A History of the Palace
Blenheim Palace has a History suitable for a World Heritage Site. The Palace was created to celebrate victory over the French during the Wars of the Spanish Succession. In particular it was a gift to the First Duke of Marlborough. He was the military commander who skilfully led the Allied forces into battle on 13th August 1704 at Blindheim (Blenheim). After the Battle Marlborough personally received the surrender of Marshall Talland, leader of the French forces.
The Duke also ensured that the Palace became a monument to Queen Anne. It was the Queen and a grateful nation who granted to the Marlboroughs, the Manor of Woodstock and the promise of the funds needed to build such a house.
The actual building of the Palace was not trouble free. The first problem was that the Duchess did not want such a grand residence. She hoped for a smaller country house designed for comfort first and status second. She had many arguments with the architect Vanbrugh until Vanbrugh resigned. Sarah, the First Duchess, being a strong willed woman unfortunately fell out of favour with the Queen. Court intrigue made the most of this and for a short while the Marlboroughs even left the country. The second problem was therefore that Royal funds for the Palace dried up. Building of the Palace came to a halt in the summer of 1712. Eventually the Palace was completed at the Duke’s own expense.
Over the years several Dukes have made a considerable difference to Blenheim.
The 4th Duke brought Capability Brown and William Chambers to make major changes to Palace Park and Gardens. Noticeably the family, in particular the ladies have been concerned for the needy. The 4th Duchess built the almshouses in Woodstock. The wife of the 7th Duke in particular worked tirelessly and successfully to help the starving in Ireland when her husband was Viceroy. She showed concern for the agricultural workers on the estate and also built the school in Bladon. The 8th Duke was an innovator. He introduced gas, electricity and central heating to the Palace.
The greatest impact on Blenheim was made by the 9th Duke. He created the formal gardens to east and west of the Palace, he restored of the Great Court and he replanted the entrance avenue and the Grand Avenue. In total he had half million trees planted in the Park. Inside the house the 9th Duke was responsible for a complete redecoration of the State Rooms. He also added extensively to the collection at Blenheim particularly the furniture. In the twentieth century during the both World Wars the dukes allowed Blenheim to be used in various ways for the war effort.
The most famous member of the family was Sir Winston Churchill who was born at Blenheim and spent a considerable amount of time at the Palace. Winston was the grandson of the 7th duke. He was a close friend of the 9th Duke and Duchess.
The present Duke has committed his life to the preservation of this great house and it was during his time at Blenheim that the Palace became a World Heritage Site.
"I never knew this was packed with so much history."
Visitor, February 2011