When Charles Spencer-Churchill inherited the Estate in 1892, he was determined to restore and restore and update the Palace. The only problem with this was his lack of funds. He solved this problem by marrying Consuelo Vanderbilt, who was a member of one of America’s richest families.
With her dowry he completely redecorated the first, second and third State Rooms and built up the book collection in the Long Library. Outside he created two of our Formal Gardens, the Water Terraces and the Italian Garden, and restored the Great Court to what we see today. The 9th Duke also restored the Grand Avenue of elms, planting half a million trees in total during his time at the Palace.
Consuelo did lots to help the poor in the local area, taking food from the Palace to those in need. She visited the almshouses and the houses of the elderly and sick, and went to the school in Bladon to listen to the children read and to help them with their needlework and cooking.
Although Consuelo had been a reluctant Duchess, she played her part as a hostess and welcomed royalty and members of the British aristocracy to Blenheim Palace. It helped that one of her closest friends was Sir Winston Churchill, although she was careful not to invite him to the Palace at the same time as their friends, the Astors. Winston did not get on with Nancy Astor (the first female MP), and on one occasion 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.
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