This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria, who ruled for 63 years (1837 to 1901) and ushered in the modern age. We’re fascinated anew by her, thanks to the ITV costume drama, Victoria, starring Jenna Coleman as a young queen falling in love with her handsome prince. Mostly, though, what has us all glued to our screens are the beautiful settings. Here are just a few.
Princess Alexandrina Victoria was born, christened and raised at this 330-year-old palace that’s become a popular home for young royals including its current residents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. In 1689, William III and Mary II chose what was then a small villa known as Nottingham House to be their country getaway; since then, it’s been transformed into an elegant home fit for a king, or at least a future one. This year, two new exhibits at the palace explore Queen Victoria’s life.
Buckingham Palace, or at least a smaller, humbler iteration of it, dates back to the early 17th century. Beginning in the 1820s, it was expanded and transformed into the vast palace we know today. Queen Victoria was the first sovereign to live at Buckingham Palace (that’s her gilt statue on the Mall in front of its gates). Today, it’s the official London residence and administrative headquarters of the Queen. Visitors can visit the magnificent rooms every August and September, and watch the changing of the guard year-round.
Coronations, weddings, funerals: For nearly 1,000 years, almost every important political and religious royal event has been connected to this ancient church, including Queen Victoria’s coronation. The abbey is a World Heritage Site that still offers daily religious services. It’s also one of the most visited attractions in London, so prepare to face some crowds. In addition to the pointed arches, rose windows and flying buttresses of its Gothic architecture, visitors can see the tombs of great Britons, including Elizabeth I, and spectacular city views from the new museum high above the abbey floor.
In 1840, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert at the Chapel Royal of St. James’s Palace in a romantic masterstroke of public relations. Although the Hans Holbein-decorated chapel isn’t open to visitors, it does offer public Sunday services in winter. However, visitors can explore the beautiful St. James’s Park surrounding it any time. It’s a greenspace that extends all the way to Whitehall and features an avenue of shady trees, as well as parkland with a serene lake and resident pelicans and herons.
There is perhaps no greater example of high Victoriana than this ornately gothic monument to Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert, who died of typhoid in 1861. The memorial, designed by George Gilbert Scott, was unveiled in 1872. It celebrates Prince Albert’s passions, with marble figures representing manufacture, commerce, agriculture and engineering, and a frieze of 187 carved figures including painters, poets, sculptors, musicians and architects. Located on Albert Memorial Road and opposite the Royal Albert Hall, it sits in Kensington Gardens, which is also home to the contemporary Serpentine Galleries and the Diana Playground.
Queen Victoria purchased this Aberdeenshire castle in 1852 as a country retreat, and it has been the Scottish home of the British Royal Family ever since. (Victoria also liked to picnic at a nearby beauty spot called the Linn O’Dee.) The current Queen is said to be happiest when she is visiting this wildly beautiful property near the Cairngorms. The family usually spends summer on the estate, but guests can visit when they are not in residence. The grounds, gardens and Castle Ballroom are open to the public from April to July each year.
The Queen’s weekend retreat in Berkshire is one of the most historic buildings in the UK. Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it’s since been home to 39 monarchs, making it the longest-occupied palace in Europe. The state apartments are much as Queen Victoria would have known them; she also established the Albert Memorial Chapel in what was the original home of the Knights of the Garter. The castle is open to visitors year-round, and its grounds are also home to the Frogmore Royal Mausoleum, where both Victoria and Albert are buried.
There is perhaps no place more closely associated with Queen Victoria than her rural getaway, Osborne House. The ornately Italianate residence – designed under Prince Albert’s instruction raising more than a few eyebrows as it was being built in the 1840s – is a seaside palace on the Isle of Wight. Victoria died here in 1901, and the palace has since been given to the state. It is open year-round for tours (which are said to be wonderfully entertaining), and guests can explore the nursery, private rooms, Victoria’s private beach and the museum established in her memory.
This beautiful Scottish castle sits on 145,000 sprawling acres of land known as Atholl Estates. Its oldest section, Comyn’s Tower, dates back to 1269, and it’s seen plenty of history, including several visits by Queen Victoria. The ITV series featured the castle in season 2 episode 7, along with the ponies that are native to the estate and the Atholl Highlanders, the last remaining private army. Today, the castle is open for tours, and guests can also visit the magnificent gardens. This year, the castle is launching a Victoria exhibition. (Note that it’s closed in winter.)
Several locations in Yorkshire make appearances in the Victoria TV series, and all are worth a visit. During seasons 2 and 3, the High Street in Hull, a port city in East Yorkshire, was transformed back to what it was like during the Victorian era. But even when not being filmed, it’s known for its elegant Georgian houses. Meanwhile, filming was also done at several grand homes, including the regal 18th century Castle Howard – considered Yorkshire’s finest historic house – as well as Newby Hall, which was built in the 1690s by Sir Christopher Wren with interiors by Robert Adam.