What an interesting day spent at Blenheim Palace, Queen Anne’s reward to the (1st) Duke of Marlborough for defeating the French in the war of the Spanish succession in the very early 18th century. It consisted of much land plus the cash to begin building an imposing palace. Later dukes employed Capability Brown to create a magnificently-landscaped parkland. A thousand workers were employed for a number of years in this endeavour.
After grumbling about the £34 admission fee for two, we were gobsmacked by the initial view of the palace, bridge and lake, but we couldn’t stop because we had to proceed to the (muddy) parking lot.
Palace is very imposing. You are first lead through a huge gate to a courtyard which you think is the palace, but it is only after passing through a second huge archway that you see the even bigger main palace – cleverly done to impress. The palace is set in vast grounds of beautiful lawn.
The admission entitled us to a guided tour of part of the lower floor. This was mostly an account of the glorious military successes of the first duke. He commissioned ten huge tapestries to commemorate these victories. The greatest battle took place at Blindheim (literally, blind home) in Bavaria. Blenheim is derived from this name.
During the tour we also learned about the derivation of honi soit qui mal y pense. Apparently a lady at the court of King Charles (not sure if I or II) had her garter drop to the ground. The king gallantly scooped it up, and to save the lady embarrassment at this clothing malfunction, he wore the garter himself. Lest anyone attribute a base motive to this act (perish the thought), he coined the famous phrase which is now one of the royal mottos. In addition he founded the Order of the Garter. Not everything I have written here may be accurate – it’s what I can remember while preoccupied with photography.
The most interesting and impressive room was the library. It was most surprising to see an organ at one end of this long room. There was even a man playing there for each successive wave of guided tour groups. He gave a detailed account of how the organ worked, demonstrating each aspect as he went. Even a musical ignoramus like me couldn’t help but be impressed. And most importantly, Joan was chosen to play this palace organ, albeit only one note.
On the upper floor was the Untold Story, a display through a sequence of rooms featuring animatronic models, videos and moving holograms(!) telling the family story. It was very well done.
In a separate building was a display about Winston Churchill’s life.
Subsequently we viewed the beautiful terrace garden and then went back to the gatehouse to get some photos of the initial impressive vista, but by this time it was drizzling so we had to repair back to the palace for a rejuvenating coffee.
As I mentioned, the grounds are vast and at some distance from the palace is a memorial column dedicated to the first duke. We wanted to go there to see it, by passing over the large bridge. The road then forked with branches going on either side of the rise on which stood the monument. We assumed that either would take us to the monument. We took the left branch, but when this didn’t seem to work out we were forced to cross the wet grass of the meadow on which it stood. There were no other people about to give us confidence or guidance, only copious sheep poo. The monument has the most extensive inscription detailing the land grant we have ever seen, giving the impression that they were keen to justify their acquisition.
It was a long walk back to the car park, accompanied by light rain, but we didn’t mind.
Weather: 9℃ to 10℃ all day, with intermittent rain periods.