Blenheim Palace – the perpetuated glory of the Dukes of Marlborough
In Oxfordshire very close to its largest city Oxford in the village of Woodstock is one of the most majestic and beautiful palaces of Britain, Blenheim Palace.
A bird’s eye view of the palace
Every year hundreds of thousands of tourists come to this unique for England architectural structure to get a complete picture of how the Marlborough Earls, who belonged to the upper classes of society in Foggy Albion, saw their “paradise outside the city”. “Why unique to England?” a tourist in one of the many tour groups might ask. It’s all about the fact that Blenheim Palace was built in the Baroque style, and this luxurious style has never before been popular in Britain.
Already at the gates of Woodstock a visitor to Blenheim has the impression that he is about to come into contact with something amazing and truly beautiful. Looking ahead, I would like to note that expectations have not yet deceived anyone: the palace itself, its interior and magnificent garden remain in the memory for a lifetime. Blenheim has always been popular, even when the first Duke of Marlborough and his wife Sarah, who was considered one of the Queen’s best friends, lived there, but it was impossible to get through its gates. According to eyewitnesses of the time, crowds of onlookers often gathered around the palace in the middle of the 18th century to see the strikingly luxurious style of the facade and the park, which not only had beautiful, well-kept trees and shrubs, but also an artificial lake shining in the sun, which looked like a wide ribbon. This lake is home to a great number of valuable fish species. Lake Blenheim is often called “a fisherman’s paradise” for a reason.
View of the palace from the Grand Bridge
By the way, at the moment the palace does not belong to the state, as many people think, it is still privately owned by the Dukes of Marlborough. The Duke of Marlborough XI along with his family and servants lives in the east wing of the palace, enjoys all the benefits of civilization and allows numerous tourists to explore all the unoccupied rooms, their luxurious interior decoration and even fish in the lake. In addition, in the territory of the palace and park complex Blenheim you can get married, buy various souvenirs, made mostly in Woodstock workshops, buy healing mineral water, the source of which is in the park, make a movie or hold a corporate party.
Naturally, all these pleasures will cost tourists, filmmakers and anglers quite a lot, but it can’t be otherwise: only to maintain the Blenheim Palace and garden in pristine condition every year the Duke spends simply exorbitant amounts. Fans of The Potteriana, for example, know that one of its episodes, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was filmed at the Blenheim Palace: the shooting, which used the palace and park ensemble of the Dukes of Marlborough as a set, significantly increased the budget of the film.
The central part of the facade
Despite the cost of guided tours of Blenheim and other recreational activities on its grounds, it is always in the spotlight. It should be, because the fate of the man who played a key role in World War II, Winston Churchill, is even connected with this palace. For those who are not familiar with the history of England, Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace and he was one of the members of the Dukes of Marlborough dynasty.
Blenheim Palace – history and construction of the palace and park complex
As can be seen from the documents, the territory near Woodstock and the old royal palace was given to the Duke of Marlborough as a gift in 1704 by the legendary Queen Anne. Such a gift symbolized the gratitude of the queen and the people of all Foggy Albion for the victory of the English army under the command of Marlborough over the French at the second Battle of Hochstedt, which went down in history as the Battle of Blendheim. In addition to this generous reward, the queen solemnly promised the Duke of Marlborough and his wife that the state would cover all the costs of constructing a sumptuous country residence. Doubtless there was money in the English treasury at the time, and by the way, not a small sum.
View of the palace from the southeast
Construction began in 1705, the order for the construction of a magnificent palace was made to the architect by the name Vanbre. This specialist has already become famous for his work, and was known among the people as a fierce defender of historical and architectural monuments. Vanbwr wished to immortalize in the residence many episodes from the military exploits of Marlborough, and in addition to the construction of a new palace to restore the old one, which was destroyed by vandals during the English Revolution. His plans could not come to fruition because of the squabbling nature of the Duke’s wife, who had given more thought to the political organization of Europe than to the style in which his own palace would be built. Sarah, who undertook almost all the work involved in building a palace, insisted that Vanbwr tear down the ruins of the old royal palace, which “grieved her tender soul. The architect did as he was commanded by the wife of the national hero and began the construction of the “rural paradise.” Incidentally, at first Vanbwr was lenient to the whims of the wife of the Duke of Marlborough I. It was quite simple to explain: firstly, while working on Blenheim, he also finished building Howard Castle, and secondly, the money from the treasury simply poured a river, as promised by Queen Anne.
View of the palace from the Water Terrace
As history would have it, the promise to finance the palace from the state treasury was nowhere documented. Sarah provoked a quarrel with the queen and the flow of money to build the luxurious Blenheim dried up. The Duke hoped to reconcile with the queen, but on 1 August 1714, the Stuart queen passed away. No one was going to pay for Sarah’s whims anymore, and from 1714 the duke took over all the costs of the building.
The fact that the Duke of Marlborough and his wife Sarah did not initially invest a pound in the erection of Blenheim does not imply that they were among the low-income dukes. On the contrary, their fortune was one of the largest in all of England. Sarah simply chose not to invest personal money in the construction of the palace, especially when such a solemn promise had been made to her husband by the Queen herself. But, as history has repeatedly confirmed, words that are not fixed on paper and not sealed can easily be revoked, or simply forgotten. Such was the case with the oath of the grateful Queen Anne.
View of the palace from the southwest
The wife of the victor of the Battle of Hochstedt wanted only unsurpassed luxury in her palace. Vanbwr understood that the palace should be a constant reminder to posterity of the legendary duke who literally saved England. That’s why he erected a huge 41-metre high “Victory Column” in the park by the palace. He also designed a beautiful triumphal arch, which was visible from the palace, and which stood just before the entrance to Woodstock village. Naturally, it symbolized the triumph of the first Duke of Marlborough over his defeated enemy.
It is also interesting that the Duke himself was also ambitious, as evidenced by the statue (or rather – the bust) of Louis XIV, placed right at the entrance to Blenheim. This bust of the French king was brought back from France by the English, and the duke, looking at this trophy, recalled his legendary victory. It is worth noting the fact that after the queen’s death, two architects already worked on the palace: the aforementioned Vanbre and Nicholas Hawksmoor. It was Hawksmoor’s assistant who managed to find a compromise between the duke’s wife and his mentor. Many contemporary architects express confidence that, were it not for Nicholas Hawksmoor’s diplomacy, Blenheim would have looked too pretentious, or turned into a mausoleum of glory.
In 1722, the first Duke of Marlborough died before his sumptuous palace was completed. A palace that was no mere whim of the powerful, but a monument to a great strategist and victor. The duke’s widow did not abandon Blenheim, but brought all the work to completion, mostly related to the interior decoration of the rooms. The date of completion of the palace is officially considered 1724.
The modern appearance of the Blenheim Palace in Woodstock came somewhat later. In 1764, Duke of Marlborough IV decided to create in his ancestral residence a landscape park, or, as modern landscape designers like to call it, an English park. A labyrinth of bushes, a whole system of artificial small ponds, fountains, a huge “ribbon lake”, which was flooded with fish, hunting lodges, terraces – all this was done under the direction of Lancelot Brown. This architect, who laid out magnificent parks and gardens, was nicknamed “the able Brown” for his talent. Looking at his work, even the most hardened skeptic would think this English park was the work of a genius.
View of the entrance to the East Courtyard
The heyday of Blenheim lasted until the end of the 19th century, when the Dukes of Marlborough nearly went bankrupt. In order to save the palace and somehow make ends meet, they sold a huge number of paintings by the world’s most famous artists. But this plight did not last long: in 1895, the titled representative of the dynasty of the Dukes of Marlborough married the richest woman in the world from the United States of America, Consuelo Vanderbilt. The marriage was beneficial to all parties: the Duke of Marlborough’s consort IX gets a prefix to her name (Consuelo Vanderbilt Duchess of Marlborough), and the impoverished dynasty can dispose of huge sums of money for those times.
Blenheim – the family estate of Winston Churchill
As mentioned above, Blenheim is known throughout the Old World for being the birthplace of the greatest Briton in the history of the kingdom. That was the title given by the Englishmen to Winston Churchill in the 2002 poll. The most famous politician, scientist, an ardent opponent of the fascist regime, British Prime Minister was born in Blenheim in 1874.
View of the palace and the Grand Bridge from the opposite side of the Royal Pond
Churchill, according to the genealogical tree of the Dukes of Marlborough, was a grandson of the Duke of Marlborough VII. He was very fond of his estate, quite often lounging in its vast and luxurious halls. According to the British Prime Minister, the two most important events in his life are connected with Blenheim: he was born there, and it was there, in one of the arbors, he proposed to his future wife. In this palace Winston Churchill uttered a famous phrase, with which it is simply impossible not to agree. It goes something like this: “We all create our own homes, and then those same homes create us.
Modern Blenheim – A tour of the luxurious palace and park complex
The legendary and world-famous Blenheim Palace, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, is not far from Oxford. The best way to get to it is on foot: you can take the wonderful scenery, and it’s only an 8 to 10-minute walk from Oxford to Blenheim, while the coach journey to Blenheim takes almost half an hour. The best time to visit the residence of the Dukes of Marlborough is earlier in the morning.
East Gate of the Palace
After buying a ticket at the ticket office, it’s best to head straight to the palace premises. In the morning there aren’t many tourists yet, but in the middle of the day there’s not much to do at Blenheim Palace. Experienced guides usually do just that: first they lead groups to the magnificent hall, made almost entirely of expensive marble, and in which there is a beautiful plafond, created in 1716; then to the room where “the greatest Briton” was born. The drawing rooms, on the walls of which are painted portraits by famous artists, and the Green Study, decorated with tapestries, are the first rooms of the palace that leave the tourist in mute shock with their splendor.
By the way, the “Green Study” of Blenheim is decorated with a tapestry depicting the very historic battle, which was won by the Duke of Marlborough I. Tourists are especially impressed with the library. It is a seemingly endless hall, the walls of which have shelves of books from floor to ceiling. Surprisingly, the length of the library is just over 55 (!) meters. Many of the books kept there are considered unique and rare. Marriage ceremonies, which are held in Blenheim Palace, are usually accompanied by music played from a huge organ. By the way, this organ is richly decorated, and is itself a real work of art.
The Victory Column in the palace park
Alas, to describe all the richness of the palace interior in words is almost impossible: as already mentioned above, in its construction have been invested enormous sums from the state budget of England, the Dukes of Marlborough and even the Vanderbilt family. The best thing to do before a trip to Woodstock is to familiarize yourself with photos of Blenheim and plan a tour of the palace in advance, unless, of course, it is intended to be visited as part of a tour group. The ghost of the Countess of Marlborough’s maid can familiarize the tourist with the rooms of the castle. What majestic structure of Foggy Albion can do without a ghost? True, this is not a real ghost, but a visual effect created with the help of ultra-modern technology. However, the sight of a translucent woman telling the story of Blenheim still evokes a feeling of “chill” slowly spreading throughout your body. When visiting the rooms of the palace, one must remember that it is strictly forbidden to enter the rooms marked ‘Private’. The Dukes of Marlborough live in these rooms, and they will not particularly like the invasion of their privacy.
Statue in the palace park.
Blenheim – English Garden and Entertainment
Blenheim’s English garden can’t help but evoke a sense of awe at the world of beauty. It can’t be any other way when you’re in the place where “skillful Brown” worked. In this park you can admire the most bizarre trees in the world, whose name is written on special plaques and for which a special climate (heating, soil moistening, etc.) has been created. You can enjoy the inexpressible aromas in the so-called “Rose Garden of Blenheim”. In addition, the palace and park complex has a comfortable golf course, giant-sized chess pieces, and even a butterfly house. The butterfly house is always popular with tourists to Blenheim. It has a huge collection of these beautiful insects . They are not nailed down with little carnations or placed in frames – all the butterflies are alive. They grow and reproduce there: in this house there are even stands on which hang cocoons, from which an enchanting creature is about to fly out.
If a traveler has some free time, he can wander through the labyrinth, though the exit from it is not difficult to find, but it will be interesting for children to watch the miniature railroad. By the way, near it at a certain time of the year you can see an unforgettable spectacle – a mating of wood grouse. Experienced hunters know that it is almost impossible to get close to the wood grouse. And in Blenheim they even allow people within 10 paces. It goes without saying that they are tame keepers, and hunting on them is strictly forbidden.
The Marlborough Garden Maze in the Palace Amusement Garden
Near the lake, where fishing is available for a fee, are picturesque bright green lawns. Locals of the Dukes of Marlborough allow picnics on them every Sunday. There are no withered fires or litter to be found there, and the park’s numerous caretakers keep their watch at all hours of the day and night. The Blenheim Palace in Woodstock should remain in its original form for posterity and symbolize the feat that the Duke of Marlborough I once accomplished.
I find it very interesting to touch history directly. To feel the atmosphere and aura of historical places. I visited palaces and museums of St. Petersburg, Crimea and other Russian cities. I never visited England. I will walk around the castle, at least virtually. Come with me.
Blenheim Manor (Blenheim) was the embodiment of English rural paradise of high society. Everything here is as it should be for a lord, a worthy successor to the traditions of his equally worthy ancestors: a palace with richly decorated rooms, vases of flowers, an extensive library, and photographs of family members showing the consistently dignified life of the family; an elaborately laid out park, a lake in front of the palace, and even a small waterfall. The real life of the family, of course, is carefully hidden from view behind Private signs. And the visitor obediently admires what he is supposed to admire.
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Blenheim is very close to Oxford (25 min by bus and about 7 min on foot), near the village of Woodstock. Buses leave from the train and bus stations in Oxford. However, after a futile half-hour wait near the station and a ten-minute attempt to explain myself to the local well-wishers (at first they could not understand what I was asking (Blenheim in our language is Blenheim in English), and then could not understand what was written in the schedule), it turned out that on Sunday the buses go only from the bus station. But such little things, of course, could not spoil the mood in any way. The rural England around Oxford and Warwick is absolutely marvelous, and the spring only adds to the sense of enthrallment: small houses covered with ivy, orchards, narrow streets, endless thickets of white hawthorn, sheep on carefully fenced meadows (to repeat my thought from the section on Warwick: now I know exactly where the hobbits live). The bus stop is almost exactly opposite the gate to the estate. The ticket office is in the driveway halfway to the palace. If you’re coming in the morning, you might want to start at the palace, because the tours will come pouring in, and the rooms will be hard to see from behind their heads. John Vanbru. Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. 1705-1724. The central part of the main facade.
John Vanbrugh (1664-1726) occupies an intermediate position between the diversely gifted and educated masters of the 17th century and the narrow specialists of the 18th. A brilliant officer, court wit, fashionable playwright, he also remained a gifted dilettante in architecture.
His major works were Howard Palace (1699-1712) and Blenheim Palace (1705-1724) built in the first years of the 18th century.
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Already in the first of them, he tried to combine the Versailles scope with English comfort, he struck his contemporaries first of all by the size of his building, the length of which was 200 m, depth – almost 130 m, the height of the central dome exceeded 70 m. In even more grandiose in size Blenheim Palace, built for the famous commander of the Duke of Marlborough (259 X 155 m), the architect tried to improve a few clumsy plan of the first building. Observing strict symmetry, he arranged on either side of the great curdor two more courtyards connected to the main building by galleries adorned with a colonnade. In the exterior architecture of the Blenheim Palace neither the heavy portico of the main entrance, nor the triumphal arch of the park facade, nor the corner towers seem to please the eye: the forms here are heavy and rough. The palace interiors are uncomfortable and uncomfortable. Vanbru’s aspiration for strict pageantry which is typical of classicism is rather mechanically combined with superficial pomp which goes back to the baroque. In his architecture, as one of his contemporaries put it, “heavy in form and light in substance”, it is not difficult to find clear signs of eclecticism.
The first impression is of a huge marble hall, the route continues through the room where Winston Churchill was born and rooms with a collection of porcelain. Walking through the living rooms left a nice portrait by Reynolds of the fourth Duchess of Marlborough with her child and the wonderful tapestries in the Green Study, hanging across the corner, on two walls at once – it looks unexpected and changes the perception of the room. For the first time in my travels I liked the tapestries, before that the admiration of guidebooks of all kinds of tapestries caused only bewilderment.
The “Long” library is impressive – a long room full of books in marble and with rich stucco, originally created as an art gallery and, in general, more suitable for this purpose. All the same, it is cozier to read books in a darkened study with a fireplace and floor lamps, rather than in a spacious marble room with high ceilings. In addition to tourists, the palace also earns money from those who want to rent it for events and weddings, and also serves as a place for filming movies. In 2006, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” was filmed here.
Anyone who has ever seen the movie or play “The Glass of Water” will probably remember the Duchess of Marlborough. The “Iron Duchess” lived in Blenheim Palace (Blenheim), which she loathed. What did she dislike about the architectural masterpiece? On a quiet August day in 1704, Queen Anne was playing dominoes with her husband George when she received good news. On August 13, the troops of the Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722) defeated the French-Bavarian army at Blenheim on the left bank of the Danube, near the village of Gochsted. It was one of the decisive battles of the War of the Spanish Succession.
Anne could not contain her joy, for the duke was not only a hero, but also the husband of her best friend. Ever since her girlhood, the queen had been friends with Sarah (1660-1744), the future Duchess of Marlborough. Strong-willed friend twisted the queen as she wanted, but soft and compliant Anne still adored her. To emphasize the equality of their relationship, Anne asked the Duchess to call her “Mrs Morley”, while she herself called her friend “Mrs Freeman”. When “Mr. Freeman” returned to England, the queen ordered that Blenheim Palace be built for him.
As it required money from the Treasury, she had to seek Parliamentary approval for its construction.The architect John Vanbrugh (1664-1726), who had recently completed the Castle Howard Estate in Yorkshire, began the construction. The Duchess of Marlborough took an immediate dislike to his work as a dramatist, and his designs reflect a flight of fancy. And the avaricious Duchess wanted a simpler house – without grottoes, ancient temples and other trinkets. So began a feud, which both the architect and the customer enthusiastically indulged for many years. As it turned out later, her instincts were correct. Blenheim was built on the principle of “feast – have fun, counted – weep”.Every detail of Blenheim reminds of the triumph of the Duke. Above the gates sit stone lions tormenting a Gallic rooster, a sculptural group by architect Gibbons. The corner towers are decorated with four shaped turrets with inverted French lilies beneath the ducal crown. The interior decoration of the palace also has a military theme.
On the ceiling of the central hall one can see a huge oval plafond painted by Sir James Thornhill. The Duke of Marlborough is depicted as a Roman general. When the double doors leading from the salon to the hall and from the hall to the front courtyard are opened, a triumphal column can be seen on the hill in the distance. It is crowned by a statue of a duke in a constant Roman toga.All these beauties drove the Duchess mad. The situation worsened around 1707 when the unthinkable happened – the queen had a new favourite, Abigail Hill, married to Mrs Marsham. In 1710 the Marlboroughs were dealt a new blow when the Tory political party came to power. The new government refused to pay for the construction of Blenheim, for Marlborough belonged to the Whigs. Cliabell 3000 px.
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A financial squabble ensued, ending only with the death of Queen Anne. The new King George paid the Duke’s debts, although Marlborough had to rebuild Blenheim with his own money. After her husband’s death in 1722, the Duchess left the loathed palace, but longed for it and returned. Her descendants were fond of Blenheim. George Churchill, the fourth Duke of Marlborough, paid particular attention to the garden complex. At his invitation, Lancelot Brown came to Blenheim and completely redesigned the park, tearing down all the old buildings and planting hundreds of trees. He also dammed the River Glaime, creating an artificial lake in the park – a fitting frame for Vanbru Bridge.The famous owner of Blenheim was Charles (1871-1934), the ninth Duke of Marlborough. In the Red Drawing Room hangs his ceremonial portrait by the artist Sargent: the duke in all his regalia, his two sons by his side, and the slender beauty Consuelo Vanderbilt (1877-1964), daughter of an American millionaire. The Duke married the eighteen-year-old Consuelo for one purpose: to mend his shattered finances.
In turn, her mother dreamed of a duchess daughter, so she quickly arranged her marriage. The marriage between the melancholic Englishman and the ardent American woman was short-lived – after 11 years the couple separated, and in 1921 divorced. Nevertheless, Consuelo was able to taste all the pains and joys of an English estate. In her memoirs, she describes the gala dinners at Blenheim: the dinner, which lasted only an hour, included eight changes of food, so that the eaters had to hurry. At first Consuelo wondered why, after lunch, the butler left a basket of tin cans in the dining room. It turned out that the Duchess had to scrape uneaten food off plates to be taken to the poor.Receptions at the palace were attended by Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), the ninth Duke’s cousin. The famous prime minister was born at Blenheim and was buried in Blendon Church, alongside the rest of the Spencer-Churchills. As Churchill himself wrote, “At Blenheim I made two important decisions – to be born and to marry – and was quite pleased with both!”
Through the house church we emerge to the terraces above the lake, and on to the park. Blenheim Park is something absolutely marvelous. It was created in the 1760s by Lancelot Brown, considered by many to be the best landscaper of all time in England. Brown was nicknamed Capability (difficult to translate adequately in Russian) for the fact that he told every client of his, the owner of a wealthy estate, that the landscape on his estate has a tremendous opportunity (so that nowadays his name Lancelot is rarely mentioned, everyone writes Capability Brown). He created parks in the English style, which involved preserving and unobtrusively improving the natural landscape. The result is an idyllic park in which every turn of the pathway makes one admire a new view, a harmonious grouping of trees. It was necessary not only to be an excellent gardener, but also to be able to foresee how the plantings would look a hundred years later – because only then the park began to fully comply with the intent of the creator. Now the park has perhaps reached its full bloom. In 1987, the estate was included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.
Rare and interesting trees grow in the park, with unusual crowns and coloring, and many have plaques. Not far from the water terrace is the Rose Garden, a little farther to the lake is a moat, strewn with bells in the spring. Such fields of flowers of the same species are peculiar to England because of its island location, and it is an impressive sight. We descend lower and come out to a large cascade, also created by Capability Brown, and to the lake.
If you walk from the terraces to the left, past the Italian-style garden at the palace (as it belongs to the palace wing, closed to the public, of course, Private) and the vast lawn, you also reach a small wood, in which the garden is hidden from public view, from a series of gardens of seclusion – with a stream and flowers. All of the above refers to the historical part. But to amuse the public (and to increase tourist fees, of course), many estate owners create an entertaining part.
Blenheim has a classic set of attractions: a small railroad with a funny train, a maze (an entertainment I think only the English understand), a butterfly house, golf course, playground, giant chess. There are endless lawns next to the palace and around the lake – the locals come here on Sunday for picnics.
In the House of Butterflies, butterflies are bred and released to fly freely around the room, there is a stand with cocoons in various stages of development, and there are also turtles living in the pool.
If you really want to walk through narrow passages in high bushes – go to the maze. The pleasure is difficult to get, because it is impossible to get lost.
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The Duke of Marlborough at the Battle of Blenheim (scene from the tapestry at Blenheim Palace
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt (died 1723).
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The Marlborough Family of Sir Joshua Reynolds
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