Indian servants wore turbans and a livery of scarlet and gold in the winter and white in the summer, monogrammed with VRI for Victoria Regina et Imperatrix (Victoria Queen and Empress).  The best known of these servants was Abdul Karim, an ambitious 24-year old Muslim who became Victoria's favourite servant and was promoted to the role of munshi (secretary or tutor) in 1889, teaching Victoria to speak and write in Urdu.  While her other servants lived in a separate wing, Victoria provoked controversy by assigning Abdul Karim a room in the house.  

A closeup view of the dining table in the Durbar Room, showing the mathematically-precise placement of each setting and the elaborate fruit and flower centrepieces laid out by the table-deckers.  It is arranged as it would have been at the beginning of a banquet for important guests invited to dine with Queen Victoria.  The largest banquets at Osborne were generally held during the Queen's summer and winter visits, with up to 70 guests in attendance.  Food was served course by course from side tables around the room.  Smaller daily luncheons and family dinners with members of the royal household were also held in the Durbar Room, with the Queen enjoying the curries prepared by her Indian servants.  In the winter, the Durbar Room was used to stage concerts and theatrical presentations.

A reproduction of the dinner menu of 6 February 1897. That evening, Queen Victoria dined on such delicacies as salmon in lobster sauce; whitings floured and fried until crispy; stuffed quail served in a pastry basket; guinea fowl; chicory in cream sauce; and puréed, sweetened chestnuts topped with whipped cream.  Additionally, hot and cold fowls, beef tongue, and roast saddle of lamb would have been optional dishes, placed on the sideboard.

Display cases containing a sample of the ornate and expensive gifts sent to Queen Victoria to celebrate her Golden and Diamond Jubilees in 1887 and 1897, respectively, line the walls of the Durbar Room today.  The room's mantlepiece is a spectacularly ornate plasterwork and wood creation, featuring a large plasterwork peacock chimneypiece. 

The plaster peacock chimneypiece in the Durbar Room took 26 dedicated craftsmen 500 hours to complete.  The peacock design was suggested by Victoria's daughter, Princess Louise.  The peacock was a symbol of the Mughal Empire, which ruled over vast territories on the Indian subcontinent between 1526 and 1720.  Subsequently fragmented and reduced to the area around Old Delhi by the time the British East India Company assumed rule over India, the Mughal Empire was formally dissolved by the British Raj in 1857 following the Indian Rebellion.

A fine silver address casket sent to Queen Victoria by the Parsees of Bombay to mark her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.  The Parsees are descended from Persians who migrated to the Indian subcontinent during the Muslim conquest of Persia in AD 636-651.  Address caskets such as this were used to convey loyal greetings to the Queen from her imperial subjects.

A silver elephant address casket gifted to Queen Victoria by the Rao of Kutch on the occasion of Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897.  The casket would have contained expressions of loyalty to the Queen from the Indian princely state of Kutch, covering the northern part of the modern day state of Gujarat in western India and a part of the British Raj during Victoria's reign. 

A display of brass and bronze gifts sent to Queen Victoria from India to celebrate her Golden and Diamond Jubilees in 1887 and 1897, respectively.  The items displayed here include a shield covered in inlaid gold with calligraphic decoration; a ceremonial battle-axe decorated with inlaid silver and brass studs; a sword with steel blade and iron hilt inlaid with gold; a bronze statuette of a peacock, the symbol of the Mughal emperors of India; and bronze statuettes of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of prosperity, and the god Krishna.  Many of these items show the specialist technique known as koftgari, where steel is inlaid with gold.

A gold, silver, and ivory casket with a carving of the Hindu god Vishnu lying on a snake.  This is one of several items sent to Queen Victoria from India to celebrate her Golden and Diamond Jubilees.  

A close-up of the intricate plasterwork design of the Durbar Room, which was inspired by the architectural traditions of north India, featuring a fusion of Islamic forms with detail from Hindu and Jain temples and harkening back to the Mughal style of the 16th and 17th centuries.  Bhai Ram Singh designed and carved the wooden moulds that were used by the plasterers to actually create the wall and ceiling decoration, which is complemented by dark teak framing.  Seen here are replicas of the 36 leather-upholstered walnut dining chairs with brass accents which were designed by Bhai Ram Singh for the Durbar Room; they feature elaborate Indian-style carving showing images of exotic birds, flowers, and foliage.  The original chairs were sold off in 1916 but nine were subsequently located and purchased by English Heritage in 2002. 

A model of an Indian palace, gifted to Victoria and Albert's eldest son, Edward, Prince of Wales, by the Maharajah of Jaipur during Edward's eight-month tour of India in 1876.  The ornate plaster model depicts a typical early-18th century Indian palace and was made at the School of Industrial Art in Jaipur, the capital of the state of Rajasthan; even the interiors of the rooms have been colourfully recreated in great detail.

The deeply-coffered ceilings of the Durbar Room are patterned on the ceiling ornamentation found in medieval Jain temples such as those at Mount Abu in Rajasthan.  In February 1893, Queen Victoria wrote in her journal, 'We dined in the Durbar Room which was lit by electric light & looked beautiful'.  Copies of the original carpet from Agra, the curtains, and the lighting were installed in the Durbar Room in 2001 to mark the centenary of Queen Victoria's death, thus recreating the look of the room as it was around 1900.

A chhatri, or domed canopy popular in Mughal architecture, over the screen at the 'low' end of the Durbar wing, beyond which was the servery.  The upper level served as the minstrels' gallery to accommodate a small orchestra.  In addition to the design of the walls and ceiling, Bhai Ram Singh also designed the brass lamp stands, such the one pictured here. 

Leaving the Durbar Room and exiting onto the Pavilion terrace at the rear of Osborne House, visitors navigate the parterres designed by Ludwig Gruner and interspersed with statuary and garden ornaments. These items were purchased from the 1844 catalogue of British garden ornament dealer Austin & Seeley, as well as from the Berlin firm of Geiss and the French firm of Miroy Frères, reflecting the increasing availability of commercially-produced works of art in the mid-19th century.   

Looking along the Pavilion terrace, with the main wing visible in the background.  The clocktower is encased in scaffolding for restoration work.  Some of the retaining walls supporting the Pavilion terrace are up to 7.6 metres (25 feet) deep.

Looking down at the lower terrace, with its carefully manicured lawns and garden beds arrayed around a large fountain at its centre.   The Broad Walk can be seen running down the valley toward the Solent, visible beyond the trees.  Huge amounts of earth were moved to re-model the landscape and create the sloping valley, with its expansive views from the house.

The Pavilion terrace.  The main wing is visible on the left, with the Pavilion and its flag tower on the right.  The garden beds on the terraces contained a wide variety of plants, with Queen Victoria's journal referencing geraniums and heliotropes, and the evening breezes smelling of orange blossom, roses, and jasmine.  Under the management of English Heritage, the beds have been planted with various species introduced to Britain prior to Victoria's death. 

The ornamental shell alcove on the lower terrace, built into the brick and concrete retaining wall of the upper terrace.  Designed by Prince Albert as part of his vision for Osborne, the alcove was inspired by Rome's stibarium (garden seats) and likely influenced by Albert's artistic adviser, Ludwig Gruner.  Fine plaster was used to mould the decorative features of the alcove, such as the ribs of the alcove vault and the detailing of the frieze, and hundreds of sea shells were used to create a border.  In 2016, English Heritage comprehensively restored the alcove, including the dolphin seat supports and the original vibrant colour scheme, based on careful analysis of historic paint layers.         

A large chusan palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) stands at the centre of a garden bed on the lower terrace.  One of several such trees growing on the terraces, Queen Victoria planted the first on her birthday in 1851.  The original tree died in early 2003 and was replaced with another, planted by Queen Elizabeth II in May 2004.  Seeds collected from the original 1851 chusan palm had been used to grow additional trees at the Ventnor Botanic Garden, located on the south coast of the Isle of Wight, and the chusan palm planted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004 was grown from seed collected from those trees, thereby genetically linking the 1851 and 2004 trees.    

The Italianate feel of Osborne House and its grounds are evident, from the Mediterranean-influenced design of the residence to the terraced gardens, statuary, fountains, and palms.  Steps flanking a triple-arched alcove lead from the Pavilion terrace down to the lower terrace.  The walls of the lower terrace are covered in Magnolia grandiflora originally planted by Prince Albert.

A bronze statue of Andromeda sculpted by John Bell and produced by the Coalbrookdale Company in 1851 stands at the centre of the large fountain on the lower terrace.  The statue was exhibited at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 and purchased by Queen Victoria to add to the large art collection amassed by her and Prince Albert.  The mythological Andromeda is depicted in chains, waiting to be rescued by her future husband, Perseus.  The fountain is surrounded by eight bronze sculptures of marine monsters by William Theed, cast in 1858-60.  

A pair of cement lion sculptures, copies of the Medici lions in Florence, flank the steps up to the lower terrace.  Like several other of the garden ornaments, these lions came from the catalogue of the company Austin & Seeley and were installed at Osborne in 1851.

Looking up at the house and its terraces from the Broad Walk.

Looking down the Broad Walk running from Osborne House toward the Solent through the valley formed by massive excavation work in the 1840s.  Planter boxes containing clipped Portuguese laurel bushes flank the crushed gravel path.  The Broad walk does not run all the way to the water, but rather ends at an intersection with the Ring Walk circling the estate.  Visitors can make their way down to Osborne's private beach via the wooded Valley Walk.  

Osborne Beach, overlooking the Solent.  The private landing place offered by the beach was one of the attractions of Osborne for Victoria and Albert, and the royal couple had a 250 metre (820 foot) jetty constructed to allow them to arrive at Osborne discreetly from the mainland.  Left undisturbed for many years, the beach and shallow water are ideal habitats for many plant and animal species, such as eelgrass and the deep-nosed pipefish.

An alcove seat installed overlooking Osborne Beach.  Queen Victoria enjoyed being outdoors and had several such alcoves installed around the Osborne estate.  Alcove seats were popularised at Kensington Palace in London, where Queen Anne had one installed in 1705 to allow her to enjoy the sunshine while being protected from inclement weather.  Construction of the beach alcove began in 1865 but did not finish until 1869.  It is made of limestone, with the interior fashioned from blue Minton tiles; the seat is wooden, with cast iron supports and a panelled back made of cement render.  Queen Victoria enjoyed watercolour painting and letter writing while sitting here at the beach.     

Looking north along Osborne Beach.  The rope fence protects a narrow strip of vegetated shingle that has been lost at many other beaches on the Isle of Wight and which relies on a mix of easily-eroded fine sand and rotted seagrass for its stability.  The eelgrass that extends to within 40 metres of the beach's high water mark helps stabilise the soft sediments of the Solent and provides a home to many marine species, such as young shore crabs.

Queen Victoria's bathing machine, built specially for her in 1846 and used regularly during the summer months from 1847 onwards when she stayed at Osborne.  Prince Albert suggested the acquisition of the bathing machine, as he believed sea bathing was beneficial to health.  Such bathing machines were a fixture at 19th century beaches, where aristocratic ladies used them to preserve their modesty.  Although Victoria's bathing machine is more ornate than most, and contains a plumbed toilet and changing room, it was by no means luxurious.  The machine would be rolled out of a covered recess into the water via a 146 metre (479 foot) long set of stone rails; once in place, the curtains hung from the front veranda would conceal Victoria from view as she entered the water.  A wire rope and winch were used to haul the bathing machine back up onto shore once Victoria had re-embarked after her swim.  Following her death in 1901, the bathing machine was used as a chicken shed at nearby Barton Manor until restored in 1951 and put on display at the Swiss Cottage gardens.  In 2012, the bathing machine was relocated to Osborne Beach, close to its original position and placed atop sections of original stone rails.   

The cafe at Osborne Beach, serving tea, coffee, cakes, and homemade ice cream.  Even on an overcast mid-October day, visitors take a few minutes to enjoy a hot beverage or an ice cream while looking out over the water.  The building was originally built as a beach pavilion during the time Osborne served as a military convalescent home after 1903.

The view from the cosy covered porch of the cafe, looking out over the Solent.  During the Second World War, Canadian soldiers practised at Osborne Beach, and the remains of a temporary harbour (codenamed 'Mulberry') are visible further down the beach at low tide.

The Swiss Cottage, an Alpine-style chalet, was built by Prince Albert in 1853-54 for the royal children and designed as a place where they could both play and learn the skills which Albert believed were necessary to make them better rulers.  Princes Edward and Alfred, the two eldest royal sons, helped build the Swiss Cottage, with Prince Albert paying them a standard labourer's wage for their work.  The frieze on the Swiss Cottage is carved with proverbs and quotations from the Psalms, in German, likely intended by Albert to guide his children through life, such as 'You will carry your load more easily if you add patience to the burden'.  Located in a clearing a kilometre from Osborne House and hidden behind a stand of trees, the Swiss Cottage was a refuge for the children, where they learned about cookery, gardening, and housekeeping.  Victoria and Albert's children held fond memories of the Swiss Cottage and often brought their own children to play in it.  Long after her children had grown up, Queen Victoria continued to use the Swiss Cottage herself.

Inside the Swiss Cottage were all the rooms of a typical 19th century home, such as this dining room (known as the Queen's Room), furnished with three-quarter scale furniture, dishes, utensils, and kitchen equipment.  The royal children would bake in the Swiss Cottage's child-sized kitchen and prepare teas and luncheons for their parents and guests.  Queen Victoria would often work on letters and State papers in the Queen's Room.  The table in the Queen's Room is now set as it was on 12 July 1861, the last time the entire family was together before Prince Albert's death later that year.  

The dressing room on the upstairs floor of the Swiss Cottage, outfitted with a cane-seated couch, a wardrobe, an dressing tables.

A closer look at an incredibly ornate, child-sized carved wooden secretaire in the Swiss Cottage dressing room.  The desk was made in Switzerland by Michael Leonz Wetli and purchased at the Great Exhibition of London in 1851, likely for use in the Swiss Cottage.

A display of some of the royal children's objets d'art in the sitting room.  This room was originally used to house the children's museum before their collection outgrew the available space and a dedicated museum building was constructed (see below).    

A display cabinet containing one of the sets of porcelain dishware used by the royal children when playing house.

A toy grocer's shop, 'Spratt, Grocer to Her Majesty', stocked with miniature reproductions of spices, tea, coffee, and other commodities and used to teach the royal children about commerce and bookkeeping.  Prince Albert would check the children's account statements for accuracy. 

The Swiss Cottage Museum, planned by Prince Albert but only completed in 1862, shortly after his death, and handed over to the royal children by Queen Victoria in January 1863. The museum was designed to house the children's growing collection of natural specimens, which had outgrown the available space in the Swiss Cottage.

The inside of the Swiss Cottage Museum is crammed with the royal children's vast collection of natural history specimens, antiquities, fossils, and curios from around the world.  Amongst the thousands of items are the first transatlantic telegraph message, a five-legged deer, and artefacts from the Micmac Indians, collected by Princes Edward and Alfred on separate visits to the Pacific coast of North America in 1860 and 1869.  The display cases are original, though the collection was rearranged in 1916 by the keeper of the King's armoury and curator of the Museum of London.

A large stuffed bird of prey in a glass case sits atop a display of sea shells.  Other displays house additional specimens of birds, butterflies, and even a fox. 

A miniature fort, named Victoria Fort, complete with earthwork redoubts and a child-sized brick barracks building, Albert Barracks, constructed both for play and as an educational tool for the royal children.  Against the backdrop of the Crimean War (1854-56), Victoria and Albert's eldest sons, Princes Edward and Alfred, helped build this fort in May 1856 as a birthday surprise for their mother.  The design was believed to have been the work of Alfred's governor, Lieutenant Cowell of the Royal Engineers, who had served in the Crimean War and supervised the construction of Victoria Fort; the barracks were added in 1860 by Princes Alfred and Arthur, the latter of which helped manufacture the bricks used in its construction.

The garden plots adjacent to the Swiss Cottage, created in 1850.  Each royal child had his or her own garden plot, arranged by age, with the plot of eldest child Victoria, the Princess Royal, at the north end of the garden.  These garden plots, in which each child grew the same flowers, fruit, and vegetables served as an educational resource.  Prince Albert and his brother Ernest had so enjoyed their childhood Swiss cottage and garden beds on the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha family estate in Germany that Albert sought to recreate them for his own children at Osborne.  

Neatly laid-out garden beds maintained by the royal children were used to grow flowers, fruit, and vegetables while learning about horticulture.  When not at Osborne, the royal children's garden plots were looked after by Mr Warne, the Swiss Cottage caretaker, who inspected whatever produce was harvested and gave the children a certificate; Prince Albert would then purchase the produce at market prices.  As Victoria and Albert's eldest son, Edward (the future King Edward VII) was often at school when the rest of the family was at Osborne, his siblings would send Edward boxes of the fruit and vegetables they had grown in their gardens.

Colourful pumpkins grown in the Swiss Cottage gardens are just some of the plant species now maintained by gardeners working for English Heritage.  The gardens beds remained until 1905 as they had been planted by the royal children, after which flowers were grown.  As part of English Heritage's restoration efforts, the beds have been returned to growing fruit and vegetables that would have been available in the 19th century, with many allowed to go to seed so that rare varieties may continue to be propagated. 

Tree-lined Swiss Cottage Road leading from the Swiss Cottage, museum, and gardens back to Osborne House.  This road was one of many walking and riding paths built throughout Osborne, reflecting Victoria and Albert's passion for outdoor activity.   

Osborne House, as seen from across the sprawling lawns of the estate.  The Osborne estate, covering 2,000 acres at its largest extent in 1864, included 400 acres of commercially-managed woodland, harvested for the production of fencing materials.  Additionally, at least 270 trees were planted across the estate to commemorate important visits, anniversaries, births, or deaths, with many of the tree species being new introductions to Britain. 

The main entrance to the walled kitchen garden.  This garden was part of the Blachford family-owned Osborne estate in the late 18th century.  The Portland stone entrance porch of the original Osborne House, built in the 1770s and demolished in 1848 to make way for the current Osborne House built for Queen Victoria and her family, was saved and incorporated into the garden entrance by builder Thomas Cubitt in 1848.  The portico is the only surviving part of the original, Georgian-era Osborne House. 

Visitors enter the walled garden through a doorway leading onto the recreated cross-path layout surrounding various garden beds.  The garden features a number of plants associated with Victoria and Albert and laid out in a contemporary planting style.  

The walled garden originally was used to grow food crops and fruit trees, though by the later years of Queen Victoria's life the emphasis was on growing flowers for display in Osborne House.

Inside one of the two lean-to glasshouses in the walled garden.  Colourful temperate and tropical potted plants grow well in the warm, humid conditions inside.

Bright sunshine basking the plants in the glasshouse.

In addition to potted plants, some of which may be destined for the outdoors in spring, the glasshouses contain raised planters with large specimens, like South American philodendron and cascading ground cover, which are permanent residents.

A large mass of succulents on the right are permanently planted in the glasshouses, while smaller potted plants sit atop benches on the left, against the windows.

The Gothic-style lean-to glasshouses were installed in Osborne's walled garden in 1854 by the firm of Thomas Clark & Company of Birmingham.  They resemble the formerly extensive glasshouses built for Prince Albert at Frogmore, Windsor in the 1840s.

Even in mid-October, the protection afforded by its high brick walls creates a warm micro-climate for the plants inside, many of which still possessed blooms despite the rain and cooler autumn temperatures generally.

The original cross-path layout of the walled garden was restored in 2000 and a garden designed by Kew-trained gardener Rupert Goldby was added.  Roses and period fruit trees grow up iron arches designed by Goldby, which frame one of the paths through the centre of the walled garden.

Trained to grow up the inside wall of the garden as a lattice is a pear tree.  Other such trained fruit trees in the garden include Lane's Prince Albert apples, Victoria plums, Brunswick figs, and lemons.   

Large potted ornamental plants enjoy protection and warmth radiated from the sun-heated brick walls. 

A side entrance to the walled garden.

A final look at the front of Osborne House, bathed in late afternoon sun, 15 October 2019.

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