Blenheim Palace, Sat Dec 8 - Day 8

Trip Start Nov 30, 2012
Trip End Jan 31, 2013

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fiona's Comments:
The toilet next to our bedroom sometimes flushes and sometimes doesn't. It is a mystery and we are joking about our second accommodation and another bathroom issue.Merle's house is beautiful and has a stunning garden. It looks wonderful in the dead of winter so I can only imagine how cottagey and beautiful it is in summer. We all sat down with Merle and chatted and had brekkie and then loaded into the car and drove over to Ray and Louise's.
Our outing for the day - Blenheim Palace - the ancestral home of Winston Churchill.The Palace was a reward for the Duke of Marlborough - a Churchill - who won the Battle of Blenheim. At some stage, one of the Dukes had only four daughters and no sons and remarkably the Palace was passed to the first female heir, Henrietta. No heir from that marriage but then the next daughter Anne married a Spencer, had male heirs and the lineage passed to the Spencer family. And then somewhere down the line, the Churchill name was adopted again and Blenheim is where Winston Churchill was born in the late 1800s. The current Duke of Marlborough will not be passing on the Palace to his firstborn son as he will apparently just fritter it away with gambling etc. The woes of the wealthy.
Ray and Louise ended up with Sof at one stage during our wanderings through the Palace. Louise said we could have ended up with a bit of a bill - Sof bumped into a table and the giant porcelain vase precariously wobbled and she just held everything and righted it. Groan. Our final room to walk through was the library which was being set up for a Christmas corporate function and looked splendid. Ice blue tablecloths,glassware, silver table settings - it was gorgeous and also a bit of a worry. I told Sof to walk straight through and not go near any tables - could only imagine her legs catching in one of the floor length tablecloths and ...
We wandered through the Gardens and stopped for a cuppa in the cafe. I told Sof to go up to Dad standing in the queue and suggest that we got some scones to go with our tea. That got lost in translation and he came back with sandwiches, egg salad and a lone scone. We divvied everything up including cutting the scone into 9 parts. It was very funny and poor Zed just looked confused.
Blenheim is renowned for its Christmas decorations - rows of giant Christmas trees setup outside along the verandahs. When we left the Palace it was just after 5 but it was dark so we were so lucky to appreciate the full effect of the giant Christmas trees and lights. We went back to Ray and Louise's for another beautiful meal and on our drive back Ray and I finally worked out how we met. It was through another friend Tina with whom I had shared a house in Staines, London in 1983. She and her sister Hayley were backpacking around Australia in 1986 and met Ray and introduced me and Ray. I have lost touch with Tina but Ray is still in touch - mystery solved and Ray will put me and Tina and Hayely back in touch.
We all drove back to Merle's, left all our kids there, picked up Merle and drove through winding back-lanes to a little village pub where Louise's brother and sister in law were performing in a band called The Shed. It was Zed's first visit to a typical English pub and I don't think he bumped his head once in the pub. He nursed a pint but was a bit flat with a nasty cold. The band was great - they all practice in one of their backyard sheds- hence their name - and Louise's brother did a solo. We missed her sister in law's solo.When the band finished we all drove home and collapsed into bed.

Zoran's Comments:

The palace tour is entertaining and refreshingly honest about the origins of the palace.  It seems this bloke who later became the Duke of Malborough started in the King's court as a "comely youth" of 16 years old.  He was apparently quite a favourite of the ladies and at one point ended up hiding in the closet of the King's mistress as the King was banging on the door demanding entry.  The tour actually has an animated female mannequin in the bed chambers with bed sheets pulled up to cover the obviously naked mannequin whilst the cupboard door opens and closes and a recording plays door banging sounds with the King's voice at the door - I kid you not.

Anyway, this pretty boy somehow found time away from the ladies of the court to be given leadership of soldiers (this leap was not explained) and won some battle (no details provided on the tour - it is something I will investigate later) which won the King's undying gratitude and large financial rewards along with lands and the title of Duke of Marlborough.

Given this was how this bloke became wealthy it becomes even more uncomfortable walking around the palace and viewing what I perceived as excess upon excess.  When you think that the vast majority of the population at that time would have been hungry for most of their lives and most children would have no schooling, little food and would probably be working from a very young age until the day they died, it is very hard to not feel somewhat appalled and uncomfortable walking around the place.

I can fully understand why there was a French revolution and a later Russian revolution.  It is a bit surprising there never was an English revolution when you see this sort of centralisation of the nation's wealth in the hands of people who just didn't earn it.
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