Isle of Wight

THE Queen had a beautiful seaside residence built at Osborne, in the Isle of Wight. Here the Royal Family enjoyed a more quiet and retired life than was possible at Buckingham Palace or Windsor.

Home in Osbourne

Osborne is indeed a charming home, such as any monarch might well be proud of. From the sea-beach the terraced ground rises till on the highest terrace, amidst bright flower gardens and fountains and statuary, stands the stately mansion with its two lofty towers. On the lower terrace, where the myrtles and magnolias, camellia bushes, and ilexes flourish, are groves and shrubberies. The corridors and rooms within the building, with their luxurious furniture and adornments, the painting, statuary and richly stocked cabinets, and the magnificent views of sea and land we must not linger over. Extensive grounds surround this princely home on the land side, and here (as well as on the terraces), Prince Albert found an ample field for the exercise of his wonderful talent for landscape gardening. On every hand are seen the impress of his taste and skill. He always looked forward with joy to going to Osborne. "We shall go," he says in one letter, " on the 27th, to the Isle of Wight for a week, where the fine air will be of service to Victoria and the children ; and I, partly forester, partly builder, partly farmer, and partly gardener, expect to be a good deal upon my legs and in the open air." On another occasion the Queen writes from Osborne : " Albert is so happy here—out all day planting, directing, etc. ; and it is so good for him. It is a relief to be away from all the bitterness people create for themselves in London."

On the first evening after the Royal Family moved into their new home by the sea, there was a grand house-warming festival. Prince Albert repeated the hymn sung in Germany on such occasions, and which was written by Martin Luther. The first verse of the English translation, is :-

"God bless our going out, nor less
Our coming in, and make them sure ; God bless our daily bread, and bless
Whate'er we do—whate'er endure ; In death unto His peace awake us, And heirs of His salvation make us."

Swiss Cottage at Osbourne

The Queen commemorated one of her birthdays at Osborne, by putting the children in possession of the Swiss Cottage and its grounds, situated about a mile from the Palace, on the extensive Osborne estate. The Swiss Cottage stands "brown and picturesque, with its deep overhanging eaves, and German inscription carved below the sloping roof, duly held on by big stones. In front of it lie, all in a row, the nine gardens of the nine children of the Queen." The place was not intended simply as a playhouse and playground. Besides their flower gardens there were also vegetable gardens, greenhouses, hothouses, forcing frames, etc., for the children to attend to for two or three hours a day, under the direction of a gardener. Each of them had a set of tools, duly marked with the name of the owner. For all work done the children received from the gardener a certificate, which they presented to Prince Albert, and received the exact market price for their labour. Of course, these earnings were something additional to their regular allowances of pocket money. There was a carpenter's shop for the boys, who also, under their father's directions, constructed a very perfect small fortress. For this fortress the princes did all the work with their own hands, even to the making of the bricks.

Princesses Kitchen

For the young princesses, the lower portion of the Swiss Cottage was fitted up as a kitchen, with pantry, closets, dairy and larder, all as complete as possible, and here these juvenile Royal Highnesses, dressed a la cuisiniere and with arms white with flour, learned to make cakes and tarts, and all sorts of plain dishes, to cook the vegetables which they had themselves cultivated, to preserve fruit, and to prepare different sorts of pickles. In fact, they were trained to be good English housewives. Sometimes they partook of the food they had themselves prepared, and sometimes, on very special occasions, invited the Queen and Prince Albert to come and partake of a repast at the Swiss Cottage. But as a rule, the results of the kitchen labours were distributed to the poor of the neighbourhood. From their later positions of exalted state in grand Palaces, no doubt the happiness and fun of those young days have often been fondly looked back to by those who then worked or played side by side in the Swiss Cottage and its pleasant grounds.

Museum of Natural History

But the building we have been referring to also contained a Museum of Natural History, and other curiosities. The greater portion of the contents of this museum had been collected by different members of the Royal Family in their rambles and excursions. There were specimens illustrating botany and geology, stuffed birds and other animals, as well as numerous articles designed and constructed by the children themselves, and various curiosities of which they had become possessed.

Queen Helps Two Orphans

Among the various objects in this museum are the clothing of two infants. One set of things was evidently worn by a child whose parents were in good circumstances ; the other set comprises articles of a humbler description. Visitors who obtain permission to inspect the contents of the Swiss Cottage are always attracted by this collection, which awakens a very painful interest. The garments belonged to two infants who were the sole survivors of a shipwreck. The clothes afforded no clue to the parentage of the children, whose origin is thus involved in mystery. Queen Victoria hearing of the circumstance kindly took upon herself the responsibility for the care of the infants. They were reared and brought up on the Osborne estate under Her Majesty's supervision, and, after being suitably educated, were placed in the Royal Navy.

The poor round Osborne, like the poor round Balmoral, have received much kindness from the Queen and her family. The Queen has, in a quiet way, given personal attention in many cases. A clergyman not many years ago, calling on an aged parishioner near Osborne, found as he entered the Invalid's room, that a lady in deep mourning was kitting by the bedside. As he came in, he heard her finish reading a verse from the Bible. He was about to go away, when the lady said : " Pray stay. I should not wish the invalid to lose the comfort which a clergyman might afford." The lady then retired, and the clergyman found lying on the bed a book with portions of scripture suitable for sick persons. From that book the lady in black, who was the Queen of England, had been reading. Many similar circumstances are known to those who have visited amongst the poor in that district.