LIFE'S a beach for many in August fingers crossed and weather permitting as usual. And this year a private, secluded bay much loved by Queen Victoria is open for the first time. Ben Mitchell reports.
Queen Victoria’s private beach where she first took a swim in the sea has opened to the public for the first time this summer.
The stretch of seafront at Osborne, the monarch’s seaside home on the Isle of Wight, has never been accessible to the general public.
But English Heritage has restored Victoria’s original bathing machine to the site prior to its opening recently.
Osborne House, near East Cowes, was a popular retreat for Victoria who enjoyed family holidays at the seaside mansion.
She wrote in 1845: “We have quite a charming beach to ourselves.”
As well as being the first place that she swam in the sea, it was where her children learned to swim.
Writing of her first bathing experience, she said: “I thought it delightful till I put my head under water, when I thought I should be stifled.” Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: “Queen Victoria is fixed in many people’s minds as the grandmother of Europe, a queen who spent most of her reign in mourning for her husband.
“Opening her beach at Osborne lets us show another side to her – this was a Queen who collected sea shells with her children, who sketched the changing sea, and who swam sometimes twice a day. Osborne was her seaside retreat from the formalities of Buckingham Palace – now people can visit that seaside.”
The beach was a deciding factor behind the decision by Victoria and Prince Albert to buy Osborne House as their private home.
Albert likened the bay to Naples in Italy and Victoria wrote: “It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot.”
The original wooden bathing machine, which ran down a ramp into the sea and from which Victoria would emerge in her swimming suit, her modesty preserved, has been returned to the beach.