Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Beautiful Bleinham Palace: Winston Churchill's Summer Home

Bleinham Palace Gardens, September 1, 2013
Did you know that Winston Churchill came from an aristocratic family of Dukes? That's right, his family is full of Dukes of Marlboroughs, the Spencer-Churchills. Here we were, thinking that he was an average citizen elected to be Britain's Prime Minister, when in reality, he was much more than that. Janice and I visited Bleinham Palace, a world heritage site about 20 minutes away from Oxford on Sunday and discovered that it was the childhood summer home of Winston Churchill, as well as the place where he proposed to his wife, Clementine and spent many days in his later years to relax.

The exhibition took us double the time they told us it would - we spent 6 hours there! It's really very well done, and takes you through the periods of history between the 1st Duke (1702) and the 10th Duke of Marlborough (1972), guiding you through a timed voice-over in which you meet one of the ladies in waiting for the Duchess to the first Duke, and learn about the tight way she ran her household. While she treated her housekeepers and servants well (with regard to the provisions they were given), she worked them to the bone and 14 hour workdays were common.

The interactive tour lets you listen to recordings from "employees" of the family throughout the hundreds of years, watch videos of current employees, see replicas of important documents, read timelines of historical events and truly imagine Churchill's role as PM and impact on the Second World War.

Here are a few key (well, maybe just fun) facts:


  • The Churchill name disappeared from the royal lines after the time of the 4th Duke. However, it was re-instated during the time of the 5th Duke as special permission was given by Charles Edward Stuart, the king.
  • Churchill wrote letters to invite Clementine, who he had met once at a ball, to spend some time during the summer at Bleinham. She deliberated on whether to go or not, out of shyness, but eventually agreed. Winston proposed to her at the Temple of Diana, a gazebo and statue in the palace gardens
  • Churchill was also a gifted painter
  • Hallmark Cards UK bought the rights to several of Winston Churchill's paintings to be used on Christmas cards and then other greeting cards. One of them is still sold on a greeting card today!

While the exhibition was full of facts about every Duke (except one, of whom little is know, as he ordered his papers destroyed upon his death), it failed to go into depth about the life of the current Duke, John Spencer-Churchill. Of course, Janice and I were wondering why and went straight to Google to find out facts about him. Granted that the facts below are mostly from wikis and blogs and cannot be held as completely credible, we found them interesting!

  • He's been married four times - he has 3 kids from his first marriage and 3 kids from his third, and 3 step-kids from his fourth.
  • He married his current wife, Lily Mahtani née Sahni, former wife of a rich Indian expatriate; she has 3 kids from her previous marriage
  • He is a distant relative of the late Diana, Princess of Wales
  • His wealth is estimated to be about 184 million British pounds
The next heirs, according to Wiki, are Charles James Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford, aged 58, followed by George John Godolphin Spencer-Churchill, Earl of Sunderland, his now-18 year old son. 

Here is a must-see slideshow of the beauty of this gorgeous palace and its gardens. Enjoy!

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