Updated: Jul 21, 2020
The Battle of Blenheim was a major battle of the War of the Spanish Succession. The overwhelming Allied victory ensured the safety of Vienna from the Franco-Bavarian army, thus preventing the collapse of the Grand Alliance..
Louis XIV of France sought to knock the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold out of the war by seizing Vienna, the Habsburg capital, & gain a favourable peace settlement. The dangers to Vienna were considerable: the Elector of Bavaria & Marshal Marsin's forces in Bavaria threatened from the west, & Marshal Vendôme's large army in northern Italy posed a serious danger with a potential offensive through the Brenner Pass. Vienna was also under pressure from Rákóczi's Hungarian revolt from its eastern approaches. Realising the danger, the Duke of Marlborough resolved to alleviate the peril to Vienna by marching his forces south from Bedburg & help maintain Emperor Leopold within the Grand Alliance.
A combination of deception & skilled administration – designed to conceal his true destination from friend & foe alike – enabled Marlborough to march 400 kilometres (250 miles) unhindered from the Low Countries to the River Danube in five weeks. After securing Donauwörth on the Danube, Marlborough sought to engage the Elector's & Marsin's army before Marshal Tallard could bring reinforcements through the Black Forest. However, with the Franco-Bavarian commanders reluctant to fight until their numbers were deemed sufficient, the Duke enacted a policy of plundering in Bavaria designed to force the issue. The tactic proved unsuccessful, but when Tallard arrived to bolster the Elector's army, & Prince Eugene arrived with reinforcements for the Allies, the two armies finally met on the banks of the Danube in & around the small village of Blindheim, from which the English "Blenheim" is derived.
Blenheim was one of the battles that altered the course of the war, which until then was leaning for Louis' coalition, and ended French plans of knocking the Emperor out of the war. France suffered as many as 38,000 casualties including the commander-in-chief, Marshal Tallard, who was taken captive to England. Before the 1704 campaign ended, the Allies had taken Landau, and the towns of Trier and Trarbach on the Moselle in preparation for the following year's campaign into France itself. The offensive never materialised as the Grand Alliance's army had to depart the Moselle to defend Liège from a French counteroffensive. The war would rage on for another decade.
Queen Anne lavished upon her favourite the royal manor of Woodstock and the promise of a fine palace (Blenheim Palace) commemorative of his great victory at Blenheim. More on Blenheim Palace below.......
The palace is named in memory of the 1704 Battle of Blenheim, and thus ultimately after Blindheim (also known as Blenheim) in Bavaria. It was originally intended to be a reward to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough for his military triumphs against the French and Bavarians in the War of the Spanish Succession, culminating in the Battle of Blenheim.
Following the palace's completion, it became the home of the Churchill, later Spencer-Churchill, family for the next 300 years, and various members of the family have wrought changes to the interiors, park and gardens. At the end of the 19th century, the palace was saved from ruin by funds gained from the 9th Duke of Marlborough's marriage to American railroad heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt.
The palace is notable as the birthplace and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill.
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