12th Duke Pays 'Standard' Rent to the Crown

Post date: 6th August

In a ceremony dating back more than 300 years, officials from Blenheim Palace are preparing to travel to Windsor Castle this week to pay our annual rent to the monarchy. 

Each year, representatives of the Duke of Marlborough present a French royal standard to the Superintendent of the Castle in lieu of rent. The flag, known as the Quit Rent Standard, is then hung in the Queen’s Guards Chamber for the year, until the next one is presented. 

The event always takes place in the weeks leading up to the anniversary of the First Duke’s historic victory against King Louis XIV at the Battle of Blenheim on August 13th 1704. At the time the victory was hailed as the greatest British military success since Agincourt. As well as being a stunning victory it is also considered a turning point in history, signalling the end of France’s ambitions to rule Europe. As a sign of gratitude the Crown gifted Marlborough the tenancy of the royal manor of Woodstock to site the new Palace, and Parliament voted to pay £240,000 towards its construction. 

12th Duke Pays 'Standard' Rent to the Crown
12th Duke Pays 'Standard' Rent to the Crown

Blenheim Palace House Manager Kate Ballenger said: “Although Blenheim is not a royal palace, the land it is built on did originally belong to the monarchy. In lieu of rent we have a new version of the French royal standard made for us each year which we hand over to representatives of the Queen. 

“This year’s standard must be taken to Windsor Castle before the anniversary of the battle, otherwise, according to the original proclamation, the freehold on the land reverts to the Crown,” she added. 

Of the 300 plus standards which have been presented since the ceremony began two, one dating from 1946 and the other from 1966, have been returned to Blenheim Palace and a third is believed to be on display at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The others are kept within Windsor Castle. 

The tradition of quit-rents dates back to the early 13th century. One of the earliest ceremonies, dating from 1211, involves the City of London providing two knives; one sharp and one blunt, annually to the Crown as land rent.

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