The physical secret journey starts at the Palace of Woodstock, just north of Oxford. Blenheim palace which now occupies the site was built by the Duke of Marlborough in the 18th century on land given to him by a greatful king. Blenheim is located to the south side of the lake. The old Palace of Woodstock could originally be clearly seen across the lake.
The Famous Tournament
The occasion which starts our story was one of the most famous tournaments ever held, celebrating the birth of Thomas of Woodstock the thirteenth child of King Edward III and Queen Phillipa and the future duke of Gloucester . The joust at the tournament was won by Edward’s son and heir, the Black Prince, perhaps not surprising as he had been undefeated for several years.
William Montacute, Earl of Salisbury was the Black Prince’s best friend and shared the affection of Joan of Kent with the Prince. Joan was famous for her tumultuous love life. King Edward was gravely in debt and was trying to use the ebb and flow of trade to boost his finances.
King Henry’s Love Nest
In the time of Henry II Woodstock was used as the hideaway for his lover Rosamund de Clifford. Legend says he built an impenetrable maze around the house. The old palace was then used by the Kings of England as a country house and as a hunting lodge from the mid 12th century onwards. The Black Prince was born there and the house was again used as a hideaway by Elizabeth I during her teenage years to protect her from the supporters of Queen Mary.
The old Palace spoiled the desired “vista” looking north. The Marlboroughs did what any good property developer would do, let it go to wrack and ruin, then set fire to it and finally demolish it as a saftey concern.
Woodstock is eight miles North West of Oxford