In 1843, having decided that they needed a seaside retreat, Queen Victoria (QV) & Prince Albert (PA) thought that the Isle of Wight would be ideal, and first considered Norris Castle which QV had visited in her childhood. Sir Robert Peel, the Prime Minister, instead suggested the Osborne Estate, owned by Lady Blatchford and which the PM knew she was looking to sell. Negotiations were started and despite Lady Blatchford’s insistence upon a price higher than QV & PA wanted to pay, a sale was finally agreed at £26,000. The existing Osborne House however, was a very unattractive building and by the time QV & PA finally took possession in April 1845, PA had already completed his designs for a new house, the foundation stone of which was laid by QV on 23rd June 1845. Given that the original Osborne House was of no artistic, architectural or historic interest or importance, portraits of it are practically unknown either before or after its purchase by QV & PA which is in fact, hardly surprising given how quickly the old house was demolished and replaced by the new one designed by PA (and which was completed for QV & PA to spend their first night there on 15th September 1846). Thus, the time frame for a painting of the old house whilst in royal ownership is very short and at most less than two years.
In addition to the old Osborne House, this painting is also notable for its very rare depiction of the royal yacht Fairy, launched early in 1845 and only commissioned on 9th July the same year. She is very distinctive from all the other royal yachts of the period in that she was screw-powered rather than a paddler like all the others. QV & PA decided to use Fairy’s maiden voyage for a cruise up the Rhine, departing Portsmouth early in August and returning a month later. Clearly, the royal couple decided to break their journey and call at their newly purchased estate at Osborne.
Sale, Phillips, London, Early British and Victorian Paintings, 18th June 1986. with N. R. Omell, London.