Friday, May 1, 2009

Catching Up--Blenheim

With term end, I am finally catching up.

Next Oxford, then Stratford Upon Avon and then our Farewell event. Gonna try to do this in the next couple of days.

Everyone knows something about Blenheim, if only that it is one of Englend’s great stately homes, or that it is the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough--home of the Churchills and the Spencers, that it was a base of British government in the darkest hours at the start of World War II, that it headquartered the top secret British intelligence branch MI5, etc. None of that prepares you for what you will see when you approach the palace along the long walk from the car park to the first, gilded palace gates.

Maybe the best way to describe it is as the opposite of an onion, each layer is greater, grander, sweeter than the last, until, having passed through two sets gates and through one modest courtyard, you emerge into a vista that takes away your breath, leaving you open mouthed with wonder.

This is Blenheim. We saw it Friday, April 17, and rather than try to describe it, and fail miserably, I shall let the place and the images speak for themselves, apart from a bit of description.

A couple of notes however. For purposes of security and conservation, in that order, there is no photography inside the palace—understandable, but a great shame; and, despite the fact that we spent five hours there, we saw only a small portion of what the site has to offer--the state rooms and the private apartments and only a small part of the gardens. We did not see the broader grounds, nor the exhibits. A visitor wanting to experience a significant portion of Blenheim would be well advised to budget two longish days for the visit.

Rather than trying to give you the history of the house, I will refer you to the palace website, which really reflects the tone and style of the place. Go to It actually is worth the visit.

So here we go:
The approach, grand though it be, hardly prepares you for the treasures that lie within

There is no interior photography, as I noted, so after the tours of the state apartments and the private apartments, we wandered the gardens on a gray spring day.
Consuelo, Ninth Duchess of Marlborough, is not a family favourite. The marriage to Charles was not a happy one. But she brought the Vanderbilt money to Blenheim, and is here commemorated as a Sphinx.

Rosa, our constant companion, here comforts a dying Gaul

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