by Victoria Hinshaw, with Kristine Hughes Patrone

via English Heritage

In 1845, Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert bought property on the Isle of Wight. The Prince designed the house, in coordination with architect Thomas Cubitt, to reflect his taste for Italian-style villas; Albert was known to compare the view of the Solent with the Bay of Naples, though I found this quite a stretch.


To Quote the guidebook, “The house and estate created by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Osborne are unrivaled in terms of the intimate insight they can give into their private lives. The story of a marriage, a family, and an empire is told in the richly decorated rooms and the treasures they contain. The tranquil gardens and wider landscape were vitally important for a couple seeking an escape from court life.”

Kristine and I followed the route laid out for visitors to see the state and family rooms, beginning with the Grand Corridor, almost a sculpture gallery.


Nymph and Cupid by Edward Muller, a birthday gift for Albert before his death in 1861

The Marine Venus from the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, purchased at the Stowe Sale of 1847


The Council Room

Even though she was at Osborne House with her family, Queen Victoria met with her privy council here.  In the center of the ceiling is the badge of the Order of the Garter.

The ceiling of the Council Room
Copy of Winterhalter portrait of the Queen in Sevres porcelain, gift of King Louis Philippe of France
The Audience Room

The Queen received official visitors in the Audience Room. Below, Queen Victoria’s collie, Noble, sculpted by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm.

We could hardly believe the feast for our eyes: the floor designs, the decorated ceilings, the artworks, the furniture, and rugs…but we had hardly begun. On the ground floor of the Pavilion, which was the family home, we find the dining room,  drawing room, and the billiard room.

Copy of Winterhalter’s family portrait hung above the dining room sideboard

Instruments to ensure perfect alignment of place settings

The dining room opens into the drawing room, decorated in yellow silk, a favorite decor of Queen Victoria’s.

The Billiard Room is adjacent to the Drawing Room.

close-up of the billiard table leg

Before we go upstairs, let’s take a break…

Grand Staircase
The tea room afforded us a welcome rest and sustaining drinks.

In Victoria’s later years, this room was used as a comfortably accessible chapel.

In Osborne House – Part Two, we will visit the personal rooms of the Queen and her Prince Consort, and the nursery.


If you’d like to see Osborne House first-hand, please take a look at Number One London’s 2019 Queen Victoria Tour – also on the itinerary are Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Royal Pavilion at Brighton.


From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)

Four-horse coach weighs a ton; a single brougham, the lightest close carriage built, weighs about seven hundredweight: the carriage horse has thus not much of a weight to pull, but he has to pull it at a good pace, and it is the pace that kills. In quick work nowadays it is as much as an average carriage horse can do to travel fourteen miles a day for five days only of the week.

Eighty per cent of the magnificent animals that draw the family coaches to the Queen’s drawing-rooms are on hire from the jobmaster. If you keep them and shoe them yourself at your own stables, you can get them for a hundred guineas a year; if you want them only from April to July, you will be lucky to get them for six guineas a week, taking them by the month; or if you want them in the off season, you can, perhaps, have them cheap at sixteen guineas a month. If the jobmaster keeps them and shoes them at his stables, his charge is nearly double. This is for what is known as ‘state coach horses,’ but good carriage horses cost as much. Some jobmasters will provide you with brougham and horse, and everything but the coachman’s livery, for 200L a year, but only on the condition that you never go outside the seven-miles radius from Charing Cross. In fact, the first-class carriage horse is a somewhat unsatisfactory investment; it is safer to hire than to buy him; and hence the importance of the jobmaster in the horse-world of London.

There are some of the London jobmasters with 500 pairs out among the carriage folk, and several with over a hundred pairs. These horses are nearly all geldings, and they almost all begin their carriage work when they are four and a half years old; if they are bought before, they have to be kept till fit, which is another way of saying that there is little monetary advantage in buying them young, as the cost of their keep increases their price. Out of each thousand, three hundred are cleared out of the stables in a year to the auction mart, and about twenty-five die from accident or disease.

How many carriage horses are there in London? By the courtesy of the Board of Inland Revenue we are enabled to speak precisely with regard to the number of carriages. During the year ending March 31, 1891, the number of carriage licences issued within the Administrative County of London was 22,204. Of these, 7,955 were for carriages with four or more wheels drawn by two or more horses; 7,535 for carriages with four or more wheels but fitted to be drawn by one horse only, and 6,714 for carriages with less than four wheels. Of course, this is independent altogether of the hackney carriages which are given in the Metropolitan Police report, and of all vehicles, carts, vans and otherwise, used in trade. These carriages have probably about forty thousand horses, varying in value from the twenty-guinea pony up to the four-hundred-guinea state-coach horse; to average them is almost impossible, although the lot would certainly represent more than 2,500,000L at present prices.

There are just double as many private carriages in London as there are cabs, and they range from the fifteen-guinea pony trap up to the three-hundred-guinea chariot, and beyond to the gorgeous official coaches including the Lord Mayor’s carriage, which pays duty like the rest. How to sort out the proportions we candidly do not know, but if we adopt for the capital they represent the excellent principle suggested by Mr. Montague Tigg, ‘and put down a one, and as many noughts as we can get in the line,’ we shall have a million’s worth, and average our vehicles at 45L each, which is about half what they are generally said to amount to.

Doubling the million, then, and adding to it the two millions and a half for the horses, and another half million for the stabling and harness, we arrive at five millions as the approximate value of the London private carriages and their horses, with their stables and coach-houses. In the last half million we are well enough within the mark to allow for any excess we may have made in the other items, for a set of pony harness will cost 51., and much of the double chariot harness seen in St. James’s Street during a drawing-room is worth from thirty to forty pounds a set; and for stable accommodation the stock estimate is 151. per horse.

The stabling in a London mews has not the best of reputations, and its accommodation compares unfavourably with that obtainable at a; in fact, it is owing in a great measure to the stable difficulty that so many people job their horses during the London season. The horse of pleasure is not like the horse of trade; he is worked at all hours, but rarely with regularity; he is kept healthy with exercise instead of work; and consequently he has to be carefully looked after, and wants the best of housing, which in London he does not always get.

A large number of these showy carriage horses are Cleveland bays, bred in North Yorkshire and South Durham, such horses as in recent years have been sold at from 30 pounds to 60 pounds as stud-book foals, at from pounds to 70 pounds as yearlings, and at from 60 pounds to 160 pounds as two-year olds. At one time the Cleveland mare was almost the only mother of our best carriage horses, but of late a good many of them trace their maternal pedigree through the Clydesdale breed, the result being a gain in hardiness and in the firmness and fitness of the feet for the hard paving of the town streets. But there are thousands which are neither Clevelands nor Clydesdales, and are bred from a Yorkshire coach-horse and a thoroughbred mare, or from the humble hackney stallion and half-bred mare, such as may occasionally be found in our omnibus and van stables. And there are thousands that are not home-bred at all. In every county in England the foreign ‘ machiner’ will be found ousting the native, and in Hyde Park during the season he will be found in dozens, unmistakable though unlabelled, crawling along as leisurely as if his owner or hirer were like the great Earl of Chesterfield rehearsing a funeral.

Part Two coming soon!


The Royal Pavilion, Brighton

One of the most iconic buildings in England, Brighton’s Royal Pavilion has come to symbolize the decadence of the Regency Period. Built as George IV’s pleasure palace by the sea, the Pavilion continues to astonish visitors, just as it did in the 19th century. Even the typically unflappable Duke of Wellington was taken aback by the Pavilion’s excesses and the Prince’s flamboyant style of interior decor. 

Princess Lieven recorded the Duke’s reaction upon first seeing the Pavilion in a letter to her husband written from Brighton on January 26, 1822:

I wish you were here to laugh. You cannot imagine how astonished the Duke of Wellington is. He had not been here before, and I thoroughly enjoy noting the kind of remark and the kind of surprise that the whole household evokes in a new-comer. I do not believe that, since the days of Heliogabalus, there have been such magnificence and such luxury. There is something effeminate in it which is disgusting. One spends the evening half-lying on cushions; the lights are dazzling; there are perfumes, music, liquers – “Devil take me, I think I must have got into bad company.” You can guess who said that, and the tone in which it was said. . . . ” 

After the death of the Prince Regent, his brother, King William IV, and later Queen Victoria, both visited the Pavilion. However, by Queen Victoria’s time, the town of Brighton had become much more developed and the population increased accordingly. Queen Victoria felt that the property could no longer afford herself and her family the seclusion they required and she sold the building to the Corporation of Brighton in 1850.

George IV
Queen Victoria

Today, the Royal Pavilion has been restored to it’s former Regency glory and is still astonishing the many visitors who arrive daily to experience the grandeur first-hand. Number One London Tours invites you to join us for a tour of the Royal Pavilion as part of the itinerary for our 2019 Queen Victoria Tour or our 2020 Regency Tour.

The video below offers the most comprehensive tour of the Pavilion’s interiors I’ve seen and it also includes a good overview of it’s history, so I’ve chosen to include it despite the interpreter’s very animated delivery. Final bit of trivia – Ironically, all of the kitchen copper-ware you’ll see in the video was once the property of the first Duke of Wellington and bears his ducal crest. It was transferred to the Pavilion in the 1950s, when Apsley House was placed under the control of English Heritage. 



HOW TO ELOPE LIKE A GEORGIAN by Guest Blogger Gina Conkle

by Guest Blogger Gina Conkle

Oh, the naughtiness of a quickie wedding! Early Georgian England teemed with elopements, creating scores of under-aged brides and pesky bigamists. During that era, people could marry wherever and whenever they wanted, as long as a clergyman presided over the ceremony.

By the 1740s, fast weddings in England became a booming industry thanks to shady clergymen in London’s Southwark ward. Because of those few bad apples, people called for lawmakers to correct marriage license loopholes. But first…

A Little History behind the History

In medieval times, people were expected to say their vows in either the bride or groom’s home parish. The church required banns* read from the pulpit for three consecutive weeks. The purpose of the banns? If anyone knew why the bride and groom shouldn’t wed, that was the time to speak up for things like consanguinity or if one of the parties was already wed.

If no objections came to light, the bride and groom wed on the church steps. Weddings were supposed to be public, not secret affairs. This worked in agrarian England.

But, the church allowed another avenue—the marriage license.

As London grew, so did the number of weddings by marriage license.

Then Came the Money

Lawmakers of the 16th and 17th century decreed fees must be paid for marriage licenses. Since marriage was considered a lifelong compact, the marriage license fee was not small. Tradesmen paid a week’s wages to wed their true love.

By the mid-17th century, marriage by license increased dramatically. Saying those hallowed vows became an industry. Illicit marriages spread. And one parish church caused courts and families many a headache—St. George’s in Southwark.

With problems such as bigamy on the rise and clergyman overlooking parental consent for the underaged, citizens demanded parliament act. Lord Hardwicke’s “An Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage” was the answer (called The Marriage Act of 1753 but passed March 25, 1754).

No one under 21 years of age could get married without parental consent. Clergymen who broke the law were subject to 14 years transportation (i.e. shipped off to the colonies to serve the Crown there). Fleet Prison marriages were shut down too.

Quickie weddings came to a screeching halt in England but not in Scotland.

Stubborn Scots

Scotland, the convenient northern neighbor, did their own thing. Scotland allowed for irregular marriages if two witnesses were present. The term “anvil weddings” was popular because many a Scottish blacksmith presided over the vows. What you might not know is fishermen, weavers, horse saddlers, cobblers, and mole-catchers did too. Blacksmiths got the most press with one famously telling the London Times in 1843 that he performed more than 3500 weddings.

Most romance readers know of Gretna Green. Lots of romance novels use Gretna Green. It’s the capital of fast weddings just over the western side of the border. But there was another famous wedding village—Coldstream on the eastern side of the Scottish-English border.

The Bridge to Love

Coldstream was a sleepy Scottish village during Georgian times. Just over the border on the English side, was Cornhill with the River Tweed running between them. Both towns are small to this day, but things changed in 1768 when the government built the Coldstream Bridge. The wide stone bridge was perfect to accommodate booming stagecoach business. The popular London to Edinburgh line was a major artery with several stops at small villages along the way.

Fast travel opened the door to fast weddings. Other villages saw wedding traffic, but Gretna Green and Coldstream were the two famed places.

You could say Gretna Green was the Vegas of elopements, and Coldstream was the Georgian Reno.

*Banns were a proclamation done in church from late 12th century

Gina Conkle writes lush Viking romance and sensual Georgian romance. Her books always offer a fresh, addictive spin on the genre with the witty banter and sexual tension that readers crave. She grew up in southern California and despite all that sunshine, Gina loves books over beaches and stone castles over sand castles. Now she lives in Michigan with her favorite alpha male, Brian, and their two sons where she enjoys recreating recipes from the past.

Gina’s website can be found here and you can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and BookBub. You can also subscribe to Gina’s newsletter for Bonus Reads.




by Victoria Hinshaw

I recently visited the new addition to the Royal Academy in London and concentrated on the addition of the building at 6 Burlington Gardens to the campus, in a very sympathetic renovation.

An exhibition showing early works, founding members, and methods of teaching emphasized learning to paint and sculpt by copying great works of art, as seen in the first part of this post.  Another great work of art used for copying purposes was Leonardo de Vinci’s Last Supper in a copy made in the 16th century by the master’s students. It was purchased and hung in the RA in 1817 as an inspiration for the students and fellows.

Copy of The Last Supper

Several  copies of works by Michelangelo were included in a section of the exhibition called “Michelangelo as Muse.”

The Taddei Tondo, a.k.a. The Virgin and Child with the infant St. John

In the words of current RA President Christopher Le Brun, “The Taddei Tondo has become one of the great icons of the Royal Academy. Many people consider it to be one of the greatest works of sculpture in the UK.”

J.M.W. Turner, Dolbadern Castle, North Wales, 1800

Turner’s Diploma work, given permanently to the RA as all academicians must do when elected, depicts a remote Welsh castle; He accompanied it with a poem:

How awful is the silence of the waste,

Where Nature lifts her mountains to the sky,

Majestic solitude, behold the tower

Where hopeless Own, long imprison’d, pined.

And wrung his hands for liberty in Vain.

John Constable, The Lock, 1834

Like Turner, Constable was more inspired by nature and landscape than by studying great works of art.  Although Gainsborough was better known for his portraits than his landscapes, he too preferred to work from nature.

Thomas Gainsborough, Romantic Landscape 1783

The new part of the RA is connected to the old part by walkways and bridges, allowing outdoor spaces for the students as well.

Architectural fragments from the vaults are found in hallways, for the use of architectural students, as are casts of famous statues as examples for sketching.

Venus de Milo
Farnese Hercules

“Old” fans of the Royal Academy will be pleased to know that the Burlington House section remain much as before with exhibition galleries, the Fine Rooms, and other features still in evidence, as well as provocative new offerings from the latest artists.

The familiar facade of Burlington House in Piccadilly
Preparing for the Annual Summer Exhibition

I look forward to visiting in July to see the entire display: 250 years of the Summer Exhibition.  Good show, RA!