Blenheim Palace

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June, 2016

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The three staterooms balance the three rooms on the other side of the salon and lead to the Long Library. They are splendid rooms with Hawksmoor ceilings, more Marlborough tapestries and lots of gilt paint added by the Ninth Duke.

Above the fireplace in the FIRST STATE ROOM is the portrait of Consuelo Vanderbilt, wife of the ninth Duke, whose money paid for this ostentation. The Blenheim standard hanging by the fireplace is presented to the Sovereign in lieu of rent every year on the anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim. If the rent was not paid, the freehold of Blenheim Palace would revert back to the crown as it was built on land gifted by Queen Anne. The cradle was used by Consuelo and is a replica of a cradle in the doge’s palace in Venice.

Displayed on a tortoiseshell desk in the centre of the room is a copy of the dispatch from John telling of his victory at the Battle of Blenheim. Paper was precious and it is written next to a copy of his expenses.

The SECOND STATEROOM has tapestries commemorating Marlborough’s final victorious campaign at the Siege of Bouchain. Above the fireplace is a portrait of Louis XIV, Marlborough’s adversary during the Wars of the Spanish Succession. The bronze shows the Tenth Duke as a baby. The deep turquoise pottery vessels on a marquetry chest are C12th Persian ware.

The THIRD STATEROOM was originally the state bedchamber. It was redecorated by the Ninth Duke with gilt panelling reminiscent of the Palace of Versailles. Above the fireplace is a portrait of John Churchill, the First Duke with his friend Colonel Armstrong who was his military engineer and fought with him. Sarah particularly liked this portrait as it was a good likeness and was also very good value, only costing 17 guineas. Again there are tapestries on the walls and a Hawksmoor ceiling.

There is some excellent Boulle furniture. This was made using a technique devised by André-Charles Boulle in the early C18th. He worked with two different materials, usually tortoise shell and brass. Boulle cut out patterns in his chosen material, producing two pieces referred to as the ‘part’ and ‘counterpart’ and these were used to produced two pieces of furniture that were mirror images of each other. In one, the brass sat on a background of tortoiseshell. In the other, the tortoiseshell is on a background of brass.

The LONG LIBRARY runs along the length of the west side of the state apartments. It was designed by Vanbrugh as a picture gallery and was the last room to be finished. It was turned into a library by the Third Duke. Bookcases are arranged along the base of the walls with portraits above them. Again it has a Hawksmoor ceiling, with beautiful sculpted domes at either end of the room. The blank panels would have been painted by Thornhill if Sarah hadn’t fallen out with him and refused to pay the price he was asking.

Now a contemporary artist is invited every year to add a design on the blank panels. When I visited in June 2016, the design was by the American artist Laurence Weiner, a central figure in the formation of Conceptual Art in the 1960s. His work takes the form of typographic texts. It had a very mixed response from visitors. The design is attached with sticky back tape so as not to damage the ceiling and was replaced in September 2016 by a new artist.

At one end is a statue of Queen Anne, commissioned by Sarah in 1738 after the Queen’s death as a memorial to her. At the other end is a splendid organ installed by the Eighth Duke.

A side corridor leads to a series of small rooms with a display abut SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL. This leads to the small bedroom where he was born two months prematurely, while his parents were staying in Blenheim while their London home was being got ready for the arrival of the baby.

All my pictures are “here.”:


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