The Lake District, Cumbria, England
The Swiss Cottage, Osborne House
William Leighton Leitch
From the collection
A watercolour of the Swiss Cottage at Osborne, seen from the garden, with ladies watching gardeners at work. Dated in the Souvenir Album and on a previous mount, 1855. Osborne House on the Isle of Wight was built as a summer retreat for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert between 1845 and 1851, designed by Albert himself in the style of an Italian palazzo. The Swiss Cottage was built in the grounds on Albert's instruction between 1853 and 1854. It was intended as a place where the royal children could play at adult life, learning to cook and sew, maintain gardens, and to collect objects that were placed in a museum. The chalet-style building was influenced by a similar cottage in the grounds of the Rosenau at Coburg, where Prince Albert grew up.
The watercolour shows the allotment plots in front of the Cottage. Each child was allocated a plot of the same size, and was given responsibility for its upkeep. The boys were paid wages by Prince Albert, and worked two or three hours every day. The children could choose what to grow, usually planting potatoes, strawberries and currants.
William Leighton Leitch was one of Queen Victoria's favourite watercolour artists, and she commissioned many watercolours from him for her Souvenir Albums. Leitch also taught the art of watercolour to the Queen and her children. He often stayed at Osborne during the summer. In 1856 he was paid #4 3s for his expenses (Royal Archives: WRA PP2/20/7268), and on 24 September was paid 12 gns for this drawing of the Swiss Cottage and for another of the Vinery.
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