Just imagine if you could be transported back in time and have Afternoon Tea with Queen Victoria.
This is what it felt like for us a few weeks ago when our best friends won a competition in the local paper to visit Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, which was the country home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, a lovely place that was designed by Prince Albert and where the couple could get away from the affairs of state in London and escape to have a family life.
The day started with a short drive to the Red Funnel ferry terminal in Southampton to catch the 9am ferry for the hour long crossing to Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
It was a lovely day with clear blue skies, but oh boy was it a cold day, frosty and cold and the winter sun did little to warm you up.
Osborne House is only a couple of miles from Cowes, and so we arrived shortly after 10am, to be greeted by lots of people in Victorian costume as there was a special Victorian Christmas festival taking place all weekend.
We enjoyed listening to a military band, the “girls” went on a carousel, and then we looked around the house itself, which has a lot of artifacts and memorabilia of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
Then early afternoon came the time for our Afternoon Tea with Her Majesty, but to be truthful we didn’t realise until the staff at the restaurant said “ah you are the people” that it was indeed a private reception with Queen Victoria. We were led upstairs to an apartment which the public don’t generally get to see, and where the mother of the “real” Queen Victoria used to stay when she visited the Royal Family at Osborne House.
The room had a lot of memorabilia, and was very interesting in itself. In the centre was a large table, with a wonderful selection of cakes and scones.
We didn’t have long before the Queen arrived, and were briefed by her servant as to how to act and respond in front of her, which was all very important, because although this was only someone playing the role of Queen Victoria, the location and experience gave the feel of being in another time and it all seemed very real.
The Queen arrived, walking slowly, accompanied by a finely dressed lady who was introduced as Lady Ponsonby, one of her closest friends. Lady Ponsonby had been a “lady in waiting” for the Queen, but had married a wealthy man and as such had left the Queen’s employment, but they had remained good friends.
Queen Victoria herself poured the tea for us all, she said that the liked to play “ma’am”, and we helped ourselves to cake and scones which were delicious. It just seemed impolite though to be eating while the Queen was talking, a little bizarre.
Her Majesty gave us many insights into Osborne House and her life with Prince Albert, which really did make history come alive.
After almost an hour, it was time for photographs, and then to bid farewell to the Queen, and off to spend time looking around the rest of the house and grounds and then back home.
Even though they were only actors playing roles, with this being in a genuine setting and also a private party rather than us just being part of a larger audience, it did feel very special and very much like we were living in a time warp.
I understand that this was only the second time that this had been offered at Osborne House, so I feel very privileged to have been part of it.