Thursday, June 18, 2009

Win A Battle, Get A Palace !

Yesterday, after paying a final visit with Ruth in Oxford hospital, Daphne et moi went a few miles up the road to visit Blenheim Palace, the home of the Churchill family for the last 300 years and the birthplace of Sir Winston.

The males of the family became Dukes of Marlborough and the 11th Duke is the present Marlboro Man and lives in a private part of the house, for Blenheim, despite being classed as a Palace, it still one of the largest houses in England.

The place has had a turbulent history since being built between 1705 and 1724. It was originally a gift to John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough from a grateful nation for his victory against the French at the Battle of Blindheim, close to the Danube in Germany. Blingheim somehow became Blenheim and the rest, as they say, is......

This little remembered victory in a less remembered battle was a turning point in the Spanish War of Succession and if you're not totally confused with English, French, German and Spanish references in the same battle, then I'm with you and lets move quickly on with things.

The early Dukes were not rich men and really didn't need the 5th Duke (1766-1840) to go on a spending spree that almost pushed the family into bankruptcy. The 7th Duke tried to keep their heads above water by selling just about everything in the Palace and although a tidy sum was raised, it hardly covered the debts.

The 9th Duke (1871-1934) did the only thing he could do to save the family home. He married a rich American ! Hurrah, yet another reason to be grateful to our colonial cousins and another reason for them to never let us forget it. In 1896, the Duke married into the Vanderbilts who had loads of dosh and her daddy paid buttloads of it for the privilage of losing a daughter but gaining a Duchess. The family name and Blenheim Palace were saved.

And here it is today, as seen from a balloon we rented to take us over the house.

Ok so I took a photo OF a photo hanging inside the house and more about that later. Here is a sign that greets you as you leave the car park and approach The Palace :

I didn't know what to expect but had a full camera card and a fully charged battery so was ready for anything. The next sight to greet us was this pheasant that just waddled by us on the lawn but needless to say, took off as soon as I pointed my lens at it. As always, click to enlarge.

The large car park leads visitors to the East Wing of the Palace which isn't all that impressive. We walked around to the North side and this brought us to the Main Entrance and the long driveway to it as seen in that first aerial photograph.

The general public can't get into the house this way thanks to the huge gates being locked so it was back to the East side again and by walking through that gateway, we came to the Great Court in front of the main facade.

With rain forecast for late afternoon, we wanted to see the outside of the house and explore the extensive grounds first and then go inside if and when the weather turned nasty. Here is a shot of the water terrace at the South West side of the house. You can see the start of a white tented area which was being set up for a society wedding in the near future.

While at this part of the house, I took a series of 5 photos for a panorama and without further ado, here it is.

We were kinda pissed off that the Italian Gardens on the South East of the building could only be looked at from afar as visitors weren't allowed to enter. Anyway after a visit to the delightful cafe where we had tea and fruit scones, homemade fruit scones the size of bowling balls I must add, it was time to enter the house proper.

A sign said NO PHOTOGRAPHY of any sort inside the house and so here are a few photos !!

Well I mean don't tell me I'm not allowed to take photos. It just gives me a challenge. Sadly as there were a few old ladies with badges around to tut and remind visitors about the photo rule, I had to use my little Nikon "point and shoot" camera so the quality wasn't as good. The various rooms didn't excite me very much anyway but early on in the tour we saw loads of Winston's personal items and documents and for a change, those WERE surprisingly interesting.

Just one more photo. Here is a sneaked photo of his bed that I took early on before I got more brazen. It was actually his mother's bed but was also his "birth bed" so no NHS hospital birth for our Winston.

Yes I know it COULD be any old bed from Ikea but being in Blenheim Palace I think I'll believe the notice and that it really was the great man's birth bed. If it was also his bed in later life, a few cigar burns on the bedding and a Dummies Guide To Winning WWII on the side table would've convinced me a bit more though.

But that's enough for now. Part 2 will follow, with photos of butterflies no less, in due time. And I hope to remember to tell you about how I tried to get us into the place at the children rate and how the woman checking our tickets at the door of The Palace had recently retired from her career as the bearded lady at Chipperfield's Circus. There will also be news about Billy Connolly filming Gulliver's Travels and.........

Always leave 'em wanting more !


Daphne said...

Ahhh great photos! The pheasant photo is phantastic!
In the house, I just tried to lurk between Silverback and the Bearded Badge Women so they couldn't see the camera in case the house has hidden dungeons for illicit photographers. Wouldn't put anything past those aristos.

rhymeswithplague said...

A lovely little cottage, eh, what?

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