After our quizzical New Lanark heritage site visit last week, our stop in Oxfordshire yesterday meant a necessary trip to another UNESCO site that, from most perspectives, is undoubtedly well-deserved.
Blenheim Palace is a monumental ‘country house’ in Woodstock best known as the birthplace and home of Winston Churchill and to a lesser extent the home of the Dukes of Marlborough over the last 300 years. The fact Churchill was born in a palace says a lot about his status, clearly from a family of wealth and privilege, and how this could have shaped him as a person who’s left his own mark in history was interesting to see. Looking at Blenheim Palace’s grandness and scale, and consequently at the thought that one family could have so much while others had so little, however, left me with a lot of ambivalence.
I remember John Lithgow’s performance as Churchill in Netflix’s The Crown, which I’m inclined to think is broadly based on fact, and that despite all of Churchill’s extreme opportunities he was in the end as flawed and human as the rest of us. Seeing him portrayed in only the best light in Blenheim Palace, I thought, was a bit disingenuous.
And the fact we had to pay a princely sum of £27 each for the chance to get in and look around seems extreme in hindsight, but, admittedly, to see a magnificent feat of human achievement, as well as get more acquainted with the life of someone from contemporary history, proved to actually be a good learning experience. Luckily, we were given the option to have our entry payment go to charity instead, somewhat salving our senses from the thought of further enriching an already overly-privileged family.
Considering how fortunate we were to enjoy a beautiful, sunny day yesterday surrounded by stunning and incredible scenery, it was in any case an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. To be able to have opportunities to learn and discover is a gift, something I could only hope to grow wiser with, and, if maybe unwillingly, to use to leave my own mark when the time comes.