Written by Susan Flanders
Tuesday, 04 April 2006
Victoria and Albert were married only several years and their family was beginning to grow slowly, with the addition of their children. The couple had restored not only dignity to the crown, but were an endless source of fascination for the nation.The young family represented stability and the young Queen took very seriously the many tasks undertook in relation to her role as Head of State. She was supremely happy with her husband and her private life was becoming more and more precious to her. More than anything, what she wanted was a normal family life...just like everyone else.
Whilst the Queen loved the excitement of being in London, she noticed that Albert was much happier while they were in the country. It seemed to soothe and invigorate him. It was therefore always a source of sadness to them when a visit to the country was nearing its close...yet, Victoria couldn’t often be away. Her Ministers would never hear of it.
As monarch, she had use of Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace in London, each one having its advantages as well as its drawbacks. Windsor was much too large and didn’t have the cosiness she craved.In turn, the Palace was really not ideal for the sovereign's growing family, who felt at times as if they were living in a goldfish bowl. Even when trying to go out for a walk, invariably there would be someone there to see them. There was no privacy.Windsor was preferable, and undoubtedly the more beautiful, but both homes belonged to the Crown. Victoria and Albert weren’t free to do as they pleased.
Ever sensitive to her husband's needs, the Queen pondered this and knew that Albert perceived both places as hers, and not his. Why couldn’t they, like any other married couple, have a home of their own?One day as the royal couple were taking a walk, they discussed this at length. If the new home could accommodate their servants and the Privy Council (if needed) it might work. There must also be room for the Prime Minister and important guests, as well as the ever-present aides, such as Private Secretaries.Excitedly, they discussed the options and decided they wanted to find a property of their own, to be paid for with their own money. If this could be achieved, they would own their very own home which, as Victoria mused, "would be so nice".
The young Queen remembered a special place from her youth: the Isle of Wight. That's where Norris Castle was and she had gone there with her mother in the summers while she was young.When thinking back to that carefree time near the sea, it brought with it happy images of her dogs running near the ocean, spending time outdoors, the smell of the sea and sleeping soundly through the night. 'Oh', she thought, 'if only I had bought it years ago when it was offered to me!'Sadly, she had not.
Soon, however, the royal couple were made aware of another home for sale on the Isle of Wight called Osborne. Albert went first to look at the house and property, alone. He arrived home late in the evening and the Queen excitedly awaited his impressions. Albert was happy with what he saw, Victoria recording that he was "much pleased".They decided it would be wise to take a lease on the house for a year and, if they liked it, they could make the arrangements to buy it and make the necessary alterations to accommodate their staff, and to make it comfortable for the family.
Seeing the house for the first time made quite an impression on the Queen. After sailing across the Solvent, they approached the property. Victoria was ecstatic. Noting that it was "delightfully private" — which was very important to her — they stayed on for several days to look over the house and spent hours alone investigating the property, going through the woods and strolling along the beach, with its beautiful panorama of blue waters.Victoria was thrilled with the house and grounds and felt it was paradise.
The burden of duties on herself and Albert was causing both to feel prematurely aged. They were tired but now, finally, they would have a place to rest and to be totally alone.What more could the Queen want?Her husband was evidently happy here, on this lush land, and she loved the bracing sea air, which would be so good for them. She pronounced that the house was "so complete and snug."
Victoria, who looked to Albert for wisdom in so many things, saw an excitement in him, an aliveness whilst he was on the property. She could see in his eyes that he loved the land and the sea, and the feeling of it all. She felt confident they would buy Osborne.Albert began to talk to her about what accommodations would need to be arranged, and spoke too about their future. He came up with ideas for the landscape and gardens and they even imagined that there might be a walk to the sea, lined by large evergreens. He reeled off the names of trees and plants that they might want to buy, and walked around the land, studying it's layout, all the time pointing out his ideas to his adoring wife. It was the beginning of a new life.
After some difficulties finalizing the sale, as well as the time it took to acquire the properties surrounding Osborne to assure their privacy, the royal couple's dream began to be realized. Albert made the purchase from their personal finances. Finally, they had their own home!The Queen's Ministers had no real problem with the idea of her "vacation" home, and Albert was excitedly working on the plans for the house. It was wonderful to see him so happy, so content and eager to create for himself and his beloved family the safe haven they needed. They would be in total seclusion.
Victoria and Albert were never more excited.There was also an added bonus to this delightful place: when sailing across the Solent to Osborne, the Queen could disembark on her very own property! About hew new home, Victoria wrote to (her former Prime Minister) Lord Melbourne: "It is impossible to see a prettier place, with woods and valleys and points de vue, which would be beautiful anywhere; but all this near the sea (the woods grow into the sea) is quite perfection. We have a charming beach quite to ourselves. The sea was so blue and calm that the Prince said it was like Naples. And then we can walk about anywhere by ourselves without fear of being followed and mobbed, which Lord Melbourne will easy understand is delightful."
Part II Below