Christmas at a royal home
Posted by• August 31, 2011
Queen Victoria’s favourite tableaux vivants are to be on show over the Christmas season at Osborne House, the private home built for the queen on the Isle of Wight.
In the 19th century, members of the royal family and their staff used to entertain themselves by dressing up in special costumes for performances of ‘living pictures’, an important part of the seasonal celebrations. This year, visitors will be able to see projected photographs of the royal household’s tableaux vivants when the house is decorated for Christmas in traditional style and with some of the gifts and cards given to Queen Victoria on display. There will also be guided tours explaining how Victoria and her family spent Christmas at Osborne.
The house, which was extensively rebuilt for Victoria and Prince Albert, was the queen’s favourite retreat. She wrote: ‘It is hard to imagine a prettier spot.’ Marble sculptures commissioned by the royal couple line the classical Grand Corridor, portraits and frescos adorn the walls, and the richly decorated Durbar Room celebrates Victoria’s role as Empress of India.
Osborne’s 138 hectares (342 acres) of grounds include formal terraced gardens as well as a miniature fort and barracks for the royal children and a Swiss Cottage where they could learn domestic skills. A myrtle bush on the terrace was grown from a cutting given to Victoria by Albert’s mother. The queen’s eldest daughter Princess Victoria carried a stem in her wedding bouquet and it has become traditional for all royal brides to carry myrtle from this bush. The Duchess of Cambridge carried a sprig when she married HRH Prince William in April.
After Albert died 150 years ago, Victoria chose to spend Christmases at Osborne House with her nine children. Her mourning for Albert’s death softened over the years and Christmases became cheerful with decorated trees, gifts, cards, a lavish celebratory meal and the elaborate tableaux vivants. Victoria died at Osborne 22 January 1901.
A Victorian Christmas weekend with sideshows, singing chimney-sweeps, traditional Victorian fairground stalls and visits from Father Christmas and ‘Queen Victoria’ takes place on 19–20 November.
The Isle of Wight is a short ferry ride from the south coast of England. The Osborne House Christmas decorations are on display from 23 November to 8 January, Wed–Sun 10am–4pm, admission £11.50 adults, £10.40 concessions, £6.90 children, £29.90 family ticket. Victorian Christmas weekend 19–20 November, admission £13.60 adults, £12.39 concessions, £8.20 children, £35.40 family ticket.
Isle of Wight