I am not a big history fan, but I do enjoy the quirky bits (Bill Bryson is excellent for that sort of thing).
Here are my seven favourite factoids about Osborne House which you might like to casually mention to a disinterested spouse who is being dragged around the house.
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1. A celebrity cold caller got the cold shoulder
In 1878, Alexander Graham Bell turned up at Osborne House to show off his newly invented telephone in the Council Room.
Queen Victoria whined that it was ‘rather faint’, but still agreed to sign up for a 24 month contract with an international calls bundle (the second half of that sentence may not be wholly accurate).
2. The housekeepers feared getting into hot water
Housekeepers at Osborne heated up water for Prince Albert whenever the royal family was visiting, right up until the end of the Victorian era.
The odd thing about that was that Albert had been dead for 40 years.
The theory is that the staff were all too scared to ask Queen Victoria if they could stop the tradition.
3. The Queen loved foreign ice
Osborne's Ice House was mostly filled with ice collected from the grounds during the winter which could then be used to keep food cool or to cool down the dining room (personally, I'd have opened a window).
However, Victoria apparently preferred a more lavish approach to gathering ice and liked it to be imported from the lakes of the USA.
Anti-monarchists may like to add this story to their folder titled "examples of pointless money-wasting".
4. 29 million people saw Osborne's flowers in 2018
There’s a white plant on the terrace at Osborne called the royal myrtle which was planted in the 1840s. It has been used for royal weddings ever since. Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton were among the brides who carried a wedding bouquet containing royal myrtle from the Osborne gardens.
Please avoid the temptation to cut off a bit and walk around the gardens in a wedding dress.
5. The Queen's Bathing Machine was full of poo, whilst the house was full of pooh
Am I including these two facts for the purposes of making a toilet-based pun? Of course.
Queen Victoria’s bathing machine at Osborne Beach was restored in the 1950s. Prior to that, it had been used as a chicken coop for a few years. Someone must have had quite a job cleaning it.
Meanwhile, Winnie The Pooh creator AA Milne spent some time living at Osborne House. Part of the house was used as a convalescent home for military types in the First World war. It only stopped being used as a nursing home in 2000, many years after the house opened to the public.
6. The Queen's deathbed was locked away for 50 years
After Queen Victoria died, her son (Edward VII) declared that no-one should be allowed to use the upstairs of the posh part of the house. A metal gate was put across the door to the bedroom where his mother died.
It stayed locked for about 50 years before our current Queen declared that it was probably alright to unlock it now. I’m amazed they hadn’t lost the key in the intervening years.
7. Queen Victoria has a pet elephant
According to the Victorian Trail website, Queen Victoria briefly kept a pet elephant at Osborne.
It was called Gwola and arrived in 1884 via the envoy of an Ethiopian king. The Victorian Trail website says that the elephant was taken to a zoo in London after spending a few days on the Isle of Wight.
Visitors to Osborne Golf Club (which was originally part of the estate) can see the elephant's bath as part of the seventh hole.
Curiously, the golf club website has a conflicting theory about what happened to Gwola and says that it is possible that the elephant is buried in its grounds.
If you are catching a Wightlink ferry and then visiting Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle then it is worth considering English Heritage membership.
A family ticket for both attractions comes to about £85 at the time of writing, whilst English Heritage membership is £115 (£30 extra). You also get 15-20% off Wightlink ferries as an English Heritage member, which saves you about £20-£40 (although check Red Funnel prices as well - they can be cheaper).
So, you'll end up with membership for the rest of the year for free (sort of).
Isle of Wight Guru's Blog