A note to anyone that wishes to visit: give yourself a whole day. The place is remarkable. I have posted some photos of the outside below - I was not allowed to take pictures of the interior. The only thing I have to compare it to in the U.S. is the Vanderbilt Mansion in Newport Rhode Island. And that place is about 1/8 of the size of Osborne. At one time the Osborne estate covered 2,000 acres. It now is 200, but I can imagine the hunting grounds the royal family had at their disposal, that and the fabulous sea.
On my visit I also toured the Swiss Cottage (pictured above in a post card from the 1800s) located on the grounds. The Swiss Cottage was commissioned to be built by Prince Albert as a playhouse for his children. One theory is that he wanted to build a replica of one he remembered from his childhood growing up in Rosenau Coburg, Bavaria. Other theories are that Queen Victoria got the idea from her half-sister Princess Feodore who had a Swiss cottage built for her own children in Baden-Baden. At the time, the Swiss chalet style was popular throughout Germany, France and Britain.
From my readings I learned that the Royal children would enter the cottage, immediately take off their formal clothes and dress in their play clothes. It was here that they could let their hair down, so to speak. They would garden, cook, and do 'normal' things.
While looking through the rooms I couldn't help but wonder if the subject of my own novel - William West Durant - had ever been here, or if he knew about the place when he lived on the Isle of Wight.
It's not too far fetched, as I have discovered from his Egyptian Diaries (1869 & 1873) that he met the Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria's eldest son, in 1869 while they both were touring along the Nile. I have found evidence as well that besides yachting, William lived on the Isle of Wight between 1866-1870 in both Shanklin and Cowes. And even more interesting, in the room that houses the royal children's collectables, were two replicas of Swiss cottages. I couldn't get close enough to tell if they were music boxes, but I wondered if it were possible that at one time these were sold on the Isle of Wight and that William may have acquired one while living there?
Of course where he obtained the Swiss cottage music box that he used as a model for his camps in the Adirondacks is anyone's guess. Anything is possible as William was supported by his father to tour around Europe for much of his youth. Besides the Isle of Wight, I have found in family letters that he stayed in the Gastein Valley of Austria, another popular mountain town said to have healing thermal springs, and plenty of interesting architecture to inspire.
It must have been quite a shock when his father Dr. Thomas Durant showed up in London to inform the family that they were broke and "Oh by the way William, it's time to start earning money instead of spending it. I've got some land investments in the Adirondacks we need to develop."
No wonder then that William sought refuge in the Adirondack Wilderness. It was what he was used to - escaping.