Where did Queen Victoria Live? A tour of castles and palaces.

20th May 2019
As princess and queen, Victoria had a number of favoured places where she and her family would stay. Come with me on a whistle-stop tour of the most important of these. We’ll look at them in chronological order following the course of Victoria’s life, beginning, therefore, with her childhood home ...

Kensington Palace

image of palace with lawns and small figures - Kensington Palace
This charming image of Kensington Palace by William Westall shows the building and surrounding park as it was in the year or Victoria's birth, 1819
Victoria was born at Kensington Palace - 200 years ago in May of 1819. She grew up here and was privately educated here. It was not the happiest period of her life; a dour, friendless growing up for her, with few contacts with the outside world, and few playmates. It was here, upon her accession eighteen years later, that a delegation arrived to inform her that she had become queen, and where she received her first council of ministers.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace, where many a tourist to London goes to see the changing of the guard is a familiar landmark in the capital. But it was not quite the same when Victoria made it her official London residence. She and Albert made extensive alterations to the fabric of the building and had the magnificent front aspect constructed to their own specifications, very similar to the one we are familiar with today.
painting of Buckingham Palace in 1837, lots of sky, cloudy
An engraving by J.Woods shows Buckingham Palace around the time of Victoria's accession, 1837. A courtyard and irregular shape and, as yet, no spectacular facard with its famous balcony.
It was here at the Palace where she gave birth to eight of her nine children. And, of course, many of the great state occasions and banquets were held here throughout her reign.
images of stamps depicting the changing aspects of Buckingham Palace
A fine collection of stamps isued by Royal Mail in 2014 shows the changing aspect of Buckingham House/Palace over the years (the familiar, modern version is shown top-left.)

Windsor Castle

I love old buildings, castles and palaces – not to mention the glorious gardens that go with them. Along with Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle was the principal seat of royalty during the 19th century and both were used extensively. It is a most spectacular and sprawling citidal; a place full of history, and for Victoria and Albert it had the advantage of being out of town, away from the polluted air of London.
painting of windsor castle with terrace at dusk
Windsor Castle: The North Terrace at sunset c.1790 - by Paul Sandby
It was also close to a more tranquil stretch of the river Thames than Buckingham Palace, surrounded by countryside and rolling hills. It was to Windsor where Victoria took her newly wed husband Albert in 1840, and where they spent much of their early family life together.
painting of inner precinct of great castle with marching soldiers and numerous people
A splendid painting of the Lower Bailey at Windsor Castle, 1848, by Joseph Nash, showing marching soldiers and choristers. (St George's Chapel on the left).

Osborne House

Victoria and Albert purchased Osborne on the Isle of Wight (just off the south coast of England) in 1845. The island location offered welcome security in a period of political uncertainty in England and throughout much of Europe. Albert immediately set about transforming the place into a magnificent family home based on an Italianate design, beautifully proportioned and with clock tower and flag tower as salient features. It had up-to-date plumbing and a private beach.
Italianate building with towers surrounded by gardens - Osborne House
Victoria and Albert's Island residence of Osborne House, looking fabulous in this picture from 1905.
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Osborne became Victoria’s favourite residence in later years, most notably because of its seclusion and privacy. She would, in fact, die there - much later in 1901.
victorian italianate style house, large towers, people in foreground
Osborne c. early 20th century. Entrance and carriage ring.

Balmoral Castle

Albert and Victoria adored the scenery and people of the Scottish Highlands, and it was not long before they decided to lease and then, in 1852, to purchase outright the property and estate of Balmoral in Aberdeenshire.
Scottish castle surrounded by trees and mountain landscape
Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire.
Again, as with Osborne, the building and estate were considered in need of extensive alterations and development - and ultimately became transformed into a summer retreat offering plenty of outdoor recreational activity, riding, hunting and picnics. In appearance it grew into something not unlike the kind of Bavarian fairy-tale castle that Albert would have been familar with in his youth.
night time, torch let procession arriving at portico of great house - Balmoral
Detail from the  painting 'Arrival of Nicholas II at Balmoral by Orlando Norie, 1896.

Foreign Excursions

After her husband's untimely death in 1861, the widowed Victoria, despite her supposed reclusive lifestyle, managed to pack in quite a lot of recreational travelling, even deep into old age. Apart from the occasional diplomatic mission or family wedding, one of  her favourite jaunts was to the south of France and the towns of the Riviera coastline. The town of Nice became her favoured location where she would stay for weeks at a time. During her earlier forays she would stay at the Grand Hotel de Cimiez, but soon adopted the newly built Excelsior Hôtel Regina for her later visits: the height of luxury and convenience, with vistas of sea and garden.
It was usually in the early spring when the whole court would move there with her, including servants, secretaries, doctors, ladies-in-waiting, family members and companions. Whole items of furniture were also often moved out, too - and even on occasion her own pony and carriage!
old poster showing hotel in Nice, France during late Victorian era
Old poster from late Victorian era showing the Queens favourite retreat in the South of France - quite a 'palace' in its own right.
So... quite a few places she would have lived in. But, there again, in Victoria’s case, with a reign of 63 years, there was quite a lot of living to do.
Authored by Robert Stephen Parry

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