Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Blenheim Palace is a grand, imposing Stately Home, designed by the distinguished architect, Vanbrugh, who saw it as a castle and a monument to Queen Anne's glory rather than a private home. However, the Royal Manor of Woodstock, and sufficient funds to build a palace, were given to the Duke of Marlborough by Queen Anne as a reward for his military victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. Completed in 1722, and covering an area of some seven acres, this splendid residence built in the English Baroque style presented a spectacular picture from all angles and at all times of the day and night.

The Great Court allows a dramatic view of Blenheim Palace as you approach the entrance, and everything seen is highly decorative. Vanbrugh appeared to be very good at incorporating the essential practical features into elaborate showpieces, and a good example of these are the chimneys, sporting thirty foot finials rising from square towers. The Great Hall is awe-inspiring, not only due to its immense proportions, but for the magnificent Thornhill ceiling and richly carved stone. Due to a disagreement between Thornhill and the Duchess, who always believed that she was being overcharged, Thornhill did not complete the Saloon and the Long Library, and a French artist was commissioned to finish the work.

There is so much of interest at Blenheim Palace, and no less so in the long vaulted corridors running to the wings from the north and south sides of the Great Hall. Every State Room is a glorious creation with elaborate ceilings, fabulous tapestries depicting the Duke's battles, ornate fireplaces, and quality furniture. Words simply fail to express the grandeur of the Saloon or State dining-room - even when devoid of people, the room seems to be alive with the characters painted by Laguerre with total realism. In the mid 18th century, 'Capability' Brown landscaped the vast grounds of Blenheim Palace, creating the Blenheim lake with its wonderful cascade, building the Temple of Diana, and Gothicising various buildings on the estate.

Sir Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace in 1874, and proposed to his future wife in the Temple of Diana. Throughout his life, and friendship with his cousin the 9th Duke of Marlbourough, Sir Winston continued his association with Blenheim Palace and was buried locally at Bladon. The Blenheim standard is sent annually as 'quit-rent' to the Sovereign at Windsor Castle, a tradition that has been carried out to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim on 13th August every year.

This classical masterpiece of Sir John Vanbrugh, set in over 2,000 acres of the gorgeous gardens and parkland, has been a source of much admiration over the centuries and, I am sure, will continue to be so for many more years to come.


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