To understand why the Duke of Wellington's country house is the relatively modest Stratfield Saye, it is necessary to travel back to the victory of the Duke of Marlborough at the Battle of Blenheim in August 1704 over the forces of French King Louis XIV (and others).. England's Queen Anne and her ministers were so delighted with the Duke's victory that they decided to build him a great palace, a rival to their defeated enemy's Palace of Versailles.
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
If you visit Blenheim, you will see what the first Duke of Wellington learned from the magnificent but very costly house. For two centuries, the Marlborough family had struggled to complete and maintain the enormous palace. So when offered a great Waterloo Palace as a gift from the nation after his victory over Napoleon, Wellington proceeded cautiously. The Iron Duke knew what a burden Blenheim had been to its owners.
Always the clever strategist, the first Duke of Wellington chose a house he and his descendants could afford, perhaps sacrificing magnificence for comfort.
The Hall, showing captured battle flags
The present ducal family lives at Stratfield Saye and access to the house is very limited. We could find no videos of the interior, so to see the rooms in which the Dukes and Duchesses lived, you will have to sign up and come along on The Duke of Wellington Tour.
For more exterior views plus the Duke's Funeral Car, on display in the stables, here is another video
. Sadly, the cameraman kept moving -- so don't get seasick while you watch it!
Did you know that the cavalry charge scene from the Spielberg film War Horse
was filmed at Stratfield Saye? Actor Tom Hiddleston explains how the Duke's estate came to substitute for a French Battlefield in this video
You can watch the cavalry charge film sequence here
. How ironic that a scene of British military defeat should be filmed on the grounds of the home of Britain's greatest military hero.
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Labels: Stately Homes, The Wellington Tour, Victoria Hinshaw