Baby Archie recently became the newest addition to Britain's Royal Family, offering the ideal excuse to explore royal locations up and down the country. Adding to the excitement around the modern day Royal Family, this year commemorates 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, her legacy continues to thrive and there are some extraordinary sites to visit to mark this special anniversary. Read on to discover more.
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 ornate rooms and beautiful grounds and imagine what life was like growing up as a royal 200 years ago.
Just a short stroll from the palace is the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens – located directly opposite the Royal Albert Hall, a beautiful ornate monument that commemorates the death of Prince Albert. Afterwards, why not spend the afternoon at the nearby V&A Museum – named after Victoria & Albert – the world’s largest museum of decorative art that also houses rare 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).
Venture just an hour from London to 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. 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.
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 is just 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 & Abdul, starring Dame Judi Dench – it was used as a key filming location.
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. To mark the 200-year anniversary of Victoria’s birth, Osborne House will also be hosting a special exhibition about both Victoria and Albert on 28-30 May.
Balmoral Castle remains the Scottish holiday home of the Royal Family today – and it 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. You can even imagine life as a royal yourself and 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 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 Museum also has a new outpost of the museum in the city of Dundee, 1.5 hours from Edinburgh. Ultra-modern and sleek in design, the museum showcases world-class touring exhibitions from the V&A, as well as the best of Scottish design.