Prince Harry is days away from his wedding and a new little prince was born just last month to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – 2018 has, so far, shone a spotlight on all things royal. And, as we look ahead into the next 12 months it looks set to continue, with 2019 the year we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of William and Harry’s great-great-great-great grandmother – Queen Victoria. The second-longest reigning monarch in British history, Queen Victoria’s legacy continues to thrive and there are some extraordinary sites to visit to mark this special anniversary.
If you’re in London…
A trip to Kensington Palace is a must. Princess Victoria was born here on 24 May 1819 and the palace was her childhood home (it’s also now the London residence of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle). Explore the dazzling exhibition Victoria Revealed that opened earlier this year and will run until January 2020. Packed with intimate accounts of her intriguing reign, visitors will gain insights into her and Prince Albert’s characters, and can admire personal objects such as letters and journals. Stars of the show include tiaras from the collection of the Dukes of Fife, descendants of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Louise, such as her Emerald and Diamond Parure (tiara, necklace, earrings and brooch), a gift commissioned by Prince Albert.
Just a short stroll from the palace is the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens – located directly opposite the Royal Albert Hall, an exquisitely ornate monument that commemorates the death of Prince Albert. Follow a visit with an afternoon at the nearby V&A Museum – named after Victoria & Albert – the world’s largest museum of decorative art and where you’ll discover photographs of Victoria in its collections.
If you’re visiting Buckingham Palace – Victoria was the first monarch to rule from here – you’ll spot the resplendent Queen Victoria Memorial right in front. Comprising the magnificent white marble monument of Victoria that was built to commemorate her death in 1901, it’s also home to the Memorial Gardens and the Dominion Gates (Canada Gate, Australia Gate and South and West Africa Gates).
Famous London landmarks such as Westminster Abbey and St James Palace also have strong links to Queen Victoria; the former, as she was crowned there in 1830 and the latter, because it was where she married Prince Albert (although the public cannot visit inside the palace).
If you’re in Windsor, Berkshire…
Just an hour from London is Windsor Castle, where Queen Victoria resided for part of each year. Marvel at the splendid State Apartments within the walls of this largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, where you’ll discover thousands of objects and art collected during Queen Victoria’s reign. And both Victoria and Albert’s tombs are at rest in the private grounds of Windsor, at Frogmore House, in the Royal Mausoleum. There are rumours afoot that Queen Victoria’s tomb will be reopened to the public, although this has yet to be confirmed.
If you’re on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England…
A favourite holiday destination for Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their large family of nine children, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight – a 20-minute ferry ride from Portsmouth, which itself is two hours by train from London – is a must-visit for any fan of Victoriana. It’s quite the palatial holiday home and visitors can walk among the opulent state rooms to admire the remarkable collections from the British Empire, which, by Victoria’s death in 1901, stretched across nearly a quarter of the globe. You may also recognise Osborne House from the recent film Victoria and Abdul, starring Dame Judi Dench – it was used as a film location.
But it’s not just the lives of Victoria and Albert you’ll gain an insight into at Osborne House, but also the childhoods of the royal couple’s children, particularly in the impressive Swiss Cottage in the grounds of the house. And, next year, to mark the 200-year anniversary of Victoria’s birth, Osborne House will be hosting a special exhibition about both Victoria and Albert.
If you’re in Scotland…
Balmoral Castle remains the Scottish holiday home of the Royal Family today – and was very much a favourite of Victoria and Albert’s. It was Albert who first brought his vision to the beautiful gardens here and visitors are welcome to tour Balmoral, usually between the end of March and end of July. Be sure to visit the spectacular Castle Ballroom and its fine works of art and artefacts. And imagining you are a royal yourself is well within your grasp as you can book to stay at the estate’s cottages, available when the Royal Family are not in residence.
The Highlands of Scotland also played an integral role in Victoria’s life; scenes in Victoria & Abdul were therefore filmed here, including the breathtaking landscapes of Glen Affric and Glenfeshie in the Cairngorms National Park. Queen Victoria was also known to have visited Ardverikie Estate as well as the magical Blair Castle. The area even has a Victorian Heritage Trail you can follow, taking in steam railways, country estates and distilleries.
London’s V&A is also opening a new outpost of the museum on 15 September in the city of Dundee, 1.5 hours from Edinburgh. Ultra-modern and sleek in design, the museum launches with the spectacular Ocean Liners: Speed & Style exhibition, and will also showcase world-class touring exhibitions from the V&A, as well as the best of Scottish design.
For more information contact:
VisitBritain Media Teampressandpr@visitbritain.com