Planning a trip to the beach this summer? Take some tips for beach fun from Queen Victoria, who enjoyed long summers with her family on her private beach at Osborne on the Isle of Wight.
1. Get there early to grab the best spot on the beach
Whether it’s a deckchair, plenty of dry towels or a picnic blanket, make sure you and your family have something comfortable to sit on; then grab a prime spot on the beach.
During the summers a tent would be erected on the beach at Osborne to provide shade for the children. In the 1860s a covered seat or exedra, commonly known as the Queen’s Alcove, was built for her on the beach near the shoreline. The semi-circular sheltering alcove was built as a private space for the “recreational and educational pursuits” of the Queen and her family. It has a bench built into the inside wall and faces across the Solent towards Portsmouth. The views were said to remind Prince Albert of the bay of Naples. Victoria personally approved the design for the blue Minton tiled ceiling of the alcove in June 1868.
2. Make sure absolutely nobody sees you getting changed
Make sure there’s somewhere suitable to get changed before and after swimming, and choose capsule pieces of beach chic to ensure you maintain your dignity and style at all times.
Queen Victoria had a bathing machine installed on the beach at Osborne. It had flat iron tyres, a changing room and a plumbed-in lavatory. It was pushed into the water down a concrete pier with grooves to guide the wheels, and pulled back by a wire rope on a winch. The Queen, wearing a voluminous bathing-dress would step out onto the machine’s curtained veranda and down the steps into the sea.
3. Build a special floating bath to introduce the kids to the water at an early age
The Royal children learnt to swim in a floating bath moored a few hundred metres offshore, which was designed by Prince Albert and built locally on the Isle of Wight by John and Robert White of East Cowes. The bath consisted of two pontoons with a wooden grating suspended between them, which could be raised and lowered to suit the proficiency of the swimmer. It had trolley wheels and travelled on iron rails into the sea.
4. Jump in a boat if you can, but get someone else to row
If you’re lucky enough to get the chance to go out in a boat, seize the opportunity, but make sure someone else does the hard work of rowing so you can sit back and take in the view.
Queen Victoria’s Journal Sunday 1 August 1847:
“A really blazingly hot, though beautiful day, with the brightest clearest sky imaginable…We then walked down to the beach, intending to go in our little boat, but we found dead low water & the boat up on the shore. Accordingly, with the help of one Coastguard, Albert & Alexander, after having taken their coats off, pulled the boat down to the water. It was hard work pulling the heavy thing along the beach & the whole of the pier, & they had frequently to stop to rest. At last the boat was launched & they rowed me about quite a good way.”
5. Beaches are not just for summer…
Although long summer days on the beach are idyllic, don’t rule out a visit during the rest of the year to take in the muted seascapes and bracing air!
Queen Victoria’s Journal Monday 31 March 1845:
“After rain in the night, a most glorious sunny morning, the sky & sea so blue, & the latter as calm as a lake. Immediately after breakfast we rode out on our Highland ponies down to the beach, where we got off and walked about & it was so beautiful & peaceful. Vicky was walking about there too, & delighted with the shells and sands.”
Visit Queen Victoria’s Beach at Osborne
Osborne on the Isle of Wight was Queen Victoria’s holiday home by the sea, where she and her family relaxed away from London life. Now it’s open to the public, offering an intimate glimpse into royal family life.