Day out London: Blenheim Palace

blenheim palace

If you’re in London – or in the Cotswolds, one of my favourite parts of England, I recommend an outing to the little town of Woodstock and Blenheim Palace.

The palace represents the early stages of the English Romantic movement – an architectural style characterised by closeness to nature. I love the medieval towers, and the symmetry of the palace, but most of all, the wonderful gardens.

Blenheim was built for John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, in gratitude for beating the French and the Germans at Blindheim (a small village in Bavaria) in 1704. The name Blindheim was later anglicised and Churchills have been living here ever since.

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In the late 1800s, money ran out, and the palace was about to fall into ruin. Charles, the then Duke of Marlborough, couldn’t just get a job, of course. That would have been vulgar. Instead, he married money. American money. This wasn’t uncommon in the Victorian era when marital agents were busy introducing eligible American heiresses to British noblemen.

Marry the Duke or I will die

Enter railway heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt. Poor Consuelo was only a teenager, and secretly engaged. But her parents were as ambitious for an aristocratic title as Charles was for money. Mom Vanderbilt even threatened to murder her fiancé. When that didn’t work, she feigned a serious illness. Marry the Duke or I will die… how can a girl live with herself being responsible for her mother’s death?

So Consuelo married Charles and they seemed destined to live unhappily ever after. Fortunately, however, the marriage fell apart, and at 44 Consuelo married anew – a French aviator and adventurer this time. For love.

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In 1874, two months prematurely, a boy was born in a bedroom here at Blenheim Palace. Just like his first predecessor, he was to become famous for his efforts in war. I can just imagine little Winston tumbling about the grounds here.

Blenheim Palace practicals

  • Blenheim is about 20 minutes from Oxford.
  • Opening hours: 1030 – 1730 every day between February and November; Wed-Sun in winter.
  • Entrance fees: £21.50/17.00/11.80 for adults/concessions/children if you get the tickets on the spot. About half price if you skip the inside of the palace, and just want to wander about the park and gardens. Also, cheaper when you buy the tickets at least one day in advance through the website.
  • In summer, various medieval fairs are organised on the grounds, with knights, horses, sword fights, travelling falconers and all sorts of family fun.

Blenheim, grounds

 

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Blenheim Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites we have visited around the world.

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14 Comments

  1. Muza-chan 29 May 2014 at 0734 - Reply

    Lovely pictures 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 3 June 2014 at 0953 - Reply

      Thank you, Lili.

  2. Alli 29 May 2014 at 0804 - Reply

    Almost every corner of Cotswolds is beautiful. I have been to Blenheim about 10 years ago. Thanks for refreshing my memory. I remember spending more time in the gardens. I didn’t know about the marriage story, it is interesting. If you are in Cotswolds you should spend some time visiting small villages lazily and sampling some English food. There are many good restaurants and pubs serving food. Now must be about one of the best times. Another place to visit is Windsor and its castle.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 3 June 2014 at 0954 - Reply

      We spent about a week in the Cotswolds two years ago and adored the village life. Want more.

  3. Mette 29 May 2014 at 1236 - Reply

    Interesting. Though I’m can hardly believe the little Winston was as agile as your daughter.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 3 June 2014 at 0955 - Reply

      🙂

  4. Corinne 30 May 2014 at 1312 - Reply

    I love a sordid tale of woe and forced marriages! Gorgeous shots.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 3 June 2014 at 0956 - Reply

      Thanks. So much more interesting when one knows a bit about the history of a place.

  5. Lisa Goodmurphy 31 May 2014 at 1618 - Reply

    Gorgeous photos! My husband is a bit of a history buff and would like very much to visit Blenheim Palace. We almost combined it with a day trip to Stratford on our last trip to London but decided it would be too hectic. Next time!!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 3 June 2014 at 0957 - Reply

      Your girls would like it, Lisa.:)

  6. Cathy Sweeney 1 June 2014 at 2335 - Reply

    On my first trip to England I took a tour bus to Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon. We passed Blenheim Palace on the way and I so wanted to hop off the bus and go there. Haven’t been in that area since, but would love to walk in the footsteps of young Winston.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 3 June 2014 at 0957 - Reply

      Next time, Cathy. 🙂

  7. I wish I knew about Blenheim Palace last summer. What a beautiful place and love the sordid story behind it. Love that last postcard shot!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 June 2014 at 1236 - Reply

      Thanks, Mary 🙂

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