Posted by: MummyTravels | March 8, 2012

Vintage Victoriana

I’m still trying to decide how much maternity leave I’ll take and how to combine having a baby with work (and travel). But at least I didn’t have to juggle being Queen, Empress and mother of a truly alarming nine children.

Admittedly Queen Victoria wasn’t short of help, but a wander around Osborne House on the Isle of Wight makes for an interesting insight into how she lived when she wanted to be slightly less formal than at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. Dubbed an English country house, designed by a German in the Italian style, the royal getaway was designed by Prince Albert, and became the family’s Christmas escape, as well as a place where Kings, Tsars, Kaisers, emperors and Maharajas were entertained.

If you visit in December, you’ll get a taste of the German festive customs which still influence our celebrations today, but whenever you arrive, you can get some insights into the personalities which influenced it, from the balmy 60C temperature the Queen insisted on (with Tsar Nicholas announcing the rooms were as warm as the frozen wastes of Siberia) to the corner-cutting on the part of the frugal Prince consort.

Large expanses of Osborne House’s marble are actually painted plaster, and while the rooms and corridors used by Queen Victoria had real gold to decorate them, the other stretches had to make do with gold paint to keep the costs down. And everywhere you turn are interlocked V and A symbols, a reminder of the famously devoted couple, before Albert’s death at 42, as you wander the corridors leading to the faintly macabre horn room where all the furniture is made from deer antler and the intricate Durbar room in the later Indian wing.

But for the real insights, join one of the regular tours, to discover some of the royal quirks – such as the fact that Queen Victoria could eat six to seven courses in 30 minutes, with everyone else’s plates whipped away by footmen as soon as she’d finished, learning about her prowess at billiards (but only ever against her ladies in waiting) and her decision to install a lift operated by suitably muscled men rather than a hydraulic option.

Declaration: My trip was arranged with Tourism South-East

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