Thursday, 30 April 2009

Blenheim Palace

This post is long way due, but I had no time updating my blog lately (the rest of the entry were being scheduled). Last night we had a chat with an old friend who reside in Dubai. Jacob and Grace, our friend who work on mission field in Dubai has finally called to leave the country by the Lord (you can find out on his blog if you are interested). To make the long story short, we talk to them on skype last night and we had a good time updating each other and sharing our burden and blessing. Please pray for their family for direction in their life and where God wanted them to go.

Anyway, back to the topic.... here is Blenheim Palace, enjoy!!!

Blenheim Palace is a large and monumental country house situated in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England. It is the only non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title "palace". The Palace, one of England's largest houses, was built between 1705 and circa 1724. It was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
But in England, a country with huge collection of castle and palace, what is so significant about Blenheim Palace? It is unique in its combined usage as a family home, mausoleum and national monument. The palace is also notable as the birthplace and ancestral home of Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.
Blenheim sits in the centre of a large undulating park. When Vanbrugh first cast his eyes over it in 1704 he immediately conceived a typically grandiose plan: through the park trickled the small River Glyme, and Vanbrugh envisaged this marshy brook traversed by the "finest bridge in Europe". Above is italian garden, just a small section of the garden.
Thus, ignoring the second opinion offered by Sir Christopher Wren, the marsh was channelled into three small canal-like streams and across it rose a bridge of huge proportions, so huge it was reported to contain some 30-odd rooms.
The garden was so huge, that they even have a train running from one side to the other. Remember when I blog about Butterfly and Cherry Blossom tree? And about giant chess and miniature village? That is part of Blenheim Garden! Below is the picture inside butterfly garden.

It's quite obvious that you need loads of fortune to keep up with the maintenance.
By the 1870s the Marlboroughs were in severe financial trouble, and in 1875 the 7th Duke sold the "Marriage of Cupid and Psyche", together with the famed Marlborough gems, at auction for £10,000. However this was not enough to save the family. In 1880 the 7th Duke was forced to petition Parliament to break the protective entail on the Palace and its contents. This was achieved under the Blenheim Settled Estates Act of 1880, and the door was now open for wholesale dispersal of Blenheim and its contents. The first victim was the great Sunderland Library which was sold in 1882, including such volumes as The Epistles of Horace, printed at Caen in 1480, and the works of Josephus, printed at Verona in 1648. The 18,000 volumes raised almost £60,000.
The sales continued to denude the palace: Raphael’s "Ansidei Madonna" was sold for £70,000; Van Dyck’s equestrian painting of Charles I realised £17,500; and finally the "piece de resistance" of the collection, Peter Paul Rubens "Rubens, His Wife Helena Fourment, and Their Son Peter Paul", which had been given by the city of Brussels to the 1st Duke in 1704, was also sold, and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
These sums of money, vast by the standards of the day, failed to cover the debts, and the maintenance of the great palace remained beyond the Marlboroughs' resources. These had always been small in relation to their ducal rank and the size of their house. The British agricultural depression which started in the 1870s added to the family's problems. When the 9th Duke inherited in 1892, the Spencer-Churchills were almost bankrupt.

Charles, 9th Duke of Marlborough (1871–1934) can be credited with saving both the palace and the family. Inheriting the near-bankrupt dukedom in 1892, he was forced to find a quick and drastic solution to the problems. Prevented by the strict social dictates of late 19th-century society from earning money, he was left with one solution, he had to marry it. In November 1896 he coldly and openly without love married the American railroad heiress and renowned beauty Consuelo Vanderbilt. The marriage was celebrated following lengthy negotiations with her divorced parents: her mother was desperate to see her daughter a Duchess, and the bride's father, William Vanderbilt paid for the privilege. The final price was $2,500,000 (worth about $300m in 2007) in 50,000 shares of the capital stock of the Beech Creek Railway Company with a minimum 4% dividend guaranteed by the New York Central Railroad Company.
The couple were given a further annual income each of $100,000 for life. The bride later claimed she had been locked in her room until she agreed to the marriage. The contract was actually signed in the vestry of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, New York immediately after the wedding vows had been made. In the carriage leaving the church, Marlborough told Consuelo he loved another woman, and would never return to America, as he "despised anything that was not British".
The replenishing of Blenheim began on the honeymoon itself, with the replacement of the Marlborough gems. Tapestries, paintings and furniture were bought in Europe to fill the depleted palace. On their return the Duke began an exhaustive restoration and redecoration of the palace. The state rooms to the west of the saloon were redecorated with gilt boiseries in imitation of Versailles.
blenheim13Inside the palace the staff was enlarged and smartened to suit a fabulously wealthy ducal household. The inside staff was of approximately 40, while the outside staff numbered 50, including the game-keeping staff of 12, electricians for the newly installed wiring, carpenters, flower arrangers, lodge keepers, and a cricket professional to ensure the success and honour of the estate cricket team. The lodge keepers were dressed in black coats with silver buttons, buff breeches, and cockaded top hats. The gamekeepers donned green velvet coats with brass buttons and black billycock hats.
Blenheim was once again a place of wonder and prestige. However, Consuelo was far from happy; she records many of her problems in her cynical and often less than candid biography "The Glitter and the Gold". In 1906 she shocked society and left her husband, finally divorcing in 1921. She subsequently married a Frenchman, Jacques Balsan. She died in 1964 having lived to see her son Duke of Marlborough, and frequently returning to Blenheim, the house she had hated and yet saved, albeit as the unwilling sacrifice.

The palace today remains the home of the Dukes of Marlborough — the present incumbent of the title being John George Vanderbilt Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough. Like his forebears he lives for part of the year in the palace, with his family occupying the same suite of rooms as the 1st Duke and Duchess.
The palace is open to the public, and contains tourist attractions in the grounds, but the atmosphere is still that of a large country house. The progression from home to business has been essential to the palace's survival in the 20th and 21st centuries. Varied commercial concerns include a maze, adventure playground, mini-train, gift shops, butterfly house, fishing, and even bottles of Blenheim Natural Mineral Water. Concerts and festivals are also staged in the palace and park. While the Duke retains final control over all matters in the running of the palace, the day-to-day control of commercial aspects are outsourced to Sodexho Prestige, a division of Sodexho.


Merryn said...

i'm speechless! the photos are just too beautiful! thanx for dropping by my blog... u have a great weekend.. :)

LittleKiwisPhotography said...

I LOVe history. All these pics are amazing. What a beautiful place. I would love to travel to your part of the country some time.

Thanks for your nice comment about my blog header. I DO have the color and they are amazing too. I loved this session. But have not posted many of the pics. I have been very busy. :)

Char said...

gorgeous shots...I love the history

F A I T H said...

Hi there! Thanks for dropping by my blog. You take great pictures and the Blenheim Palace is indeed beautiful beyond description!!! :) The hands of the those who built the palace are so blessed by God!

Like you, I hardly have time to blog nowadays. School term had just started and I'm so occupied with my 2.5 year old kids and my studies. Hope to get my blog updated soon. Its Labour Day in Singapore today, so we're enjoying our public holiday. Hope you and your family have a great weekend over in the UK too.

God bless you!

J.H said...

@Merryn : the real thing is much better than this pictures :-)

@LittleKiwis & Char: yes, you should come here and see loads of palace and garden. And I bet you took much better picture than these.

@Faith : Yes we are having a day off too on Monday yeay!!! Happy holiday.

Liss said...

What an amazing history this place has. Along with the great photos this was a wonderful blog post.

J.H said...

@Liss : glad you enjoyed it Liss... if you ever visited northern hemisphere again one day, you know a place to visit :-)