History and Stories
Osborne seen from across the terrace

Osborne: History and Stories

The house and estate created by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Osborne are unrivalled for the intimate insight they give us into their private lives. This seaside retreat from court life gave them the chance to indulge their interests and express their tastes. It is truly their creation, from the replica Swiss Cottage where their children learned housekeeping to the extraordinary Durbar Room, a tribute to the queen’s love of India.

Delve into Osborne’s history and the lives of Victoria, Albert and their children here.

Victoria and Albert’s desks, side by side in Queen Victoria’s sitting room at Osborne
Victoria and Albert’s desks, side by side in Queen Victoria’s sitting room at Osborne

Key facts

  • Victoria and Albert bought the Osborne estate in 1845, and built a new mansion here as an escape from court life in London and Windsor.
  • The royal family took delight in their seaside home and each year spent as much time as possible here and at Balmoral, celebrating many special occasions, including Victoria and Albert’s birthdays, at Osborne.
  • Victoria used Osborne for more than 50 years, finding solace here after Albert’s death in 1861. She entertained visiting kings and queens and ministers at the house as well as her own extensive family.
  • Today, the story of a marriage, a family and an empire is revealed in the richly decorated rooms. Visitors can see even Osborne’s most private rooms, including the children’s nursery and the bedroom where Victoria died in 1901.
  • The Italianate design of the house, in which Albert was closely involved, became known as ‘the Osborne style’ and was imitated throughout the British empire.
  • Albert also took a keen interest in the gardens and wider estate, and much of the planting today is to his designs.

Discover Osborne’s history

  • History of Osborne

    Read a full history of Victoria and Albert’s seaside retreat, from the time the royal couple bought the estate to the present day.

  • Queen Victoria

    Queen Victoria was crowned when she was just 18, and her reign lasted 63 years. Find out more about her life and reign.

  • The Osborne Style: from Naples to Melbourne

    Discover how Osborne House’s Italianate design – the inspiration of Prince Albert – came to be imitated in public buildings throughout the British Empire.

  • Queen Victoria’s Children

    Prince Albert and Queen Victoria had nine children, five girls and four boys, over 17 years. Find out more about their personalities and interests.

  • Birthdays at Osborne

    Victoria and Albert were almost always at Osborne for their birthdays. Find out how they celebrated these occasions, and what the gifts they exchanged tell us about their private lives.

  • Osborne Collection Highlights

    The collections at Osborne remain the single most important example of the shared tastes of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. View some of the collection highlights.

  • The First World War and Osborne

    Read the story behind a flower bed created at Osborne in 2018 to commemorate the garden staff of the Royal Parks who lost their lives in the First World War.

  • Sarah Forbes Bonetta

    Read the extraordinary life story of the African child who was ‘gifted’ to Queen Victoria and became her protégée. Both Sarah and her daughter visited the queen at Osborne.

Explore the house and gardens

  • Description of Osborne

    Use this description of the house and gardens to discover how every aspect of Osborne reflects Victoria and Albert’s tastes and style.

  • Explore the Durbar Room

    Explore Osborne’s exquisite banqueting hall with this high definition virtual tour created by Google Arts & Culture.

  • Seasonal Garden Highlights

    At Osborne Victoria and Albert took walks together, grew vegetables with their children, and planted hundreds of trees. Take a journey through a year of seasonal garden highlights at Osborne.

  • The Osborne Swiss Cottage

    Find out how Victoria and Albert’s children used the Swiss Cottage, their very own playhouse built by Prince Albert to imitate an Alpine building.

  • Download a plan

    Download this PDF plan of Osborne to see how the house developed in the course of Queen Victoria’s reign.

  • Buy the guidebook

    This comprehensive guidebook includes a tour and history of the house, with many historical photographs and drawings.

More resources

  • Why Osborne Matters

    Osborne’s importance lies in its uniquely close association with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and in the survival of the house and its original contents largely intact.

  • Research on Osborne

    Learn about the research that has been carried out on Osborne to date, and the gaps that remain in our knowledge.

  • Sources for Osborne

    Use this summary of the main written and visual sources for our knowledge and understanding of Osborne to find out more.

  • Conserving the Osborne terraces

    Discover how English Heritage worked to protect the historic planting that covers the walls of the terraces during conservation work.

More about the Victorians

  • Introduction to Victorian England

    During Queen Victoria’s long reign, Britain acquired unprecedented power and wealth, and its reach extended across the globe.  

  • Victorians: Daily Life

    Although the Victorian era was a period of extreme social inequality, industrialisation brought about rapid changes in everyday life.

  • Victorians: Architecture

    The architectural profession is largely a Victorian creation. From the 1820s, architects began to experiment with a profusion of styles.

  • Victorians: Religion

    The Victorian era saw the Church of England become increasingly only one part of a vibrant and often competitive religious culture.

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