October 11 – A Royal Visit to the Medieval Mosaic Exhibition

Blenheim Palace, the Pleasure gardens, the Marlborough Yew Maze and the Butterfly House

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic Ltd

Today was a very special day for us and a real “bucket list ” event when the Medieval Mosaic exhibition was visited by HRH Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester. The Duke is the 1st cousin of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Brigadier Ian Ingram had gone to great efforts to arrange for the Duke to visit the mosaic and Michael, Rachael and I were all there to greet him when he arrived at 5.25 along with four other gentlemen. Ian met him at the gate and after a quick tour of the museum, we were introduced. Michael shook his hand and bowed, Rachael and I both shook hands with a curtsey. Mike then showed the Duke of Gloucester the Medieval Mosaic and explained how it was made and went through the highlights of the story. We spent a very pleasant hour with the Duke and he signed both the Museum and our visitor’s books before we presented him with one of our coin sets and an exhibition guide and the museum presented him with a book too. Prince Richard was very interested in the Medieval Mosaic especially the finale sections and the Stamford Bridge section which Michael and Rachael researched and made.

In the morning we left the hotel in Chipping Norton a bit early and we parked outside of the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum to walk around the town for a while. We went into one shop where I saw a top that went perfectly with the trousers and jacket that I intended to wear this evening. It was meant to be. Then we walked around the corner and there was Rachael having breakfast in a cafe. She too had arrived early as we had arranged to meet at Blenheim Palace at 10.30 am. While she paid we returned to the museum to drop off some things we would need later where we met Ian who talked us through the protocol for the royal visit in the evening.

We finally caught up with Rachael who was waiting for us outside Blenheim Palace watching a group of geese being pursued by a Japanese tourist and her camera. Mike and I got a good discount as we are now concessions and I read just last night that as we have English Heritage membership we were entitled to discounted admission. We had our tickets turned into a year-long free return which is good as it was far too much to take in on one visit.

We spent several wonderful hours walking around this massive and impressive Palace listening to the headset which explained the background history of everything. It was especially a treat as Rachael was with us and she was mesmerised by the gilding on the walls, frames and furniture. Every room had volunteer guides and so we took advantage of this and asked lots of questions. My favourite parts were the silk wall coverings and also the fabulous Blenheim tapestries.

Blenheim Palace is the home of the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family and it is a World Heritage Site. Blenheim Palace was built as a gift to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, from Queen Anne and a grateful nation in thanks for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim on 13th August 1704. The Palace is home to one of the most important and extensive collections in Europe, which includes portraits, furniture, sculpture and tapestries. Amongst the many treasures to be found in the Green Writing Room and the First, Second and Third State Rooms are the famous Marlborough Tapestries ( the ‘Victories Series’). Also the magnificent Long Library with its walls lined by more than 10,000 books, many of them hundreds of years old and of great historic significance. The Palace also has a major restoration and conservation programme for both for the Palace and its treasures.

After we left Rachael Mike and I drove past the Blenheim Palace Pleasure Garden so we returned to have a look. There was a model village of Woodstock and an adventure playground with large versions of various board games including chess and draughts. But the highlight was the Marlborough Hedge Maze which is the second largest symbolic yew hedge maze in the world. We would have like to stay longer but we have already walked kilometres today and we are getting nervous about tonight. We also visited the Butterfly House which hatches many breeds of British butterflies in an effort to increase their numbers. It was lovely and warm and humid in here and the butterflies flew all around us.

Later we met Rachael again at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum along with Brigadier Ian Ingram and his wife Isobel and Dr Tom Shannon to prepare for the royal visit which I mentioned earlier. What a wonderful evening we had!!

After the visit, Michael and I set off for a three-hour drive to Willaston, Neston, Cheshire to our new house sit and to meet Puss who was waiting eagerly for us to feed her.