It was the room where Queen Victoria entertained European royalty in the later part of her reign, and designed as a state setting in what had, until then, been her family and personal retreat. Now the Durbar Room at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight has been restored to give visitors will a glimpse of how it would have looked in the 1890s.
The room has been refurbished using photographs of how it looked when Victoria was still alive. As guests step through the door, they will go back in time and see the Durbar Room as she would have seen it – a banqueting hall. They will walk on ornate carpets around a huge dining table set with fine cutlery and crockery to give an idea of the opulent meals held there by Queen Victoria. And they can look up to see the restored plasterwork ceiling – designed originally by Lockwood Kipling whose son, Rudyard, wrote The Jungle Book.
The Durbar Room is one of the few parts of Osborne that was built by Victoria following the death of Prince Albert. The royal couple had acquired the estate as newlyweds in 1845. In the following years, the Prince Consort rebuilt the old house there into an Italian Renaissance style palazzo that became the family’s holiday home and country retreat. When her beloved Albert died, Victoria spent more and more time there.
By the 1890s, Victoria lived increasingly at Osborne and decided the house needed staterooms so that she could hold court there. The Durbar Room was one of the places added as a result. It was decorated by Lockwood Kipling and Bhai Ram Singh.
Osborne House is now managed by English Heritage. They hope that the changes to the room will allow visitors to ‘step into the grandeur of court life and understand Queen Victoria’s relationship with the Empire in her home’s Indian wing’.
The refurbished room, which opens to the public this week, also houses several of the gifts that Queen Victoria received from India for her Golden Jubilee in 1887 and her Diamond celebrations in 1897. There will also be displays encouraging children to get to know the history of the Queen and her beloved residence.
Queen Victoria died at Osborne House on January 22nd 1901. Her son and successor, Edward VII, gave the property to the state and between 1903 and 1921 it was a naval training college before it opened to the public several years later. The improvements to the Durbar Room come just a year after another part of the estate, the Swiss Cottage, was re-opened following a restoration project costing £1.65 million. The cottage was designed by Prince Albert for his children to play in and was formally reopened by the Earl and Countess of Wessex during a visit to the island in 2014.
Visitors to Osborne can step back into another part of Victoria’s reign and see how the queen herself would have entertained the royals of late 19th century Europe as she spent more and more time in the home she had built with her adored Albert. The Durbar Room gives a real insight into how the Queen Empress lived out the last part of her reign.
photo credit: Osborne House via Flickr