Palace Insiders Revealed This Quirky Detail About Queen Elizabeth’s Morning Routine

Palace Insiders Revealed This Quirky Detail About Queen Elizabeth’s Morning Routine

Most people have a fairly simple getting-out-of-bed routine, but the Queen… she’s got to be in another category altogether, right? Yep, it takes several servants to carry out the Queen’s early morning requirements to perfection. And over the years those staff members have let slip about the tasks they have to do in order to get the monarch ready for the day.

The Queen alone

It’s one of the most fascinating aspects of Palace life – what exactly does the Queen do when there are no cameras on her? When she’s on her own doing ordinary things? Well, thanks to insiders who have worked as her staff members, we know a little bit about what she gets up to in the privacy of her home.

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Morning time

To ardent royalists as well as the habitually curious, the Queen’s morning routine is of particular interest. What’s the ruler of the United Kingdom like in the mornings? Is she grumpy? Let’s be honest, many of us might well be grumpy if we faced the prospect of getting up and shaking hands with hundreds of people. Let’s find out what happens behind that closed bedroom door.

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Wake-up call

According to those anonymous people in the know, the Queen isn’t really much of a morning person. While Meghan Markle apparently gets up at 4:30 a.m. some days, the Queen has seldom been up with the larks. She prefers to be woken up at what most would probably consider quite a sensible time, 7:30 a.m.

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Guarding the Queen

But first, a word on how the Queen sleeps. Unlike you or I, the monarch has a policeman guarding her bedroom at all times, ready to spring into action if anything goes wrong. If they fail to do their jobs, the Queen’s life could be in danger. And things very much have gone wrong in the past.

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Fagan’s story

You may be familiar with the story of Michael Fagan, the man who famously broke into Buckingham Palace in 1982 and got all the way to the Queen’s bed. He talked to the monarch in her bedroom for ten minutes – thankfully he had no intention of hurting her – before help finally arrived.

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Official investigation

The break-in was a massive scandal for the Queen’s official guard. Scotland Yard investigated the matter and found there had been huge holes in the security systems protecting the Queen’s bedroom. The alarm button in the room hadn’t even been connected properly! Unsurprisingly, palace security was seriously stepped up after that.

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Step one

So if you want to go inside the Queen’s bedroom, you’d better be either a member of her family or a member of her staff. It’s one of the latter group who’s the first person allowed to enter her room in the morning. The Queen’s personal maid comes in at 7:30 a.m. as the night guard’s shift ends.

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The tea tray

And the maid, too, will follow a particular routine. She has to lightly knock on the door first, then politely enter. She’ll be bearing a tray with a pot of Earl Grey tea, a second pot of hot water, a jug of milk and a fine china teacup. Across this is draped a linen napkin bearing the Queen’s insignia, EIIR.

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Tray placement

Even the very ordinary act of placing items on a tea tray is a big deal within Buckingham Palace. There are literally diagrams staff have to replicate to ensure everything is placed how the receiving royal prefers it. The late Prince Philip, for example, always wanted his oatcakes perfectly adjacent to his jar of honey.

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Step two

After carefully putting the tray down next to the Queen’s bed, the maid has to open the curtains and then turn on the radio. As per the website of British newspaper the Daily Express, she tunes it to BBC Radio 4, the Queen’s preferred channel. Apparently, the monarch liked Today, presented by John Humphrys, and she listened to him every morning before he retired.

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Anti-Queen sentiments

Curiously, despite this, Humphrys himself is a firm anti-monarchist. The presenter has written many articles calling for an end to the royal family altogether. Prince Philip allegedly once swore at him, and according to Humphrys himself he often tried to get an interview with the Queen only to be turned down.

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An interesting claim

Humphrys claimed in a 2020 Daily Mail newspaper column that the Queen once turned down his interview request with the words, “If one were ever to do such an interview it would most certainly not be with you.” And yet despite this she still listened to his show every morning.

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Step three

While the Queen is sipping her brew and getting up-to-date with the news, the maid will start running her a bath. This is a very delicate process. The Queen doesn’t want the water to ever be deeper than seven inches, and the temperature must be tested with a thermometer – it has to be a wooden one, apparently – before she gets in.

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Royal baths

The Queen apparently loves baths. Not only does she have 78 bathrooms in Buckingham Palace – and we can safely guess her personal tub is quite luxurious – she also has one on the Royal Train. In 2020 royal biographer Omid Scobie revealed that the Queen requests the train slows down so she can enjoy her ablutions without the water going everywhere.

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No loud noises

You’d think that while the Queen was in the bath, the staff might take the opportunity to do some vacuuming. Buckingham Palace is massive and it requires constant cleaning, after all. But no – the staff aren’t allowed to vacuum until 10:00 a.m. in case they wake any other royals up! They have to sweep instead.

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Step four

The Queen’s official dressers come in at this point. Styling the Queen is another thing which requires an endless amount of planning and work. Aside from anything else, the monarch might well need to change five times in one day and all of those outfits have to be flawlessly put together.

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Colorful clothes

You may have noticed that the Queen tends to favor very bright colors. Red, pinks, blues – they’re all in there. There’s a good reason for that, though. The Queen wants to be able to stand out, so her subjects will instantly know where she is in a crowd. So it’ll probably be clothes boasting vibrant hues laid out for the monarch in the morning.

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Introducing Angela Kelly

The woman responsible for picking the Queen’s outfits is dressmaker and royal advisor Angela Kelly. You might have heard of her, since her longtime work with the monarch has made her famous. Ever since 2012 she’s even been a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order, a very high honor indeed.

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Kelly’s book

That’s not the only high honor Kelly has received. She’s one of the very few people in the world who has gained permission from the Queen to publish a book about the Palace’s inner workings. The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe came out in 2019.

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Looking nice

Kelly told The Daily Telegraph newspaper in 2007, “I love the Queen and everything about her. I adore her – but then, so does everyone else. She is not ‘my’ Queen, she is everyone’s and so I have to share her. Once she has chosen something to wear, I just want her to look good in it.”

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Everything correct

The dressmaker went on, “I just want everything to be right for the Queen – to make life easier for her because she is so busy. My job is to ensure that when the Queen meets people she looks right.” The stylist went on to assert that she would never dare to “overstep the mark” and that while she had developed a close personal bond with the monarch over the years, she remained “in awe” of the head of state.

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Kelly’s creations

Kelly has been responsible for – by common consent – some of the best outfits the Queen has ever sported. She created the yellow ensemble she wore at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, for a start. And the beautiful dress the monarch wore for her 2012 Diamond Jubilee pageant was another one of Kelly’s.

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Step four

Clearly Kelly knows what she’s doing when it comes to the outfits, so that’s that. But once the Queen is dressed in her most recent eye-catching ensemble she moves on to breakfast. This must be a very fancy meal served up to her on the finest crockery, right? Well, surprisingly, no.

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Breakfast time

Darren McGrady, one-time royal chef, has told the whole world about what the Queen has for breakfast. There are two options usually – either smoked salmon with truffle shavings, or the Queen’s favorite cereal, which is Special K. And where does she keep this delicacy? In a Tupperware container, of all things.

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Simple cereals

McGrady let it all slip during an October 2017 interview with Marie Claire magazine. He revealed, “Breakfast was very simple for Her Majesty. Some Kellogg’s cereal from a plastic container, which she’d serve herself. And some Darjeeling tea.” In fact, food firm Kellogg’s actually has a Royal Warrant from the Queen.

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Plastic and diamonds

In the same interview McGrady mused, “People always say, ‘Oh, the Queen must eat off gold plates with gold knives and forks.’ Yes, sometimes… but at Balmoral she’d eat fruit from a plastic yellow Tupperware container.” But the gold stuff was very fancy, he clarified. Some of it was diamond-encrusted.

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Formal dinners

Still, the Queen’s dinner was a far cry from her breakfast. According to McGrady, the royals would “come down in dressy ball gowns, and sit at the table – like a Downton Abbey dinner. All the fine china was brought out. At the end of the meal, a bagpipe player would walk around the table.” A bagpipe player?

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Musical interlude

Yep – and bagpipes are present when the Queen has her breakfast, too. Every single weekday the monarch continues a tradition that’s been going on since the days of her ancestor Queen Victoria. An accomplished bagpiper with the title of Pipe Major will play for 15 minutes beneath her window.

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Bagpipes at the Palace

The Pipe Major plays a pretty important role in the Queen’s morning routine, and her life in general. This person – who’s also a member of the British Army – essentially oversees all bagpipe-related activities at the royal palaces. The musician plays a tune beneath the Queen’s window no matter which royal residence she’s currently occupying.

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The Pipe Major

The position of Pipe Major has been held by many people, and they’ve all enjoyed a close individual relationship with the Queen. She speaks to them personally before they take the job, ensuring that they’ll be a good match. The monarch is, after all, very specific about what music she likes to hear.

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Fan mail

So what does the Queen do after bathing, eating what she keeps in the Tupperware and listening to the bagpipes? Well, she reads the newspaper, always useful when you’re one of the people frequently featured in the news. Then she answers her “fan mail” – letters from the public – or some of it anyway. 

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Letter opening

There’s a system for the Queen’s mail so she knows which are letters from friends and which are from members of the public. Personal friends put their initials in the lower left-hand corner of the envelope so that Palace staff know not to open them and pass them on to the Queen instead.

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The mail system

The Queen also has a system for deciding which letters will actually be answered. Obviously she would never have time to respond to them all herself, though apparently she is very good at speed-reading. So she prioritizes letters from children and elderly people, and her lady-in-waiting replies to them on her behalf.

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The Red Boxes

After answering the letters, the Queen opens up the “Red Boxes” which contain the most important pieces of paperwork. These are the letters which refer to affairs of state, things which the Queen must read and sign. She does this every single morning, her only day off being Christmas Day.

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Press the button

Only after all that does the Queen’s day “officially” start. She presses a button on her desk and this summons her secretary, who can fill her in on the day’s activities. And that’s that! She has some ordinary aspects to her morning and some very extraordinary ones. But could you do it?

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An experiment

Mikhaila Friel, a writer for the website Insider, gave it a shot in 2020. While she found the drinking tea while listening to Radio 4 part “quite relaxing” she didn’t at all like the 7-inch-deep bath. She said, “I have no idea why the Queen would do this – it certainly isn’t comfortable – and I ended up running the water for as long as I wanted from day two onward.”

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Bagpipe music

Friel also tried listening to bagpipe music while she ate her breakfast – except she had to use a YouTube video rather than a real-life bagpiper – and she wasn’t a fan. She wrote, “I won’t lie to you: This is one activity I kept up for only the first three days, before resolving to spend the rest of the week enjoying my breakfast in silence.”

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Unexpected difficulties

In the end Friel decided, “It was more challenging than I expected. The Queen likes the water in her baths extremely shallow, which made it not very relaxing at all. Not to mention there’s only so long you can listen to bagpipes without wanting to throw your headphones out the window.”

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Try it yourself

But if the Queen’s morning routine has inspired you to make the most out of your day, why not give it a go? True, most of us don’t have servants to help, but you might find yourself suddenly saving on bathwater… or gaining a new appreciation for bagpipe music and Tupperware containers.

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Royal real estate

You’d probably feel more inclined to try it if you lived in one of the Queen’s posh residences, though, wouldn’t you? Her bathtubs are probably huge, after all. If we had to guess, we’d say her private island mansion probably has the biggest bathroom. Everything about that house looks decadent. And when you take a peek inside, you’re going to wish you’d been born with blue blood!

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More famous homes

As you’ll know, the Queen already has a whole lot of beautiful homes. Buckingham Palace in London is undoubtedly the most famous of them all, and it’s housed the British royal family since 1837. Then there’s Windsor Castle – another massive estate in Elizabeth’s line-up. Seriously, this place is both stunning and absolutely huge!

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So many rooms!

There are an astonishing 1,000 rooms in Windsor Castle, compared to the mere 775 in Buckingham Palace. We bet the Queen is glad she doesn’t have to dust them all… And the British ruler often spends time at the castle over weekends, though she’s got a few other iconic estates to fall back on.

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Sandringham and the Scottish properties

When Christmas rolls around, for instance, the Queen and her family usually celebrate at her property in Sandringham, England. Up in Scotland, meanwhile, Elizabeth has two places to choose from. There’s Holyrood Palace, which is her so-called “official residence” in the country, and Balmoral Castle – supposedly her pick of the bunch.

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Irish home

Oh, and the Queen has an estate in Northern Ireland as well. Yep, Hillsborough Castle is her go-to home whenever she takes a trip across the Irish Sea. But as we hinted at before, there’s another property with ties to Elizabeth and her family that doesn’t get spoken about as much.

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Osborne House

It’s called Osborne House, and you can find it on the Isle of Wight – a small island to the south of England. While the estate once sprawled over 2,000 acres of land, it’s now a fraction of that size at around 354 acres. Still nothing to sniff at, mind you, and that’s definitely not the most striking thing about the grand home.

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Stunning look

The first thing that hits you is just how stylish Osborne House is. No stuffy castles here! The sprawling mansion wouldn’t look out of place nestling alongside a classical Italian villa. The courtyard and gardens are a real sight to behold, too.

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The origins

But that’s got us wondering: why does Osborne House look so different from the Queen’s other properties? Perhaps it’s because it once belonged to someone else. And, yes, that meant Elizabeth’s ancestors had to search for and buy the estate – just like us regular folk do!

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The Blachfords

Back in the day, the mansion looked pretty different. The plot of land belonged to the Blachford clan then, and while the family were aristocrats, they hadn’t got the royals’ resources. Yet patriarch Robert Pope Blachford still did his best at transforming the old home in the late 18th century.

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Changing of the guard

By the time Robert was done, the property had three floors, a bricked stable, and a kitchen yard. And his family made use of the beautiful home for several decades until Lady Isabella Blachford got an offer she couldn’t refuse. Well, not unless she wanted a stay in the Tower of London, that is…

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A royal purchase

We’re kidding, of course, but there was a royal link. In around 1844, Lady Isabella agreed to lease the eye-catching estate to none other than Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. And it must have made quite an impression on the couple, as they outright purchased both the land and the mansion in 1845.

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Tear it down!

So, what happened next? Well, Albert called upon a construction expert named Thomas Cubitt, who had helped shape some of London’s ritziest neighborhoods. But while Victoria’s hubby was only looking to extend the building, Cubitt had another idea. He suggested that they should tear the whole thing down and start from scratch.

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The new mansion

Albert had a big say in the whole thing, of course, and he and Cubitt got to work on constructing a new holiday mansion for the royals. In fact, it was the prince who pushed for Osborne House’s unique look. He was infatuated with Italian architecture, you see.

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A long build

In the end, it didn’t prove to be the quickest of projects. Work was still being carried out on Osborne House at the start of the 1890s – almost three decades on from Albert’s sudden death. And while the link to her late husband may have been painful, Victoria still made frequent visits to the property when out of London.

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The connection to Queen Victoria

Victoria’s love of the place couldn’t be questioned. Apparently, she once said, “It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot.” It was there that the British royal passed away in 1901, further cementing her connection to the estate. And Osborne House’s affiliation with the royals didn’t end there – despite one heartbreaking betrayal.

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The Royal Naval College

King Edward VII defied his mother’s instructions by handing over Osborne House to the British people. Then sections of the property were given over to the Royal Naval College. We say “sections” because certain parts of the estate remained off-limits to the college. Wonder what the royal family was hiding behind those doors…

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Opened up

Well, we didn’t have to wait centuries to find out. Early in her reign, Queen Elizabeth II gave her blessing for those areas to be opened up. And as it happens, those previously barred spaces included the rooms that had once belonged to Albert and Victoria. No wonder they were out of bounds!

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Visits?

But that leads us to our next question: does the current Queen ever visit Osborne House? Well, not as much as Victoria did, it seems, but it has happened in the past. When she went to the Isle of Wight in 2004, she’s said to have dropped in on her family’s old vacation home.

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Familiar faces

In recent years, you’re more likely to have seen other royals at the mansion. Prince Edward, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall have all made trips to Osborne House. Camilla even joined actress Judi Dench while wandering the grounds in 2018.

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Eye-catching exterior

You may be disappointed, then, if you head to Osborne House in search of the Queen. There’ll probably be no sign of Judi Dench, either… But if you do go, Osborne House’s stunning exterior will likely make up for it. It really is something else. And we’re not just referring to the mansion. The jaw-dropping gardens and courtyard – complete with a gorgeous water feature – are worth the price of admission alone.

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The cottage and the beach

The estate also boasts the beautiful “Swiss Cottage,” which was once used by Victoria and Albert’s kids. Oh, and Osborne House has its own beach, too. No wonder Victoria loved the place. But you ain’t seen nothing yet – not until you step inside.

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Going on a tour

And, luckily, we’ve got you covered. Fancy a tour of this incredible mansion? Okay, then, let’s get started! To kick things off, we’ll head to the drawing room on the first floor. Take how grand you think it’ll be, and double it.

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Past snapshot

Now, this room was already quite opulent in Victoria’s day. You could say that it was fit for a queen! Naturally, there were chandeliers and ornate furniture. A lot of paintings, too, as Albert and Victoria adored the arts.

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The drawing room now

How does it look today, though? Surprisingly, it hasn’t changed all that much. As this photo shows, the eye-catching chandeliers remain intact, as does the artwork on the walls. The nice furniture’s still here as well, but now we can get a better idea of its color. And to put it mildly, we think we need to find our sunglasses.

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So much gold!

All that gold leaves you in no doubt that a very rich person lived here. It’s the real deal, too – all the way from the ceiling to the chairs. Oh, and then there’s that magnificent round table in the center of the room. It’s certainly a lot fancier than you’d ever see at Ikea.

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Billiards

Next up, there’s the billiards room. Albert was a big fan of the game, so he made sure that there was a place for him to play inside the mansion. And a billiards table’s still there, surrounded by paintings and sculptures.

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Thoughtful design

But here’s something you may not notice at first glance. Albert apparently had the table made a little higher than the standard size. Why? Simple, really – it saved Victoria and her female guests from the embarrassment that came from leaning down to play. Pretty thoughtful, wouldn’t you agree?

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Vintage dining room

And once Albert and Victoria built up an appetite from those games, they could head into the next room. Yes, we’re talking about the dining area. As this vintage photo shows, the space is still fairly grand, although the main table is a lot smaller than we envisioned. Not large enough for a banquet, anyway!

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A mirror image?

Even today, the room is practically identical to how it would have appeared during Victoria’s reign. The large paintings are still in place, as are the spectacular candle holders. The biggest difference here is that the table has been replaced. Now, it can seat eight. We wouldn’t say no to a meal in that room!

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Albert’s bathroom

If you thought that was something, though, wait until you get a load of Albert’s private bathroom – also situated on the first floor. There are plenty of paintings on the wall, of course. Perhaps the prince needed something to look at when he was doing his business? Oh, and have a peek at the left-hand corner. That’s a sculpture of the Roman god Jupiter.

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Dressing and writing room

Albert’s writing and dressing space is nearby, too. And fans of the royals will be fascinated, as they can get a glimpse of the prince’s surroundings when he opted for time alone. Decked out with paintings and busts, the room looks like a beautiful place to unwind.

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The queen’s sitting room

Victoria also had similar spaces for herself on the first floor of the mansion. A photo was actually snapped of her sitting room back in 1899, and paintings, books, and sculptures dominate, as you can see. We wonder how much time the queen used to spend there…

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Not much change

The room seems virtually the same today. This shot of Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex shows that books and picture frames still litter the old desk. And it must have been eerie for the prince to be there, knowing that his great-great-great-grandma once sat in that spot.

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A notable bedroom

So, what else can we find on the first floor? Well, it’s a biggie, folks. Unlike the vast majority of modern homes, the bedrooms in Osborne House aren’t all located upstairs. One of them is nestled on the lower level. And it belonged to Victoria herself.

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Just the way it was

As you can see from this photo, Victoria had quite the boudoir to rest in when the day drew to a close. And the room hasn’t been changed since her passing in 1901. It really is like a time capsule from over 100 years ago!

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A sad reminder

As cool as that is, there’s also a bittersweet reminder of the past. On the left-hand side of the bed, a picture of Albert is secured on a stand. That small satchel on the headrest also held his watch. It’s clear that Victoria still loved her partner way after his death.

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Worth the wait

But the queen’s bedroom probably isn’t the standout space at Osborne House. That title arguably belongs to the Durbar Room. This was a fairly late addition to the mansion, being constructed in the early 1890s. And suffice to say, it was worth the wait.

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The Durbar Room

The fireplace alone is a pure work of art. Yes, that’s a carved peacock on the wall. We’ve just about picked our jaws off the floor, too! And if you can peel your eyes away from that magnificent sculpture, the rest more than lives up to that initial promise.

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Stunning design

This photograph shows the Durbar Room in all its glory. It served as a dining room at the mansion, and that Indian aesthetic isn’t an accident. Rudyard Kipling’s dad and an artist from India joined forces to create the design together. That’s a cool bit of trivia for you!

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Want to see it in person?

With that, our tour of Osborne House comes to an end. And after everything that we’ve seen, it’s safe to say that the inside more than matches up to the exterior. But if you want a closer look, English Heritage will give you that chance. Thanks to the charity, the estate – and its accompanying beach – are open to tourists.

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