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Placing Osborne in the History of Early Photography

Osborne was an important setting for early royal photography

The Main Wing, Pavilion and Terrace, Osborne House.
Osborne. (General View) [The Osborne Album. By A. Disderi, 1867] ©

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were passionate collectors of photography since the invention of the medium. Following their purchase of the Osborne estate in 1845, this locality became an important setting for the early photographic experiences of the royal family.

The presence of the royal family at Osborne House contributed to the Isle of Wight becoming a popular destination in the mid-nineteenth century. From the mid-1850s onwards, books were occasionally illustrated with photographs, usually mounted on thin card or thick paper. A number of early travel books which focused on the Isle of Wight including photographs such as The Churches and Mansions of the Isle of Wight by James Briddon (1857) and Lays of Carisbrooke Castle by Albert Midlane (1860). Also popular by the mid-nineteenth century were stereocards, one of the first mass-produced photographic images sold. Consisting of two photographs mounted next to each other and viewed with a set of lenses known as a stereoscope, they were so popular that it is said that every Victorian home had a stereoscope and collection of stereocards. The mass production of stereocards and emergence of photographically illustrated books helped to fuel early British tourism. 

Picturing family life at Osborne

The Osborne estate became an important setting for the early photographic experiences of the royal family

International reception

Early photography reflects Osborne House's role as a site of diplomatic and cultural exchange.

Queen Victoria’s collecting

Following Prince Albert’s death in 1861, Queen Victoria’s relationship with photography changed significantly.

Tableaux Vivants at Osborne

Despite Victoria’s extended mourning, theatrical amusements were still part of the life of the royal family.

Julia Margaret Cameron

Julia Margaret Cameron is arguably the most famous photographer associated with the Isle of Wight.

Inspiring Future Generations

Victoria and Albert encouraged their children to learn photography.