I recently spent a week’s holiday on the Isle of Wight. Every time I visit, I always go to see Osborne, Queen Victoria’s seaside home, and other historical places often associated with royalty. It is in fact quite amazing that an island only 27 miles long can have so many royal connections. Here are as many as I can think of:
This monarch is perhaps the one with the closest associations to the Isle of Wight. She built her seaside home at Osborne. For more information, see my blog about it here Osborne – Queen Victoria’s Seaside Retreat . In 2012, Victoria’s private beach was opened to the public. You can see her alcove where she used to sit and paint, and her bathing machine, or be brave enough to go in the sea yourself! Or just sit on the beach and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere (and build a few sandcastles), like we did.
When Victoria first visited the Isle of Wight, she stayed at Norris Castle, quite near to where Osborne is today.
In Cowes, on The Parade, there is a plaque commemorating Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 by the creation of ‘Victoria Parade’.
Prince Albert, Prince Consort
Albert had quite a connection with Osborne himself, having co-designed it. But to find something slightly different, look at Whippingham St Mildred’s Church. Not far from East Cowes, this was where Victoria and her family used to worship while staying at Osborne. Co-designed by Albert, the small church contains chapels and memorials to many members of the royal family, including Lord Mountbatten, Princess Alice (Victoria’s second daughter), and Victoria’s youngest daughter Princess Beatrice and her husband Prince Henry.
Barton Manor was also designed by Albert and used by the royal family as overflow accommodation to Osborne. It is now a private estate and is only open on a few days each year, in aid of Earl Mountbatten Hospice.
King Edward VIII
Queen Victoria’s son had unhappy memories of Osborne, and gave it to the nation, but he retained Barton Manor for his own private use, extending the gardens and entertaining Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family there in 1909. Barton was sold in 1922.
Edward was Commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes and visited Cowes Week each year.
Victoria’s youngest daughter is buried at Whippingham Church alongside her husband Prince Henry of Battenberg, in the Battenberg Chapel. The couple were married at this church in 1885 and Beatrice was only allowed to marry on condition that she and her husband remain living with Victoria. Private apartments were built for them above the Durbar Wing at Osborne.
Beatrice was made Governor of the Isle of Wight in 1896 on the death of her husband (who had held the post since 1889). She remained Governor until her death in 1944.
After Victoria’s death in 1901, Beatrice moved to Osborne Cottage on the estate. In 1912, she moved to the Governor’s House at Carisbrooke Castle. Today, the Princess Beatrice Garden has been opened at the castle in her memory, showing the garden that was Beatrice’s private retreat.
King Charles I
This monarch has what is known as one of the best connections to the Isle of Wight. He was imprisoned at Carisbrooke Castle in 1647-48 after his defeat by Oliver Cromwell in the English Civil War. He was at first comfortable in the Constable’s Lodging, but was more closely guarded after plotting to continue the war, and his attempt to escape failed when he became wedged in the window bars.
King Henry VIII
Yarmouth Castle was the last and most sophisticated of Henry’s coastal defences, completed after his death in 1547.
Cowes Castle, now home to the Royal Yacht Squadron, is another of Henry’s coastal defences, but all that now remains of the original fort is the semi-circular gun platform with 22 brass signal cannons overlooking the Solent.
Appuldurcombe House, now a ruined shell but interesting to look around, was owned in the sixteenth century by James Worsley, who was a page to Henry VI and was brought up with the young Henry VIII. On Henry VIII’s accession, Worsley was knighted and appointed Keeper of the Wardrobe. In 1511, Worsley was granted a virtual monopoly of official posts on the Isle of Wight. His son, Richard Worsley, is said to have entertained Henry VIII at Appuldurcombe, where the King apparently flew his falcons. The house is now much more modern than it was in Tudor times, but there is an Owl & Falconry Centre next door, where you can hear about falconry in Henry VIII’s time.
King George VI and King William IV
When George was Prince Regent, he was a member of the Yacht Club at Cowes. When he became King in 1820, he allowed it to be renamed the Royal Yacht Club. William VI renamed again and it became the Royal Yacht Squadron. It is arguably the most prestigious yacht club in the world and an integral part of the Cowes Week annual regatta, where boats are started from its home at Cowes Castle by firing of the William VI cannon which once belonged to the ‘Royal Adelaide’.
King Edward VIII and King George VI
The Queen’s uncle and father both trained for the Navy at Osborne when part of the estate became the Royal Naval College, Osborne. The college was formally opened by Edward VII in 1904 and closed in 1921 when the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth was able to supply all the new cadets required.
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh
In 1948, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh were presented with “Bluebottle”, a Dragon boat, paid for by members of the Island Sailing Club in Cowes. Although the Duke did not sail her much, she was sailed by other crews, and won a Bronze Medal in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. She then was used as a sail-training vessel at Britannia Royal Naval College for nearly 40 years. She is usually on loan from Prince Philip to the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, Cornwall but returned to the Isle of Wight temporarily in 2011 to mark the Duke’s 90th Birthday. The Duke is Admiral of the Royal Yacht Squadron and the Queen is their Patron.
The Queen visited Cowes in 2012 as part of her Diamond Jubilee tour of the UK, and unveiled a plaque commemorating the visit close to Queen Victoria’s plaque on The Parade. The Queen also opened the RNLI station at Cowes during her visit.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s ‘Uncle Dickie’, Ist Earl Mountbatten of Burma, who was killed by the IRA in 1979, was a great-grandson of Queen Victoria. He also attended the Royal Naval College, Osborne, and was Governor of the Isle of Wight from 1965 and Lord-Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight from 1974. The Earl Mountbatten Hospice on the island was opened in 1982, as a result of a public appeal in memory of Lord Mountbatten. There are now several charity shops on the island raising money for the hospice.
So if you go to this lovely island, why not see how many ‘royal’ places you can visit.
Are any of your favourite places associated with Royalty? Let us know below
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