Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough
When the 9th Duke inherited the estate in 1892, his dedication to the Palace could have been thwarted by the lack of funds. He solved this problem by marrying Consuelo, who was a member of one of America’s richest families, the Vanderbilts. With her dowry he completely redecorated the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd State Rooms, and re-equipped the Long Library. Outside we owe to him the magnificent formal gardens - the Water Terraces to the west and the Italian Garden to the east. He restored the Great Court to its pre-Capability Brown original state (i.e. as it stands today) and restored the Grand Avenue of elms (in all he planted half a million trees).
His wife, Consuelo did much to help the poor of Woodstock and Bladon. She continued the tradition of taking food from the Palace to those in need. She visited the almshouses and the houses of the elderly and sick. Consuelo regularly went to the school at Bladon to listen to the children read, to help them with their needlework and cooking. During the First World War the Duke turned over a lot of the Park to sheep farming and developed the arable farming in an attempt to produce more food and to encourage others to follow his example. The Palace also became a military hospital for the wounded.
The Duke and Duchess had two sons. Consuelo although an unwilling Duchess, played her part in being a welcoming hostess to royalty and to the aristocracy of Britain. One of her closest friends was Winston Churchill. She admired and identified with Churchill’s vitality and ambition. He was a regular visitor to Blenheim, although Consuelo had to be careful to keep him away from their friends the Astors. Winston did not get on with Nancy Astor (first female MP). On one occasion when she was visiting Blenheim, Churchill arrived unexpectedly. Consuelo records that soon the inevitable argument happened. Nancy commented that if she were married to Winston she would put poison in his drink. Winston replied that if he were her husband he would drink it.