(b. 1664, London, d. 1726, London)

Exterior view

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Blenheim Palace is a monumental mansion designed by the controversial architect Sir John Vanbrugh in the rare English Baroque style. The palace was originally meant to be a gift from Queen Anne and the British parliament to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough in recognition of his important military victories against the French and Bavarians during the War of the Spanish Succession. The palace was named after the most famous of these which took place near the small village of Blindheim, Bavaria (Germany). It was built between 1705 and circa 1722.

From the very beginning the construction project was fraught with design disagreements, funding failures and political intrigue. The Duke's wife, Sarah, was determined to use Sir Christopher Wren who was already famous for his work on St Paul's Cathedral. To her annoyance her the Duke appointed Sir John Vanbrugh who, at the time was more designer than architect. From that point on the construction site was a never ending source of conflict. Vanbrugh's ideas far exceeded the available funds and this pressure is thought to have contributed to the breakdown in the once excellent relationship between Queen Anne and Sarah Churchill although the primary reasons were, as usual, political. Both the Duke and his wife were eventually forced to live in exile in Europe and Scotland until the death of the Monarch. State funds for Blenheim Palace had ceased so the remainder of the project was paid for by the Duke himself.

Vanbrugh was eventually dismissed from the project and banned from the site. The project was finished by Nicholas Hawksmoor sometime after the death of the Duke who, together with his wife are interred in the exceptional tomb that is part of the palace chapel. Blenheim palace is unique as a family home, mausoleum and national monument.

The picture shows the main (north) façade.

View the ground plan of Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire.