Maintaining a Legend
KEEPING UP WITH 300 YEARS OF HISTORY
The cornerstone of Blenheim Palace was laid in June 1705, in Oxfordshire, England, where Queen Anne granted the first Duke of Marlborough and his heirs the 2,000-acre royal manor of Woodstock. With such an expansive estate, what is it like to maintain?
Marrying for Maintenance. Maintenance has been an albatross for almost every generation of the family, leading to many sacrifices throughout history. On occasion, this means marrying for money instead of love in order to bring in cash flow. Famously, the union of the ninth Duke and Consuelo Vanderbilt, the poster heiress of the Gilded Age, consummated for precisely this reason. Her $2.5 million dowry in 1895 was impossible to ignore.
Funding Renovations. Renovations and upkeep for a home this size are astronomical. A staff of 158 runs the estate efficiently, and many of them have worked there for decades. The sheer magnitude makes renovations incredibly difficult. Repainting the interiors took seven years, and rewiring took another seven years. In 2009, the Duke spent £1 million to rebuild the Blenheim Dam and its adjoining cascade, though it doesn’t seem to have been a hardship for him. “It’s a labor of love and I adore it,” he says.
Looking to the Future. Many of these estates resort to tours of the home as well as large-scale events in order to draw in fresh crowds. The Blenheim Palace established the Blenheim Art Foundation, which has commissioned contemporary artists such as Ai Weiwei and Lawrence Weiner. “This house is the culmination of 300 to 400 years of work,” says Lord Edward. “The idea that you just freeze it in time doesn’t make any sense to me. We need to create a sense of moving forward.”