Lady Isabella Blachford
by Janet Meydam
Wealth and titles do not always mean lifelong security. Historically, women were especially at the mercy of their fathers and husbands when it came to finances. Poor investments, gambling, and mismanagement of estates sometimes led to financial ruin for prominent families. Such was the case of Lady Isabella Blachford, former owner of Osbourne House on the Isle of Wright.
Lady Isabella Blachford was born Lady Isabella Fitzroy on 17 November 1786. She was the youngest daughter of Augustus Fitzroy, Third Duke of Grafton (and the 11th Prime Minister of England) and his second wife, Elizabeth Wrottesley. On 14 August 1812, she married Barrington Pope Blachford and moved to his estate, Osborne House, on the Isle of Wright. Blachford was a member of Parliament, member of the Admiralty Board, and a founding member of the Royal Yacht Squadron.
While Barrington Pope Blachford was a prominent member of government and society, his love of gambling and other misconduct ruined his finances. He died on 14 May 1816, leaving Lady Isabella with two young children and considerable debt. She had some money of her own, but was not able to maintain Osbourne House indefinitely. After her son, Fitzroy Pope Blachford, died in 1840, she was forced to put the estate up for sale.
The home and 1000-acre estate caught the eye of the young Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were looking for a secluded retreat for their growing family and offered to purchase Osbourne House. Lady Isabella asked £30,000 for the estate, but the agreed upon price ended up at £26,000 without furniture and fittings. The furniture stayed with the house and it is possible that an exchange was made for accommodations because Lady Isabella and her unmarried daughter, Isabella Elizabeth Blachford, both lived in “Grace and Favor” apartments at Hampton Court until their deaths. Lady Isabella Blachford died on 10 December 1866.
The house that Lady Isabella sold to Queen Victoria was not large enough for the queen’s family, so it was demolished to make room for the much larger mansion that exists today. The entrance portico to the original house was left standing, however, and now serves as the main gateway to the walled garden on the estate. Osbourne House was one of Queen Victoria’s favorite homes and she died there on 22 January 1901.
Osbourne House is currently maintained by English Heritage, a registered charity that preserves and maintains historic sites throughout the United Kingdom. The house is open to the public.
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