There’s a certain playful vindictiveness to the plans Adolf Hitler once had for Blenheim Palace, the stately English mansion thirteen kilometres from Oxford. As the story goes, the Führer intended to make the palace his official residence when he invaded and conquered Great Britain.
This was not just because he apparently wanted to turn Oxford into the capital, but for two more symbolic reasons. Firstly, Blenheim Palace is named after a German city where the first owner won a decisive battle against the French and Bavarian forces, a victory so important that Queen Anne bestowed upon him the land and money to build. And secondly (and presumably more personal for Hitler), Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of Winston Churchill.
With his acquisition of the property, Hitler was planning to enjoy the humiliation of England (if only the Germans had a word for that).
Of course, as we know, his plan never came to pass and Blenheim Palace is still owned by the Duke of Marlborough, currently the 11th in the line. His family lives in a small part of the building which is open to small public tours. The rest of the palace is easily accessible and sees a large number of visitors each day.
Visiting Blenheim Palace
Photography isn’t allowed inside so allow me to paint you a picture. It won’t be as detailed or valuable as the painted pictures will cover the walls of the rooms along the back of the palace – they show in vivid colours the battles of the first owner, John Churchill, victorious every time. This painting of mine also won’t capture the scale of the official dining room, an enormous room the size of a small theatre with pictures drawn on the walls and enormous silver decorations on the table.
Room after room connect to each other with a thousand stories in each. Over the generations the owners have left their mark. Most of the palace was either restored or redecorated by the 9th Duke of Marlborough who used the 60 million dollars (in today’s terms) he was given for marrying American heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt, whose family thought the English title for their daughter was worth the money, despite the absence of true love.
Outside the palace, in the enormous gardens that surround the building, is one of the real treasures of Blenheim. Over the course of the palace’s history two famous architects (John Vanbrugh and ‘Capability’ Brown) made the mark on the landscape to a point where it was one of the factors on which the site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. There are man-made lakes, fountains, a rose garden, a secret hedge maze and even a train. In the fields on the outskirts, sheep graze while on the lawns closer to the palace, locals laze with picnics and energetic children.
Inside and out, it’s not hard to see why this would make a grand home for a world leader. Thankfully it was not only kept out of the hands of a dictator, but remained with a family which sees the benefit in opening it up to the public. It’s not a direct response to Hitler’s plans, but there’s a certain schadenfreude there.
* Click here for the official website of Blenheim Palace.