English Heritage celebrates the bicentenary of the births of each Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with a new exhibition, Royal Presents at Osborne, specializing in the distinctive stories behind seven presents exchanged by the royal couple.
Osborne itself was, in fact, the Queen and Prince Consort’s supreme present as a personal retreat, for themselves and the royal youngsters. Its state of affairs was superb, within appropriate yet straightforward distance of London, offering the privacy of an island house, so peculiar to their needs. The Queen wrote after visiting the home: ‘It’s unattainable to think about a prettier spot – we’ve an enthralling seashore fairly to ourselves – we will stroll anyplace with out being adopted or mobbed’ (cit., Michael Turner, Osborne Home, 30).
The royal couple bought the property of some 342 acres, with the near-lying Baron Manor. The Queen was overjoyed with Osborne, writing in 1844 in her journal: ‘I’m delighted with the home, all over which we went, and which is so complete and comfortable. The rooms are small but very good. With some few alterations and additions for the youngsters, it is perhaps made a superb home’ (cit., Ibid, 30).
In time, Osborne turned synonymous with the celebration of royal birthdays. For much of her married life, from 1848 till the Prince’s demise in 1861, Queen Victoria tended to have fun her own birthday of 24 Might at Osborne. Presents have been laid out on a special birthday table often known as the ‘Current Desk’, just as that they had been in the Queen’s childhood. A number of watercolours and pictures within the Royal Assortment document Queen Victoria’s birthday table, comparable to those arrange within the Horn Room at Osborne Home, in aquarelles by J. Nash in 1848 and 1849 respectively. The Queen’s birthday in 1849 was, as she recorded in her journal: ‘Welcomed in by the tender love and affection of my dearest Albert, whose care of me and unselfishness, seem yearly to extend’ (cit., HRH The Duchess of York with Benita Stoney, Victoria and Albert, A Family Life at Osborne Home, 127). Amongst these presents was a high-quality Winterhalter portrait of three of the royal youngsters, Princess Louise with Prince Arthur and Prince Leopold, a present from Prince Albert to the Queen for her birthday in 1856; it features in the new exhibition at Osborne.
The thought of a ‘Present Desk’ was not restricted to a royal birthday; Nash additionally painted Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree at Windsor Fort in 1845, displaying the tables across the tree laden with presents. Queen Victoria wrote: ‘at 6 Albert took me into the Blue Closet, the place as normal my frosted tree stood & my presents have been all arranged on a table’ (cit., Louise Cooling, A Royal Christmas, 27).
Equally, James Roberts’s shimmering watercolours of the Christmas timber of the Duchess of Kent and the royal youngsters at Windsor Fort in 1850, for instance, present the tables again filled with presents beneath the flickering branches. Roberts painted the Queen’s birthday table at Osborne in 1854, displaying the room filled with presents. Later examples of present tables embrace the images of the Christmas timber in the Durbar Room at Osborne House, 1896-7, with presents for the Royal Household.
The celebration of the Queen’s birthday at Osborne often started the day before, when Prince Albert checked that all the things was prepared, earlier than ‘the Birthday’ was fetched, as the entire ensemble of presents, decorations and flowers turned recognized (HRH The Duchess of York with Benita Stoney, 120). The day started with music, played for the Queen on the terrace beneath the bed room window. Queen Victoria would rise, gown in summery apparel and be greeted by the idyllic pageant of her own youngsters, waiting for her at the foot of the steps, with nosegays of recent flowers, wearing either muslins or sailor suits. A birthday table was erected within the Council Room at Osborne in 1850, after which one special room was officially designated the ‘Present Room’, situated on the first flooring in one of many spare rooms of the primary wing (Turner, 30). Breakfast followed after the ‘present tables’, a birthday equal maybe, of the ‘Bescherung’, the trade of presents on Christmas Eve at Windsor, in the course of the Prince’s lifetime. Each have been traditional German customs.
On Prince Albert’s birthday, the royal youngsters would assemble outdoors his Dressing Room, before pulling him right down to the ‘Current Room’. The band usually played his Christmas Hymn beneath their windows, when he woke. On one event, the little Princesses Helena and Louise stood in front of the presents ‘dressed as cherubs in blue and pink crape, with little wings, and wreaths of roses and forget-me-nots in their hair. They seemed very candy, holding up a card on which was inscribed “All blessing and happiness” (cit., HRH The Duchess of York with Benita Stoney, 120). For Prince Albert’s birthday in 1852, the Queen introduced him with a big painting by Winterhalter, entitled Florinda, a lavish display of feminine nudes, which the Queen pronounced ‘splendid and delightful’ (cit., Ibid, 122). If this was meant as an ‘erotic’ present, it is an fascinating selection. Famously, Prince Albert’s favorite picture of the Queen was the so-called ‘erotic’ portray, which exhibits Victoria together with her hair loosened and far of her sleek neck exposed, while she wears what is probably, the locket containing Albert’s hair, which had been a present to her. Incidentally, the Queen hung up Florinda in her personal sitting room (Ibid, 123).
Among the many royal birthday presents displayed within the new exhibition at Osborne is an exquisite life-size statue by Mary Thornycroft of the Queen and Prince’s second daughter, Princess Alice as ‘Spring’, stood holding a flower. It was a gift to the Queen from Prince Albert in 1845, when Princess Alice was two-years-old. It is a becoming tribute once we keep in mind that the royal youngsters carried out a tableau years later at Windsor Citadel to mark the ‘Four Seasons’ on the fourteenth wedding ceremony anniversary of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1854 when the Prince of Wales was memorably dressed as the a part of ‘Winter’. Importantly, Princess Alice played ‘the Spring, scattering flowers, and reciting verses, which have been taken from Thomson’s Seasons; she moved gracefully, and spoke in a distinct and pleasing manner with wonderful modulation, and a tone of voice candy and penetrating like that of the Queen’ (cit., Bunsen’s Life, ii. 328, quoted in Alice, Biographical Sketch and Letters, 9).
Princess Alice celebrated her birthday at Osborne in 1848 and was given amongst other presents akin to jewellery, the present of a lamb from the Corporation of Newport, for her fifth birthday. The Queen wrote that it was ‘A stay little lamb all decked out with ribbons… We had it tamed for her by Toward’s daughter. It’s a sweet, mild little factor and enchanted Alice and all the youngsters’ (cit., Turner, 30). The painter Thomas Sidney Cooper painted the lamb at Barton Farm and gave the picture to Princess Alice as his personal late birthday present (Ibid, 30).
Woman Lyttleton, who supervised the royal youngsters wrote of the pet lamb, considerably cautiously: ‘One present I feel we shall all want to stay father off: a reside lamb, all over pink ribbons and bells. He’s already the greatest pet, as one might suppose. Princess Alice’s pet lamb is the cause of many tears. He won’t take to his mistress, however runs away lustily, and can soon butt at her, although she is most coaxy, and stated to him in her sweetest tones, after kissing his nose typically, “Milly, pricey Milly! Do you want me?”’ (cit., Alice, Biographical Sketch and Letters, 6).
Afterward, Princess Alice’s youngsters in Darmstadt assembled a veritable menagerie of their very own, in addition to the more regular presents for princesses, naturally anticipated to experience. Alice’s second daughter, Princess Elisabeth ‘Ella’ of Hesse, acquired a grey pony from Windsor, as a gift from her grandmother, Queen Victoria (Christopher Warwick, Ella: Princess, Saint & Martyr, 40). Among the large quantity of animals, a few of which have been arguably pets for royal youngsters, numbered a baby wild boar and a fox, alongside Alice’s personal bull terrier, ‘Boxer’. Alice’s youngsters also owned a pet lamb, whom Princess Elisabeth ‘Ella’ named ‘Milly’, after the one which Alice had acquired as a toddler at Osborne (Warwick, 39). The lamb grew up and was pulled by ‘Ella’ by a string harnessed at its neck, a questionable lead for the unfortunate animal.
Other presents exhibited at Osborne for the bicentenary embrace, in fact, work. One in every of these is entitled The Grandmother’s Birthday, given to the Queen by the Prince Consort in 1857. One other painting exhibits Maurice, the royal couple’s beloved St Bernard canine, whom they acquired in 1859. Osborne incorporates many examples of the Queen and Prince’s love of canine, including notably, the sculpture on the terrace, displaying Prince Albert’s treasured canine, Eos, who adopted the Prince on his marriage to England from Coburg. Decorative gadgets from the Prince to the Queen embrace a vase and stand and a spectacular pair of candelabra.
Inevitably, Osborne impressed artwork of its personal. Prince Albert was given a set of studs produced from Osborne pebbles by Kitching & Abud, for Christmas, 1845 (Charlotte Gere, Victoria and Albert: Love and artwork: Queen Victoria’s personal jewellery, 13).
Movingly, the last of the Queen’s ‘present tables’ at Osborne was captured as a watercolour by Roberts, in 1861. The room should have been notably lavish because it is actually overflowing with floral wreaths, sprays and bouquets. On this birthday, Queen Victoria wrote in her journal that she had acquired a portrait of the Duchess of Kent – who had died on 16 March 1861 – a landscape portray and numerous things from the youngsters, which that they had embroidered, painted, or sketched (HRH The Duchess of York with Benita Stoney, 136).
Many presents exchanged between the royal couple are already completely displayed within the rooms at Osborne. Probably the most poignant of these is unquestionably the beautiful sculpture group Venus and Cupid, or Innocence in Danger, by Edward Muller, to be seen in the Grand Hall. This was the birthday present meant for Prince Albert from Queen Victoria which he was destined by no means to receive. It was conceived as a present for the Prince’s birthday on 26 August 1862. He, in fact, died at Windsor Fort on 14 December 1861. It stays as a touching present from a Queen to her beloved consort, completed for a birthday he by no means noticed.
After Prince Albert’s dying, the Queen was persuaded to go to Osborne, a shattered widow, in deepest mourning. At Osborne, she wrote in January 1862: ‘The entire home seems to have misplaced its Mild, its very soul’ (cit., HRH The Duchess of York with Benita Stoney, 164). It should have been an excruciating mixture of consolation and agony for the Queen and a black distinction to all the birthdays.
Osborne Home additionally might have been seen by the Queen as something of a personal present to her from Prince Albert, in addition to it being a gift they shared with their youngsters. She had liked it as his creation, simply as she would go on to like Balmoral. She recorded: ‘I get fonder and fonder of it [Osborne]one is so quiet here, and the whole lot is of curiosity, it being so utterly my beloved one’s creation’ (cit., Ibid, 117).