Isle of Wight
THE Queen had a beautiful seaside residence built at Osborne, in the Isle of Wight. Here the Royal Family
enjoyed a more quiet and retired life than was possible at Buckingham Palace or Windsor.
Home in Osbourne
Osborne is indeed a charming home, such as any monarch might well be proud of. From the sea-beach the terraced
ground rises till on the highest terrace, amidst bright flower gardens and fountains and statuary, stands the
stately mansion with its two lofty towers. On the lower terrace, where the myrtles and magnolias, camellia bushes,
and ilexes flourish, are groves and shrubberies. The corridors and rooms within the building, with their luxurious
furniture and adornments, the painting, statuary and richly stocked cabinets, and the magnificent views of sea and
land we must not linger over. Extensive grounds surround this princely home on the land side, and here (as well as
on the terraces), Prince Albert found an ample field for the exercise of his wonderful talent for landscape
gardening. On every hand are seen the impress of his taste and skill. He always looked forward with joy to going to
Osborne. "We shall go," he says in one letter, " on the 27th, to the Isle of Wight for a week, where the fine air
will be of service to Victoria and the children ; and I, partly forester, partly builder, partly farmer, and partly
gardener, expect to be a good deal upon my legs and in the open air." On another occasion the Queen writes from
Osborne : " Albert is so happy here—out all day planting, directing, etc. ; and it is so good for him. It is a
relief to be away from all the bitterness people create for themselves in London."
On the first evening after the Royal Family moved into their new home by the sea, there was a grand
house-warming festival. Prince Albert repeated the hymn sung in Germany on such occasions, and which was written by
Martin Luther. The first verse of the English translation, is :-
"God bless our going out, nor less
Our coming in, and make them sure ; God bless our daily bread, and bless
Whate'er we do—whate'er endure ; In death unto His peace awake us, And heirs of His salvation make us."
Swiss Cottage at Osbourne
The Queen commemorated one of her birthdays at Osborne, by putting the children in possession of the Swiss
Cottage and its grounds, situated about a mile from the Palace, on the extensive Osborne estate. The Swiss Cottage
stands "brown and picturesque, with its deep overhanging eaves, and German inscription carved below the sloping
roof, duly held on by big stones. In front of it lie, all in a row, the nine gardens of the nine children of the
Queen." The place was not intended simply as a playhouse and playground. Besides their flower gardens there were
also vegetable gardens, greenhouses, hothouses, forcing frames, etc., for the children to attend to for two or
three hours a day, under the direction of a gardener. Each of them had a set of tools, duly marked with the name of
the owner. For all work done the children received from the gardener a certificate, which they presented to Prince
Albert, and received the exact market price for their labour. Of course, these earnings were something additional
to their regular allowances of pocket money. There was a carpenter's shop for the boys, who also, under their
father's directions, constructed a very perfect small fortress. For this fortress the princes did all the work with
their own hands, even to the making of the bricks.
For the young princesses, the lower portion of the Swiss Cottage was fitted up as a kitchen, with pantry,
closets, dairy and larder, all as complete as possible, and here these juvenile Royal Highnesses, dressed a la
cuisiniere and with arms white with flour, learned to make cakes and tarts, and all sorts of plain dishes, to cook
the vegetables which they had themselves cultivated, to preserve fruit, and to prepare different sorts of pickles.
In fact, they were trained to be good English housewives. Sometimes they partook of the food they had themselves
prepared, and sometimes, on very special occasions, invited the Queen and Prince Albert to come and partake of a
repast at the Swiss Cottage. But as a rule, the results of the kitchen labours were distributed to the poor of the
neighbourhood. From their later positions of exalted state in grand Palaces, no doubt the happiness and fun of
those young days have often been fondly looked back to by those who then worked or played side by side in the Swiss
Cottage and its pleasant grounds.
Museum of Natural History
But the building we have been referring to also contained a Museum of Natural History, and other curiosities.
The greater portion of the contents of this museum had been collected by different members of the Royal Family in
their rambles and excursions. There were specimens illustrating botany and geology, stuffed birds and other
animals, as well as numerous articles designed and constructed by the children themselves, and various curiosities
of which they had become possessed.
Queen Helps Two Orphans
Among the various objects in this museum are the clothing of two infants. One set of things was evidently worn
by a child whose parents were in good circumstances ; the other set comprises articles of a humbler description.
Visitors who obtain permission to inspect the contents of the Swiss Cottage are always attracted by this
collection, which awakens a very painful interest. The garments belonged to two infants who were the sole survivors
of a shipwreck. The clothes afforded no clue to the parentage of the children, whose origin is thus involved in
mystery. Queen Victoria hearing of the circumstance kindly took upon herself the responsibility for the care of the
infants. They were reared and brought up on the Osborne estate under Her Majesty's supervision, and, after being
suitably educated, were placed in the Royal Navy.
The poor round Osborne, like the poor round Balmoral, have received much kindness from the Queen and her
family. The Queen has, in a quiet way, given personal attention in many cases. A clergyman not many years ago,
calling on an aged parishioner near Osborne, found as he entered the Invalid's room, that a lady in deep mourning
was kitting by the bedside. As he came in, he heard her finish reading a verse from the Bible. He was about to go
away, when the lady said : " Pray stay. I should not wish the invalid to lose the comfort which a clergyman might
afford." The lady then retired, and the clergyman found lying on the bed a book with portions of scripture suitable
for sick persons. From that book the lady in black, who was the Queen of England, had been reading. Many similar
circumstances are known to those who have visited amongst the poor in that district.