Blenheim Palace

Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Built between 1706 and 1722, for General John Churchill (1650-1722), 1st Duke of Marlborough. Marlborough was the Commander-in-Chief of the British army whose decisive victory at the Battle of Blenheim (1705) over the combined French and Bavarian armies ended the Wars of the Spanish Succession. In gratitude, the nation gifted him the Manor of Woodstock on which he built (with some financial support from Queen Anne) this Palace - one of the largest houses in Britain and the only "Palace" in the country not owned by a member of the Royal family or the Church....

This house is best associated with...

George Spencer-Churchill

8th Duke of Marlborough, of Blenheim Palace

1844-1892

Lily (Price) Beresford

Lilian Warren (Price) Mrs Hamersley, 8th Duchess of Marlborough, Lady Beresford

1854-1909

Charles Spencer-Churchill IX

Charles Spencer-Churchill, of Blenheim Palace; 9th Duke of Marlborough

1871-1934

Consuelo Vanderbilt

Consuelo, 9th Duchess of Marlborough; afterwards Madame Balsan

1877-1964

It was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726) and is today a UNESCO world heritage site. By the 1880s, the family was struggling to maintain its upkeep but their fortunes changed when the Dukes of Marlborough discovered America. In 1888, the 8th Duke married the widowed Mrs Louis C. Hamersley, and soon afterwards part of her estimated $5 million fortune was, "applied to repair the roof at Blenheim and pay some of the Duke's debts". But Duke's debts continued to mount and when he died in 1892, his son by his first marriage, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, journeyed to America, returning with an even bigger prize: Consuelo Vanderbilt. It was her fortune which has maintained Blenheim since then and allowed the Spencer-Churchills to still call a corner of the sprawling palace (open to the public) 'home'.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 13/03/2019 and last updated on 03/08/2021.

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