Thursday, December 3, 2009

Great man!

Since my last post, the anniversary has been and gone surrounding the birth of Sir Winston Churchill.

On 30 November 1874, 135 years ago, Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill arrived into the world here at Blenheim Palace - Blenheim's most famous son actually arrived several weeks early as his parents, Randolph and Jennie Spencer-Churchill, were weekending here at Blenheim - a very happy "accident" from our point of view and one that we 'celebrate' as actively as we can.

Much has been written about Sir Winston and he was of course voted as "our Greatest Briton of all time" in a poll conducted a few years ago. He was also the first man to be made an honorary citizen of the United States - by an Act of Congress on 9 April 1963 just two years or so before his death in January 1965.

His curls are on display in the Palace alongside other exhibits surrounding his very close ties with the Palace and with the family but it is on the wider international stage that his fame will stand forever.

He entered parliament at the age of 26 in 1900 having already distinguished himself as a soldier in several wars - he proceeded to hold a number of important ministerial posts over the next 55 years.

When World War II came to Britain in 1939, his authority and his oratory held great sway and his time as Prime Minister (1940-45) helped to turn the tide - who will ever forget his "We shall never surrender" speech on 4 June 1940 following the evacuation of trapped Allied Forces from the beaches at Dunkirk.

Sir Winston achieved so much and he possessed a sharp wit; he achieved a world reputation not only as a gifted strategist and inspiring war leader but also as a great orator, a talented painter and a stylish writed with a profound sense of history.

History will forever record his importance on the world stage and his influence today is as powerful as ever - his connection with Blenheim Palace (he was born here; he proposed to Clementine here; and he is buried nearby in Bladon) still acts as a powerful magnate to so many.

We receive many visitors from North America, and increasingly from the Far East/China, all hungry to explore the Churchill connection and we hugely value every visit and we strive to make every visit as memorable as we can. Indeed a recent delegation from China suggested that we should drop any reference to Blenheim Palace and merely promote Winston Churchill!

The Churchill influence also manifests itself in other powerful ways.

I met this week with a serving RAF Officer who wants special permission to propose to his girlfriend in the Temple of Diana in the Formal Gardens to the south of the Palace on one of our remaining open days before christmas - this is where Sir Winston proposed to Clementine on 11 August 1908. I need to be careful not to spoil their surprise by revealing too much, but both of them are serving officers in todays armed forces and they are both still hugely influenced and inspired by Sir Winston Churchill and his heroic deeds - wartime deeds that is not just the 'getting engaged bit!'.

We will make a very special exception for these special people - we feel it is our duty to do so - partly in memory of Sir Winston but also in recognition of the many challenges faced today by our armed forces around the world - and particularly in Afghanistan.

We will make it a very special moment for them and one that they will remember forever - I am sure that Sir Winston and 'Clemmie' would approve - and of course I hope his 'intended' says yes!

What a special time of the year as we remember a Great Man.

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