The 1st Duke of Marlborough commissioned this English Baroque country house after victory in the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. Sir Winston Churchill was born here and the 12th Duke of Marlborough lives here today with his family.
Blenheim Palace is the only non-royal, non-episcopal house in England to be called a palace. It took 20 years to build and was completed in 1722 for John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough. He commissioned Sir John Vanbrugh to plan the building, but Vanbrugh’s designs were criticised by the Duchess of Marlborough, who wanted Sir Christopher Wren to design the house. Vanbrugh planned Blenheim so that it would look best from a distance, and today, a walk around the grounds is still the best way to get a sense of the grandeur of the English Baroque building. Vanbrugh originally designed the grounds, but just forty years later 1764, the 4th Duke of Marlborough employed Capability Brown to create a softer, English landscaped garden.
By the late 19th century, the family had gotten into debt and the future of the palace was in real trouble. In 1896, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, Charles, decided to marry a rich American railroad heiress, Consuelo Vanderbilt. He didn’t claim to love her but he used her money to redecorate Blenheim, adding lots of gilt panelling to make it look like the decor at Versailles. You can see these additions in the richly-decorated State Rooms, or do one of the tours taking you ‘upstairs’ to the family rooms, or ‘downstairs’ to the kitchens and servants’ passages.
The Churchill family lived there for 300 years and the painted ceilings and walls of the house often show scenes from the family’s life. Sir Winston Churchill was born there in 1874. There’s a permanent exhibition to the former Prime Minister inside the house, and, on your walk around the grounds, you can try and spot the Temple of Diana summerhouse by the lake, which is where he proposed to his future wife in 1908. There are also formal gardens with water terraces, and a Secret Garden to explore, as well as a yew maze and butterfly house.
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