Past Events

Ambitious Architecture: Rethinking the meanings of Blenheim Palace

Research Lunch – James Legard

  • 20 May 2016
  • 12:30 – 2:00 pm
  • Seminar Room, Paul Mellon Centre

This paper seeks to recover the meanings that Blenheim Palace was originally intended to embody. It will show how Blenheim’s purposes were repeatedly reconceived in lockstep with the ever-growing social, political and dynastic ambitions of its patron, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, Queen Anne’s most favoured courtier and foremost military commander. Initially conceived as a private gift from the Queen, the building was transformed first into a ‘public monument’ to a great battle; then into a palace that was, quite literally, fit for a prince; before finally becoming a dangerous liability as Marlborough’s dizzying ascent turned to disgrace. By tracing how the duke’s architects, Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor, reconfigured Blenheim’s formal structure and symbolic programme in response to their patron’s evolving status and aspirations, this analysis aims to bring new clarity to our understanding of Britain’s most spectacular Baroque country house.

All are welcome! However, places are limited, so if you would like to attend please book a place in advance.

About the speaker

  • Face portrait of a man with glasses and red jumper

    James Legard completed a PhD in the history of architecture at the University of York in 2014, where the subject of his thesis was Vanbrugh, Blenheim Palace and the Meanings of Baroque Architecture. He is currently working for the National Gallery on a collaborative project with the Getty Research Institute to digitise early British art sales catalogues. When this project ends later this year, he will take up a recently awarded Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Paul Mellon Centre in order to prepare his thesis for publication.