Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of Churchill and the gardens his place of choice to get engaged. But in much more recent time this palace hosts an epic Jag gathering.
Don’t read this out loud if you think that the greatest British car marque is something you call “Jag-wire.” And maybe don’t read it at all if you can’t accept a simple fact: the name is “Jag-U-Ah.” At least, that’s how I heard it one Sunday in May at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, UK, about ten miles north of the university town of Oxford. Heard it a lot of times, too, as I talked to as many of the owners gathered for their yearly Jag meet as I could.
Tough task, because there were 1000 cars there, Jaguars new and old. Mostly old. Everything you’ve ever seen as representative of the marque, including the iconic E-Type and the four-door 1960 Mark II which Inspector Morse drives. His is red. I saw a lot of green, blue, and fawn-colored ones. (The one with the best story will soon be featured elsewhere on LACar.com.)
The field was so huge it was, literally, Jaguars as far as the eye could see.
Most all were what might be honestly called “driver pristine.” The field wasn’t cars restored to way past showroom, nor were they cars that came on trailers. In fact, most if not all were driven in. And out again, which was pretty fun when around 4pm people started rolling out in their iconic machines.
At this show, there was no voting. Groups were parked with club members by region. The result of that was less the feeling, “Wow, that’s a lot of E-Types” like in the typical show where they are all gathered for scrutineering and more, “Oh, another group of cars that has just about every Jag I know in it!” It was like the heaven was endlessly repeated every ten yards or so as I strolled through the enormous field.
People sat by their cars, picnicking and having a glass of wine. Some of the picnic baskets were as fancy as the cars themselves, as were the outfits, which frequently ran to tweed, though this was the first nice warm-ish day of the spring. Oh, the Brits! Nobody does tweediness better.
Oh, the Brits! Nobody does tweediness better.
The day was a happening, a fellowship, the third day of the yearly Jag gathering, but the only one of the three to take place at Blenheim. This was partly made up for by the magnitude of the event apart from the cars. Aside from the vehicles, there were interviews broadcast on a giant screen. Later in the afternoon, that same screen was host to the TV broadcast of the Spanish F1 Grand Prix.
Around mid-day, a huge parade of cars rolled out, one of every style and year of Jaguar, I was told. Looked pretty comprehensive to me. They whooshed, or blatted in the case of some of the newer, racier versions, down a long drive and into the distance of the Blenheim Palace grounds, turning right out of spectator view and heading back in a huge circle ten or fifteen minutes later. As they went, they appeared on the aforementioned screen, and a host called out their type and year, and indicated the driver, on the mic.
The crowd was happy to loll on the lawns taking it all in, eating from food trucks and later wandering inside to the palace for tours and snacks in the coffee shop. It’s not hard to say there was something for everyone, even with their being only one marque represented.
This is not the first important thing that has happened at Blenheim Palace, in case you’re unfamiliar. Churchill was born there. He later got engaged in the gardens. The palace (not a royal one, but a country estate with few peers) sits in a vast expanse of land, sweeping hills and a river complete with a tiny artificial waterfall.
If you get to Oxford for any reason, Blenheim, and the charming town of Woodstock sitting adjacent, are a definite day out. Think British Versailles and you have it about right.
And if Churchill could have seen the day I did, what would he have said? Maybe something about “Britain’s finest hour.” Or day.