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Osborne House

Osborne House is a former royal residence.

The house was built between 1845 and 1851 for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a summer home and rural retreat. Prince Albert designed the house himself in the style of an Italian Renaissance palazzo. The builder was Thomas Cubitt, the London architect and builder whose company built the main façade of Buckingham Palace for the royal couple in 1847. An earlier smaller house on the site was demolished to make way for a new and far larger house.

Queen Victoria died at Osborne House in January 1901. Following her death, the house became surplus to royal requirements and was given to the state with a few rooms retained as a private royal museum dedicated to Queen Victoria. From 1903 until 1921 it was used as a junior officer training college for the Royal Navy known as the Royal Naval College, Osborne.

The Grounds

The laying out of the estate, gardens and woodlands provided a way for the Prince Consort to prove his knowledge of forestry and landscaping, an area in which previously at the more official royal residences he had been thwarted by the Commissioners of Woods and Forest. Below the gardens was a private beach where the Queen kept her own private bathing machine.

The grounds and The Solent

The grounds include a 'Swiss Cottage'. The cottage was dismantled and brought piece by piece from Switzerland to Osborne where it was reassembled. There, the royal children were encouraged to garden. Each child was given a rectangular plot in which to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers. They would then sell their produce to their father. Prince Albert used this as a way to teach the basics of economics. The children also learned to cook in the Swiss Cottage, which was equipped with a fully functioning kitchen. Both parents saw this kind of education as a way of keeping their children's feet firmly on the ground in spite of their royal status.

During World War I, the secondary wings of Osborne House were used as an officers' convalescent home—Robert Graves and A.A. Milne were two famous patients. Known as King Edward VII Retirement Home for Officers, this later included convalescents from military and civil service backgrounds, until the late 1990s for retired officers of the British Armed Services. The Naval college semi-developed into the nearby T.S. Osborne Sea Cadet unit.