To the Manor Born, Oxfordshire, England
It was not until Churchill’s cousin Charles, 9th Duke of Marlborough, inherited the property that its fortunes were restored, an act accomplished by means of his marriage to the America railway heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt. The match was undertaken purely for financial reasons and the two separated only a decade after their marriage in 1896, eventually divorcing – somewhat scandalously – in 1921.
A rather happier union was that of Winston and Clementine Churchill, which began with his proposal to her in the Temple of Diana at Blenheim in 1908; he overslept the night before and nearly missed the opportunity altogether. They married shortly afterwards, and were regular visitors to Blenheim for the rest of Churchill’s life; when he died, he was buried nearby at St Martin’s Church in Bladon. His legacy is celebrated by a permanent exhibition of items associated with him in rooms at the palace, and nearby hotels frequently offer Churchill-themed packages, often including a bottle of Pol Roger, the great man’s favourite champagne.
Today, Blenheim continues to keep a high media profile, not only through the endless stream of visitors, but through regular appearances in films – although its most recent appearance has led to controversy of a kind unknown since Charles Spencer-Churchill’s scandalous marriage. The filming of the new Transformers film saw Blenheim festooned with Nazi flags and apparently playing some sort of fascist headquarters. Given the connection to England’s greatest wartime prime minister, there was an inevitable outcry and allegations of disrespect from veterans.
Less controversial appearances crop up in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Bond film Spectre and Cinderella. Perhaps Churchill would have been proud the place had seduced so many others over the centuries and continues to delight visitors today. Content with both of his life-changing decisions at Blenheim, he might take pleasure in the fact that very few of those who spend a day at the exquisite estate come away feeling anything other than content themselves. Long may it continue.