A journal filled with gossip and some handwritten notes from Queen Victoria’s court are set to go on display at Osborne House after being bought for nearly £4,000 on Monday.
The ‘court gossip’ book is really the journal of Lt Gen Somerset Calthorpe, a British politician and soldier who served in the Crimean War. Between 1888 and 1901, he visited Osborne House on a number of occasions, attending dinner parties and other private functions, which gave him the chance to observe The Queen’s court in great detail.
‘The Reminiscences of Osborne House 1888 to 1901’ as the journal is titled, includes mentions of Queen Victoria’s failing health, her tendency to fall asleep mid sentence, and her preference for Ryde over Cowes.
The 250-page book also contains descriptions of a visit by Lord Alfred Tennyson, the death of Rudolph, Crown Prince of Austria, who committed suicide with his mistress, and a discussion between the Lieutenant General and Queen Victoria about her portrait in the Peabody Musuem. It was typed out by the Lieutenant General’s daughter May after her father’s death.
The leather bound journal, along with the handwritten notes that accompanied it, was bought by English Heritage, a charity which champions England’s historical places. They were a part of a collection which included a portrait of Lt Gen Somerset Calthorpe and a portrait by Queen Victoria, and fetched around £7,000 at the auction.
“The books describe life at the court in great detail as well as containing doodles and sketches he drew,” said Michael Hunter, the English Heritage curator at Osborne House. “There is far more to life at Osborne than just the official accounts of and by The Royal Family, and we believe this journal will give us some fascinating insights into that world.”
The auction house, Island Auction Rooms, had initially expected the journal to go for £300 – 500 and the notes to sell for £100 – 200. However, both items greatly surpassed their expectations, fetching £2,500 and £1,450 respectively.
Auctioneer Warren Riches said: “The book and the notes give a unique insight into life at Osborne House and it’s great that English Heritage have bought them.”
The journal and notes are to be extensively researched by experts, as part of an ongoing study of the political and court life at Osborne House.
Osborne House is a seaside palace on the Isle of Wight. It was built between 1845 and 1851, and served as a summer home for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The entire Royal Family spent a large part of their year there, and The Queen even allowed photographers and painters to capture the family while they were at Osborne. On 22nd January, 1901, surrounded by her family, Queen Victoria died at Osborne House.
For a few years after her death, the palace was maintained as a private museum, dedicated to The Queen and used only by members of the Royal Family. Following that, it was used as a junior officer training college for the Royal Navy. Today, Osborne House is fully open to the public.