The Duke And Duchess of Cambridge leave the Lindo Wing with their newborn son (Getty)
Kate and Will couldn't wait to get baby George out of London. After one night at their apartment in Kensington Palace, the new parents zoomed off with the unnamed one to the country home of Kate's parents, the Middletons, in the quaint little village of Bucklebury in Berkshire. I imagine the displays of public adoration in the capital -- a moving swarm of media and royal groupies -- were too omnipresent. Nothing like a bit of bucolic peace at the height of summer.
This aversion to urban clamor runs in the family -- the Windsors, that is. The Queen herself bolts to her Scottish castle, Balmoral, at this time of the year -- the baby arrived just before her plans to head off on Friday. The Queen and Prince Philip also flee at other times, particularly at Christmas, to their vast spread in Sandringham, Norfolk, one of the bleaker of the English counties, exposed as it is to the blast of winds from the North Sea.
But there's another royal hideaway that gets little attention these days -- the royal family gave it up to the state in 1901, but it was the favorite of that dauntingly formidable matriarch, Queen Victoria. It's called Osborne House, and it sits on a small estate on the Isle of Wight, a chalky fragment broken away from the southern English coast.
The Queen And Prince Philip near Sandringham, February 1985 (Alamy)
Victoria's personality tends to get distorted by the idea that the Victorians were a stuffy, uptight bunch who just happened, at the same time, to build the world's largest empire. In fact, like many of her subjects, Queen Victoria was, ahem, how to put it...? Extremely fertile, a tiger in the bedroom.
In 21 years of marriage to the love of her life, Prince Albert, she produced nine children. Not surprisingly, Victoria began to yearn for somewhere a bit more intimate than the labyrinthine Buckingham Palace or the gloomy pile of Windsor Castle.
As a young girl she had spent two summers on the Isle of Wight and loved it. Albert went property hunting and found a modest Georgian house that he saw had, as the real estate guys would say, "potential."
Albert was something of a polymath, fascinated by engineering, competent in architecture and landscaping. The site of the house on the Isle of Wight reminded him of the Bay of Naples. Albert created a much larger country house -- they called it Osborne House -- around the original, in the style of the Italian renaissance, and designed the gardens, replete with a private beach where the Queen could enter the waters of the English Channel, when calm.
Albert died from typhoid in 1861. Victoria never really recovered from this great love, but she continued to love Osborne House. Her progeny did not, which was why the home was dumped after she died.
Today, Osborne House is run by English Heritage, and it's well worth a trip -- as is the Isle of Wight, where these days, with climate change, they even make their own decent wines (for a little more of Italy). There is a cottage on the estate that can be booked for stays.
And last year the private beach was opened to the public, together with a remarkable apparatus known as the Queen's bathing machine, a kind of cabana on wheels that was moved into the shallows so that her majesty, in modest attire, could advance discreetly from it into the waves. The threat of paparazzi was unknown to her; it was all about propriety and, of course, majesty. Kate will envy that.