WITH its golden hue, gothic clock house and tiered fountain, Osborne House wouldn't look out of place on the Italian Riviera.
But the majestic building is actually on the Isle of Wight, where it was built for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a summer home and rural retreat.
They couple chose East Cowes, as Albert loved to look out over the Solent, saying it reminded him of the Bay of Naples in southern Italy.
Built by Thomas Cubitt, who also built Buckingham Palace, the stately home later became a sanctuary for Victoria when she lost her husband.
She loved Osborne House so much she handed it down to son and heir Edward VII with strict instructions not to sell it, and to keep it in the family.
However, he went against her wishes and turned it into a museum. Here we delve into the history of the spectacular villa and take a look inside.
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Little piece of Italy
Osborne House was built between 1845 and 1851, designed by Albert to reflect the style of an Italian Renaissance palazzo.
With its two belvedere towers, it looks very different to the rest of the royals' UK property portfolio.
The house even has its own beach, where Victoria bathed and her children learned to swim.
While Albert designed Osborne House, Victoria came to love staying at the Isle of Wight residence just as much.
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It soon became the go-to residence for big celebrations, with the Victorian royals visiting the home multiple times throughout the year.
They would stay for long periods of time around Victoria's birthday in May, in July and August to celebrate Prince Albert's birthday, and just before Christmas.
After Albert died of typhoid fever in 1861, Victoria would often visit Osborne House to mourn her late husband in peace.
Her trips to the Isle of Wight became longer and more frequent, and it became her sanctuary.
She once said about the property: "It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot."
Victoria loved the estate so much she left strict instructions to her family to keep the house when she died there on January 22, 1901.
But her children didn't share the attachment.
Despite Victoria granting Princess Beatrice and Princess Louise houses on the estate in her will, her son and successor King Edward VII donated Osborne House as a gift to the state on the date of his coronation – August 9, 1902.
The royal apartments on the upper floors of the pavilion wing, including the late Queen's bedroom, were turned into a private museum accessible only to the royal family.
Meanwhile the rest of it became the Royal Naval College, Osborne.
In 1954, Queen Elizabeth II gave permission for the house to be opened to the public. English Heritage has owned and managed it since 1986.
Today visitors can explore Osborne House and soak up its history.
Every room includes intricately carved cornices, ornate furniture, artefacts and fine art.
Royal fans can visit Victoria’s sitting room, including the balcony where she and Albert used to sit and listen to nightingales on summer evenings.
Visitors can even see Victoria’s dressing room bath tub, as well as the bedroom where she died.
The secluded private beach, which first drew Victoria and Albert to the area, features the late Queen's bathing machine – a cart-style contraption to protect her modesty while she undressed before heading into the water.
Hidden in the woods at Osborne House is the Swiss Cottage, the Alpine-style chalet in which Victoria and Albert’s nine children would play and learn housekeeping, cookery and gardening.
The gardens are also a sight to behold, with elaborate fountains, historic plants, colourful flowers – and even orange trees which bloom in the warmer months.
Popular with modern royals
Osborne House is most famous for its myrtle, a flowering plant which has featured in the bouquet of every royal wedding since Victoria and Albert’s eldest daughter, Victoria.
Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Sussex all had Osborne myrtle weaved into their blooms.
King Charles and the late Queen never had the pleasure of living at Osborne House, but modern royals have visited.
In 2014, the Earl and Countess of Wessex took a trip to Osborne House, and marvelled at Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's possessions.
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Four years later, in 2018, the Queen Consort spent some time there with actress Dame Judi Dench.
The two women were photographed giggling as they enjoyed an ice cream on the estate’s private beach.
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