At Blenheim Palace, Keep Off the Gravel!

Blenheim Palace Keep Off GravelKeep off the grass, I can understand, but keep off the gravel? Apparently, Blenheim is not your ordinary palace. As it turns out, it really isn’t.

Blenheim Palace (pronounced BLEN-em) is what the Duke of Marlborough calls home (and it’s one of England’s largest). Seriously. It was built on land once owned by Queen Anne, which she gifted to the 1st Duke of Marlborough along with £240,000 as a reward for defeating the French forces at the Battle of Blenheim (hence the name). However, each duke must pay “rent” to the Sovereign in the form of a new, symbolic standard (a banner with three fleurs de lys, which is the French royal standard) on every Battle of Blenheim anniversary. Imagine paying rent with one banner a year!

Blenheim Palace GateWe entered the Palace through the East Gate, which is tapered so the gate appears even higher than it is. Impressive.

Blenheim Palace Gate

The family motto “Fiel Pero Desdichado” can be seen on the East Gate’s doors. The phrase translates as “Faithful but Unfortunate.” Probably not the most optimistic family motto.

Blenheim Palace FrontThis is the front of Blenheim Palace, but it was just too big for my puny camera lens even though I stood as far back in the Great Court as I could. Do you see how small the people appear?

Blenheim Palace SoldierKeeping watch over the Great Court.

Blenheim Palace Facade CarvingIf anyone was unclear about what built Blenheim Palace, just look over the front door. Ferocious beasts, weapons of war, and standards. Do you see the standard with the fleurs de lys?

Blenheim Palace Portico EyesI have to say that it’s a little eerie standing on the portico with giant eyes staring down at you, but also pretty cool. The eyes are another unique Palace element, but also one of mystery…it is not known for sure what the eyes mean or whose eyes they are. However, there are a couple strong theories.

The eyes were originally painted in 1928 for Gladys Deacon, the American-born second wife of the 9th Duke of Marlborough who was famed for her blue eyes. Gladys captioned a photograph showing the eyes being painted, “Colin Gill painting our eyes.”  “Our” may refer to the Duke and Duchess or to Gladys and her friend, Consuelo Vanderbilt, American heiress and first wife of the 9th Duke who famously referred to her two sons as “the heir and the spare.”

Unfortunately, photography was not allowed inside the Palace, but I can tell you that we saw where Sir Winston Churchill, nephew to the 8th Duke of Marlborough, was born. More impressive, though, were works of art painted by Sir Churchill himself. I thought he was quite good!

Blenheim Palace Side GateStanding on the portico looking into the Great Court, one can see more references to war, battle, and victory. Do you see that gate below the clock? Atop the pillars sits English lions…

Blenheim Palace Lioneach devouring a French cockerel.

Blenheim Palace Column of VictoryThe Column of Victory in a field beyond the Great Court. Happily, peace reigns and sheep graze.

Blenheim Palace GardenA glimpse of the Secret Garden.

Blenheim Palace Statue's Foot

A weary warrior removing his sandal after a hard day of battle.

Blenheim Palace Side with FountainThe Water Terraces are a nice place to relax. I believe the drawn, white blinds are in the Palace’s library, which houses over 10,0000 books and a giant organ. What library doesn’t need an organ?

Blenheim Palace FountainThis is one level of the Water Terraces, but looking in the other direction with the Palace behind.

Blenheim Palace StatueOne more example of the warrior spirit that pervades the Palace and its grounds.

Blenheim Palace TopiaryAnd to soften the rough, warlike edges…who doesn’t love rubber duckies? Actually, I’m sure that topiary is probably a high art form and my flippancy may appear callous. But, seriously, when I look at these shrubs all that goes through my mind is, “Rubber ducky, you’re the one…”

Blenheim Palace Side and BackOn a more serious note, here you can see the rear of the Palace on the far left, which faces out towards a very large, grassy area, and on the right is the hedge that surrounds the private Italian Garden, which is adjacent to the Palace’s side containing the private apartments.

Blenheim Palace has so much to see and do, but we couldn’t stay any longer, unfortunately.

Blenheim Palace Front

Here’s one last glimpse at what Rick Steves calls “one of England’s best,” and I agree.

Thanks go to Wikipedia, Rick Steves’ Great Britain, and Blenheim Palace’s website for much of the information contained in this blog post.

About satnavandcider

An American expat living in England, exploring the United Kingdom and Europe through five senses and a camera lens.
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13 Responses to At Blenheim Palace, Keep Off the Gravel!

  1. Pit says:

    Great pictures and a wonderfully informative article: thanks!
    Am I right that Blenheim is – besides Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s residence in London – the only one of the great houses in England that’s called “palace”, all the others just being “houses”? Typical British understatement, eh?
    Glad you had such good weather. When we were there last year, it was raining, so the wonderful gardens were out of the question, unfortunately. But the palace really was impressive, despite the crowds moving through.
    Best regards from southern Texas,

    • Thanks for the compliments, Pit. Much appreciated. I know of Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace so there are at least a few palaces, but besides those, I don’t know. I have to agree with you about British understatement. 🙂 We did have nice weather. It started cloudy, but to our delight it only got sunnier. Can’t say that too often here. Too bad about the limit on your visit. Perhaps you will return one day. Thanks for visiting my blog. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    • JaniceSmith says:

      I was so unimpressed by it. It was simply unkempt and boring. Why hAve an ice cream shop attached to the back? And the crazy huge placards at the door with the nutty armour was lunacy. Don’t waste your time. Nightmarish place.

  2. “Faithful but Unfortunate.” Haha, what a motto! 😀
    Thanks for this nice post. I enjoyed reading the history that accompanied the photos. Impressive place.

  3. Vicky says:

    Fabulous photos and information into somewhere I’ve never been.
    Really enjoyed the tour 🙂

  4. Tisha says:

    Gorgeous photos! I’m a sucker for European royalty and palaces, so this was fun! 🙂

  5. Beautiful photographs! Blenheim is one of my favourite places to visit at home! So much history and still so beautifully maintained for all to see!

  6. Pingback: CAPABILITY BROWN | the heart thrills

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