Solid Gold Toilet Stolen From Winston Churchill’s Family Palace
Blenheim Palace has been home to generations of aristocratic political leaders, and even played a role in the 2018 movie ‘The Favourite.’
Someone is out there with a gold bathroom that does not belong to them.
The 18-karat-gold bathroom disappeared from Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, on September 14–just two days after the palace installed it as part of an art exhibition by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. The solid gold toilet was valued at around $6 million. And as it’s fully-functioning, the early morning theft caused damage and flooding into the historic palace.
The room where the bathroom seat was right next to the area where prospective prime minister Churchill was born on November 30, 1874. Churchill’s grandma raised him in the Oxfordshire palace in the years before he went away to boarding school, and the palace was also the house he returned to on college vacations. At age 33, he suggested to 23-year-old Clementine Hozier at the Temple of Diana summerhouse from the palace gardens.
“At Blenheim I took two very important decisions: to be born and to wed,” Churchill reportedly said of the estate. “I’m content with the decision I took on both events.”
After hearing about the bathroom theft at Blenheim Palace, Cattelan joked in a statement the robbers would be the”the real artists” for pulling off such a stealthy heist of his art, titled America. “From the rate the robbery was implemented we can say for certain they’re terrific actors,” he explained . He also made a request:”Dear thieves, please, if you’re reading this, allow me to know how much you enjoy the piece and how it feels to pee on gold”
Churchill might not have grown up knowing how that felt, but he was born to extreme opulence and political power. Blenheim Palace is the ancestral home of the dukes and duchesses of Marlborough, where Churchill was a direct descendant (his paternal grandfather was the seventh duke of Marlborough). By the time Churchill was born, his family was already an established part of the ruling aristocratic class.
The palace was a present from Queen Anne to Sarah Churchill, first duchess of Marlborough and one of the queen’s closest political advisors, following the duchess’ husband led the English to success from the 1704 Battle of Blenheim. The 2018 film The Favorite dramatized this having an opening scene where the queen indicates the duchess a version of the palace she would like to build for her.
The queen and duchess secured financial help for the palace from the English Parliament, and building began in 1705. But a falling out between the two girls over jealousies and romantic letters led the queen to draw funds and resulted in the duke and duchess of Marlborough to go into exile for three decades. They returned after the queen died in 1714 and continued to work on the palace. The duchess oversaw much of the building, which ended in 1722 shortly after her husband’s death.
Like the first duke and duchess of Marlborough, the descendants born in Blenheim Palace continued to hold positions of political power. Both Winston Churchill’s father and paternal grandfather served as Members of Parliament for the Conservative Party. As Conservative Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945, Churchill directed the Allied forces to European success in World War II. He also served another term as Prime Minister from 1951 to 1955.
Churchill’s family opened the palace to the public for the first time in 1950; and even though his family still owns it, it’s now a public fascination and UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2014, the Blenheim Art Foundation formed to maintain public art displays at the palace. The first artist to hold a show there were the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei.
U.K. authorities have not yet discovered the stolen bathroom from Cattelan’s exhibition, but the Blenheim Art Foundation notes on its website the series, titled”Victory isn’t an Option,” will last. In a tweet on the day the bathroom disappeared, the palace asked anyone with information about the theft to contact the Thames Valley Police.