Queen Victoria’s nightie uncovered on Isle of Wight

Queen Victoria’s voluminous nightie – measuring 51 inches across the girth – and her daughter Princess Beatrice’s bloomers have been uncovered at a house on the Isle of Wight. And they could sell for thousands of pounds at auction after the garments emerged among an enormous collection of treasures gathered over a lifetime by a retired antiques shop owner.

Hansons’ period clothing consultant Notty Hornblower with Queen Victoria's nightdress
Hansons’ period clothing consultant Notty Hornblower with Queen Victoria’s nightdress Credit Hansons

Marilyn Rose, 90, opened her first antiques shop in the mid-70s in Gurnard on the Isle of Wight and went on to run an outlet in Newport.

Her son, Tim Rose, 64, a retired forester from Warwickshire, said: “My mother is moving and we have been clearing the period property. The bloomers and nightie were among several fascinating finds, some of which are new to us.

“Mum can’t remember exactly how or when she came to own the bloomers and nightdress but it’s not surprising items relating to Queen Victoria and her family emerge on the Isle of Wight because the queen spent a huge amount of time at Osborne House, her holiday home there.

‘VR’ - Victoria Regina, with crown over, on Queen Victoria nightdress
‘VR’ – Victoria Regina, with crown over, on Queen Victoria nightdress – credit Hansons

“There is another royal connection as the house being cleared, which dates back to the 1700s, was once home to Sir William Carter Hoffmeister (1857-1944), Queen Victoria’s physician on the Isle of Wight.

“As well as the nightie and bloomers, a folder of letters have been found connected to the royal household. We also discovered a 19th-century toy box which belonged to Princess Beatrice.”

Queen Victoria’s extra-large, pale cream lawn cotton nightdress is edged with Honiton lace and embroidered with ‘VR’ – Victoria Regina – with crown over, estimate £1,500-£2,000 in the sale on October 1.

Hansons’ period clothing consultant Notty Hornblower with Princess Beatrice’s bloomers
Hansons’ period clothing consultant Notty Hornblower with Princess Beatrice’s bloomers. Credit Hansons

The bloomers which belonged to Princess Beatrice (1857-1944), the fifth daughter and youngest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, bear a crown and the initials BB for Beatrice of Battenburg. This indicates they would have been worn in the years following her marriage to Henry of Battenburg in 1885. They have been valued at £500-£1,000.

The garments are significant royal finds, according to Hansons’ period clothing consultant Notty Hornblower, owner of Hope House Costume Museum in Alstonefield, Derbyshire. She said: “It is always exciting to uncover items which belonged to Queen Victoria, one of Britain’s most influential monarchs. Her clothing can be sought after. In 2008 Hansons sold a Queen Victoria nightdress for £5,200, bloomers for £4,500 and a chemise for £3,800.

“Then in 2020 two pairs of Queen Victoria’s leather boots, a black taffeta skirt and two bodices achieved £14,000. They were purchased for posterity by Historic Royal Palaces, a charity which looks after London’s Kensington Palace, Victoria’s place of birth.”

Bidding is also expected to be strong for the toy box with royal pedigree.  The stained pine chest is inscribed, ‘Toy Music HRH Princess Beatrice’. It has an estimate of £400-600.

Notty said: “Princess Beatrice is fascinating, especially when you consider her lifelong devotion to Queen Victoria. She was her mother’s favourite and spent most of her life as her companion.

“Victoria came to depend on Beatrice, especially after the premature loss of Prince Albert in 1861. Beatrice was only four at the time and, being the youngest daughter, gradually became indispensable to her grief-stricken mother. As other siblings married and moved away Beatrice remained and Victoria couldn’t bear the thought of her leaving too.

“In fact, she was so set against her marrying she refused to discuss the possibility. Nevertheless, Beatrice fell in love with Prince Henry of Battenberg. After a year of persuasion, the queen finally agreed to the marriage which took place on the Isle of Wight – providing Beatrice and Henry lived with her.

“The couple had four children but in 1896 Prince Henry died of malaria while fighting in the Anglo-Asante War. Heartbreakingly, both mother and daughter lost their husbands prematurely. After her husband’s death, Beatrice succeeded him as Governor of the Isle of Wight, living first at Osborne with her mother and later at Carisbrooke Castle.

“Beatrice remained at her mother’s side until she died in 1901. The devoted daughter then spent the next 30 years editing her mother’s journals. She died at the age of 87, outliving all her siblings.

“It’s possible the items set for auction may have been gifted to servants in the Royal Household on the Isle of Wight. Mementos are then passed down through the generations and occasionally find their way to auction, or to an antiques shop. They are lovely examples of royal memorabilia and deserve to excel at auction.”

The royal items will be offered in Hansons Auctioneers’ Banbury Fine Art and Antiques Auction on October 1.

The sale also includes a piece of lace bearing a note which reads, ‘Portion of the Pall that covered Queen Victoria’s coffin on her last journey from Osborne. Isle of Wight. Feb 1st 1901’ Queen Victoria died at Osborne House, aged 81, on January 22, 1901. Discovered in Somerset, it has a guide price of £800-£1,000.