Picks and Pans Review: Victoria and Albert: a Family Life at Osborne House

updated 01/20/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/20/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

by HRH the Duchess of York

Putting churlishness aside for a moment, let us concede that this account of life at the seaside villa where Queen Victoria allowed her Prince Consort to play at being boss is a visual delight. At Osborne, while Victoria ruled an empire, Albert designed furniture and cottages for the estate, and imported Tibetan sheep, Channel Island cattle and Clydesdale horses. The idyll lasted barely 15 years: The house was started in 1845 and was more or less complete by 1850; a little more than a decade later, Albert was dead at 41, and Osborne, according to the Queen, seemed "to have lost its Light—its very soul."

Period photos, family portraits and serene watercolors, handsomely interspersed with Victorian greeting cards, menus, sketches and other ephemera culled from the Royal Archives, illustrate the comparative domesticity of royal life at Osborne and attest to the aesthetic discernment that the Duchess of York acquired when, as ordinary Sarah Ferguson, she worked for a London art-book publisher. But what of the prose? Elementary sherlocking suggests that Fergie's involvement here was confined to a preface. For while the text (written with Benita Stone) is alive with detail and precision, the preface, replete with cozy references to Andrew and the kiddies, is awash in adjectives and crawling with adverbs.

After the flap over pocketing profits from her Budgie books, Fergie notes here that all royalties will go to the Prince Andrew Charitable Trust. (Prentice Hall, $40)

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