He Looks Familiar

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
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Trip End Aug 21, 2011


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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Sunday, September 19, 2010

I hopped on a tour bus with a bunch of other American grad students and headed down to Woodstock, about an hour or so outside of London. Woodstock is a little town outside of Oxford with a staggering population of about 3,000.  The town gathered its name from the motte and bailey palace that used to stand in a national clearing of the forest in the area known as the Woodstock Palace.  However, during the English Civil War, Woodstock Palace was destroyed.

However, John Churchill (related to the one and only Winston Churchill) won Queen Anne's favor instantly when he defeated the French at the Battle of Blenheim, a battle in which he was grossly outnumbered.  While the French generals treated their solders very poorly, merely giving them the bare necessities, Churchill essentially spoiled his troops, giving them good food and new boots when necessary.  This paid off when he encountered the larger but wearier French troops on the field.  After his victory at the Battle of Blenheim, Queen Anne rewarded him with the new title, the Duke of Marlborough, as well as the land and the ruins of Woodstock Palace.  She also fronted the money to him to rebuild a new palace, one that he named Blenheim Palace, after the battle he won.  In England, a building can only be called a "Palace" if it is a royal residence, but Queen Anne was so pleased by his victory that she allowed his new residence to be titled a Palace.  Thus, it is the only Palace in England that is not a royal residence.

There was no photography allowed inside the palace, as usual.  The right wing houses a collection of portraits of the Dukes and Duchesses of Marlborough and a lot of Winston Churchill memorabilia, since he was born at the palace.  Though he was born at the palace, it is not where he grew up because the palace belonged to his uncle.  In England, the title of Duke and the wealth of the family is inherited by the oldest son first.  Winston’s father was the second son, and his brother received the title of the Duke of Marlborough and Blenheim Palace.  Reportedly, Winston’s mother was quite the socialite and, even when she was some 8 months pregnant, refused to miss a lively gathering of upper class Englanders at Blenheim Palace.  This being the time before cars, she managed to travel the long journey from London out to Blenheim Palace.  As the story goes, it was when she was dancing the night away at Blenheim that her water broke, and, shortly thereafter, Winston Churchill was born.

The left wing is where the current Duke and Duchess currently live.  Apparently, the family has hit some hard times lately and essentially has no money.  While we were touring the rooms inside, a man politely walked around our group to show someone some painting in the next room.  Once in the next room, among the paintings, were modern photographs of the current Duke of Marlborough (the 11th Duke of Marlborough to be exact).  We quickly realized that this was the man who had just walked around us.  Basically, we met the Duke of Marlborough, and he was beyond the most overly polite and “posh” person we’d encountered.

Behind the palace lies the extensive immaculate yard as well as the Secret Gardens.  It is here in the backyard that Blenheim hosts numerous events throughout the year, including jousting tournaments, horse trails, and concerts.
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