Please join me in welcoming Robert Stephen Parry back to A Literary Vacation today! His guest post from last year about the Belle Epoque is still one of the most popular posts I've had, so I'm so thrilled to have him back for the release of his newest novel, The Testament of Sophie Dawes. So please, Enjoy!
When you hear the name of Queen Victoria, images spring to mind of grand and imposing buildings such as London’s Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. And indeed Victoria did live and work in these places. But there was one other, very special residence that she loved more than these, and that was her seaside home Osborne House. Let me tell you about it.
|Early engraving of Osborne House as seen from the sea|
Located on the Isle of Wight just off the south coast of England, Osborne requires a short sea voyage to reach it, but it is well worth the effort because it is kept very much as Victoria herself would have known it and still has a wonderful ‘family’ atmosphere.
painting of Osborne|
Set on high ground overlooking the sparkling stretch of water called The Solent and surrounded by lush woodland, the building itself, as you can see, is distinctly Italianate in style, with grounds featuring a succession of elegant balustraded terraces and lawns.
Front of Osborne House with carriage ring
During its construction in the 1840’s, Victoria’s young husband, the Prince Consort, Albert, had a major role in shaping both the interior and exterior to his own specifications, and the couple enjoyed many happy summers there with their nine children - until Albert’s untimely and tragic death from typhoid fever in 1861.
Victoria and Albert together
Prince Albert was exceptionally proactive in the education of the royal children, and he placed a separate building, a Swiss Chalet, in the grounds where the young princes and princesses could work together, cook, grow vegetables and learn many of the practical skills of life that would perhaps otherwise have eluded them.
The children’s Swiss Chalet in the Grounds of Osborne can still be visited today
As a widow, Victoria became notoriously reclusive, and as the royal children vanished one by one overseas into politically advantageous marriages, Osborne became one of the places where she took refuge. Meanwhile, with its fresh air and spectacular scenery, her seaside island became an attraction for others seeking a fashionable place to set up home. The poet Tennyson lived there - as well as numerous writers and artists. Christmas and the Summer season were the times Victoria enjoyed best at Osborne, and successive prime ministers over the years would regularly have to endure the sea crossing to visit her on state business. She died there in 1901.
My new novel ‘The Testament of Sophie Dawes’ is partly set at Osborne and provides lots of glimpses of life ‘behind the scenes.’
England 1862 – and the nation is in mourning for the death of the Prince Consort, when a newly appointed archivist arrives at the Queen’s island residence of Osborne, enticed by the prospect of long country walks as much as by his professional duties. But his plans are forced to change as he uncovers a complex web of intrigue and scandal that reaches from revolutionary France to the very heart of Victorian Society.
What is he to make of such an unwelcome discovery? And who is the mysterious woman he encounters again and again when walking by the sea?
A testament from the grave that reveals one of the most powerful yet maligned of 19th Century courtesans whose life has been almost erased from history. But it is knowledge that does not please everyone.
Buy The Testament of Sophie Dawes
About the Author
Robert Stephen Parry is a UK writer of historical fiction with interests in a wide range of time periods, from Tudor & Elizabethan, through 18th-century Georgian, right up to the era of Victorian England and the Belle Époque. Well researched and vivid historical settings combine with unusual elements of mystery, romance and magical realism.
*Don't forget to check out the website dedicated to The Testament of Sophie Dawes. It includes more book information, sample pages, book trailer and even a giveaway!*