Blenheim Palace hasn’t always looked like it does today. The original palace was built in 1129 by Henry I. He built the first enclosed park with seven miles of wall surrounding it. This enclosure held many animals such as lions, camels and more! His grandson, Henry II, turned the hunting lodge into Woodstock Palace, the first of the two palaces at Blenheim. Built from scratch, Woodstock Manor was still standing in 1705 when building started on the Palace you see today. Architect Sir John Vanbrugh carried out a number of repairs to make it habitable, but when Sarah, 1st Duchess of Marlborough found out She had it demolished. Today you may spot the concrete plinth to mark where it stood.
John Churchill was born a commoner and is one of only a small number of people to have been given the title of Duke without it passing through his bloodline. The Marlborough title is one of very few that can pass through the female line. John Churchill’s successor was his eldest daughter, Henrietta, who became Duchess in her own right.
On 13th August 1704 in southern Germany, just outside the town of Blindheim, the Battle of Blenheim began. Over 100,000 men prepared for one of the most significant battles of the War of Spanish succession, under the victorious leadership of John Churchill. As a reward for John Churchill's success in this battle, he was given a gift. Not a long holiday or a bottle of vintage bubbly, but a Palace, gifted by Queen Anne.
Although the land and the money to build Blenheim Palace was a gift to John Churchill, Queen Anne wanted something in return. She asked that every year, on or before the anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim, that a replica of the captured French standard should be presented to the ruling monarch at Windsor Castle. This ceremony has taken place every year for over 300 years. If we fail to present the standard, then Blenheim Palace would revert to the Crown.
In the 12th century Henry II was married to Eleanor of Aquitaine. Despite his marriage this didn’t stop him from taking Rosamund Clifford as his mistress. Henry built a secret retreat for Rosamund which could only be reached by carefully navigating the bower he had built for her. All that remains of this today is Rosamund’s Well, which you can still see if you visit the Park.
If you have ever visited the Grand Bridge you will know why it's called ‘Grand’. It was built by renowned architect and playwright Sir John Vanbrugh in 1708 and has a 30 metre wide central arch, flanked by smaller arches and four corner towers. What you might not realise is that these towers conceal secret rooms inside.