In Oxfordshire, England, Blenheim Palace stands tall and regal, the beautiful 18th-century estate, that houses a wealth of history. The palace has been called “the real Downton Abbey” and you can see why. A monumental country home in the small village of Blenheim where people have been visiting since 1722. The architectural design is that of English Baroque and it was during World War I that the palace was turned into a hospital for any of the wounded soldiers. The palace and its estate is classed as a “true national treasure.” The name given to this outstanding building shows how special it is, after all not just any old place is given a name with “palace” incorporated. It is the only non-royal house in England with the title. During recent restoration works, something ancient was uncovered and no one can quite believe it. After all this time, it seems there were certain things about the palace that were not passed on to the next generation.
Nestled in Oxfordshire England, the stunning estate has been visited by people for decades. It was in October 2018, that restoration work began to take place, during which time, something unknown was discovered. When they unearthed this ancient old mystery, an astonishing story unfolded.
Surrounding the palace, the Grand Bridge has been graced with one of the most eloquent titles, “the finest view in England”. The order of the restoration works was requested to revive the area back to its former glory. The project was set to cost a staggering $15 million! But what was lurking underneath its foundations?
What Could It Be?
Of course, nothing but the best was needed for this breathtaking 18th-century structure. Unbeknownst to the workers and architect on site at the time, there was something lurking beneath the Grand Bridge, and it surprised more than just them.
Blenheim Palace was built in the early 18th Century to celebrate a magnificent victory over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession. It was specifically built as a gift to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill. But what did he do to be awarded such a grand prize?
Battle Of Blenheim
John Churchill was the military commander who led the Allied forces in the Battle of Blenheim on 13th August 1704. Following the battle, Marlborough himself received the surrender from Marshal Tallard, leader of the French forces.
To honor the Duke’s victories, Queen Anne rewarded him the ruined Royal Manor of Woodstock, along with £240,000 with which he could build a house to commemorate his achievements… And what a house he did build, that years later a secret would be revealed.
Prime Minister Of Britain
Blenheim Palace became a popular spot once Winston Churchill had become the Prime Minister of Britain – as he was born here in 1874. Did the Churchill family know about this new find? Or were they the ones to hide it?
The Grand Bridge was given its charming title by Churchill’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill. As with most of the outstanding dated buildings in England, Blenheim had been passed down through prestigious family ties.
The Duke and Duchess of Marlborough currently reside there and it was in 1708, that an architect named Sir John Vanbrugh was assigned a very trusted job. He was to develop the palace. What were his plans?
After much thorough planning, Vanbrugh began to execute his plan to develop a “habitable viaduct” inside the grounds of the estate. The construction would take around two years to complete and so it was in 1710 that the Grand Bridge, sometimes known as theVanbrugh Bridge, would be revealed. Although there were some who opposed his plans.
The palace has been passed on from each Duke of Marlborough to the next. Currently living in the wonderful home is Charles James Spencer-Churchill, who goes by the name, Jamie.
With the given title of the 12th Duke of Marlborough, Jamie succeeded the Dukedom following his father’s passing in October 2014. To pay respects to its name, whoever is living in the palace has to tender the French Royal flag each year.
The flag is raised on the anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim. The residents remain active in the areas of the palace that are open to visitors. Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill, who is the brother to the current Duke, has a strong tie to the palace and organizes many art exhibitions.
When the recent discovery was made, all those close to the building couldn’t believe that, after all this time, the secret find never came to light.
The First Duchess of Marlborough was the first person to speak out againstVanbrugh’s plans, deeming them expensive and too ambitious. However, the Duchess did not speak out until after he had completed the Grand Bridge and with that, he was banned from the grounds, leaving his architectural piece unfinished.
As well as being chosen as the architect for Blenheim Palace, Vanbrugh was also famously known for his work on Castle Howard. Not only an architect, but he was also a dramatist and wrote a couple of argumentative comedies titled The Provoked Wife and The Relapse.
It was later on in his life that he became an architect and still to this day, no one is quite sure why he chose such a dramatically different career path. Those around him were quoted saying, “Van’s genius, without thought or lecture, is hugely turn’d to architecture.”
Perhaps it was Vanbrugh’s lack of qualification or experience that swayed the Duchess’ mind when it came to his work on Blenheim Palace. It was said, that during a prison stint in France, he spent time admiring architect Louis Le Vau’s work.