St James's Palace

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Not to be confused with St James's Place.
Main entrance of St James's Palace in Pall Mall survives from Henry VIII's palace.
The Chapel Royal, St James's Palace
marriage of the future King George V 1893
Portrait of a Boy Chorister of the Chapel Royal by Richard Buckner

St James's Palace (sometimes incorrectly spelled St James' Palace) is one of London's oldest palaces. It is situated in Pall Mall, just north of St James's Park. Although no sovereign has resided there for almost two centuries, it has remained the official residence of the Sovereign[1][2] and the most senior royal palace in the UK. For this reason it gives its name to the Royal Court (the "Court of St James's").[1][2] It is the ceremonial gathering place of the Accession Council, which proclaims a new sovereign.


The palace was commissioned by Henry VIII, on the site of a former leper hospital dedicated to Saint James the Less,[3] from which the palace and its nearby park retain their names; the hospital was disbanded in 1532.[4] The new palace, secondary in the king's interest to Henry's Whitehall Palace, was constructed between 1531 and 1536 in the red-brick Tudor style around four courtyards: its gatehouse (illustration) survives on the north side, flanked by polygonal turrets with mock battlements, fitted with Georgian sash windows.

Two of Henry VIII's children died there: Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset and Mary I (Mary's heart and bowels were buried in the palace's Chapel Royal). Elizabeth I was said to have spent the night there while waiting for the Spanish Armada to sail up the channel. Charles I slept rather less soundly—as it was his final bed before his execution. Oliver Cromwell then took it over, and turned it into barracks during the English Commonwealth period. It was then restored by Charles II (the son of Charles I), who also laid out St James's Park. It became the principal residence of the monarch in London in 1698, during the reign of William III and Mary II after Whitehall Palace was destroyed by fire, and became the administrative centre of the monarchy, a role it retains.

The first three Georges used St James's Palace as their principal London residence. For most of the time of the personal union between Great Britain (later the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) and the Electorate of Hanover (later Kingdom of Hanover) from 1714 until 1837 the ministers of the German Chancery were working in two small rooms within St James's Palace. In 1757, George II donated the Palace library to the British Museum;[5] this gift was the first part of what later became the Royal Collection.[6]

In 1809, a fire destroyed part of the palace, including the monarch's private apartments at the south east corner. These apartments were not replaced, leaving the Queen's Chapel in isolation, and Marlborough Road now runs between the two buildings. George III had purchased Buckingham House – the predecessor to Buckingham Palace – for his queen back in 1762, and St James's continued to decline in importance in the first half of the 19th century. It increasingly came to be used only for formal occasions such as official receptions, royal marriages, and christenings. Queen Victoria formalised the move in 1837, ending St James's status as the primary residence of the monarch. It was nevertheless where Victoria married her husband, Prince Albert, in 1840, and where, eighteen years later, Victoria and Albert's eldest child, Princess Victoria, married her husband, Prince Frederick of Prussia. Some structures and interiors by Sir Christopher Wren and William Kent survive, but most were remodelled in the nineteenth century. William Morris and his firm were commissioned to redecorate the Armoury and the Tapestry Room, 1866–67.[4]

On 12 June 1941, Representatives of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, and of the exiled governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Yugoslavia, as well as General de Gaulle of France, met and signed the Declaration of St James's Palace which was the first of six treaties signed that established the United Nations and compose the Charter of the United Nations.[7]

Princess Diana's coffin was kept for a few days at the Chapel Royal at the Palace before being taken to Kensington Palace on the eve of her funeral at Westminster Abbey in September 1997.

The Palace is reputedly haunted by the ghost of Joseph Sellis, the murdered valet of the Duke of Cumberland.[8]

Notable people born at St James's Palace[edit]


Sentry of the Grenadier Guards posted at the main entrance in Pall Mall

St James's Palace is still a working palace, and the Royal Court is still formally based there – foreign ambassadors are still accredited to the Court of St James's, even though they are received by the monarch at Buckingham Palace. It is also the London residence of the Princess Royal, Princess Beatrice of York, Princess Eugenie of York and Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy. The Palace forms part of a sprawling complex of buildings housing Court offices and officials' apartments. The immediate palace complex includes York House, the former home of the Prince of Wales and his sons, Princes William and Harry. Lancaster House located next-door, is used by HM Government for official receptions, and the nearby Clarence House, the home of the late Queen Mother is now the residence of the Prince of Wales.

The nearby Queen's Chapel, built by Inigo Jones, adjoins St James's Palace. While the Queen's Chapel is open to the public at selected times, the Chapel Royal in the palace is not accessible to the public. St James's Palace is one of the five buildings in London where guards from the Household Division can be seen (the other four are Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, The Tower of London and Horse Guards).

Since the beginning of the 2000s, the Royal Philatelic Collection has been housed at St James's Palace, after spending the entire 20th century at Buckingham Palace.

From October 2008 onwards, and officially from 6 January 2009, the staff of Princes William and Harry moved into their own rooms in St James's Palace and began reporting directly to the royal princes for the first time. In addition, the staff also began serving Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge upon her marriage to Prince William in 2011. Prior to 2008, the brothers' duties were looked after by the Prince of Wales's office at Clarence House.[9]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b "St. James's Palace: History". The Official Website of the British Monarchy. August 2008. 
  2. ^ a b "Ambassadors' credentials". The Official Website of the British Monarchy. August 2009. 
  3. ^ The uncertainty as to which James was intended is expressed in the Survey of London ascription Edward Walford, 'St Henk's Palace', Old and New London Vol. 4 (1878:100-122. Date accessed: 22 February 2008.) of the hospital's dedication to "St James the Less, Bishop of Jerusalem"; bishop of Jerusalem was a title of James the Just, brother of Jesus.
  4. ^ a b Pevsner, Nikolaus. The Buildings of England: London 6: Westminster (2003), pp 594-601
  5. ^ Warner, George (1912). Queen Mary's Psalter Miniatures and Drawings by an English Artist of the 14th Century Reproduced from Royal Ms. 2 B. Vii in the British Museum. London: Britism Museum. p. n. 
  6. ^ "Books and Manuscripts". Royal Collection. Retrieved 24 May 2011. 
  7. ^ "History of the UN Charter - History of the United Nations". Retrieved 2013-04-23. 
  8. ^ Jones, Richard. "Royal Ghosts at St James's Palace. Haunted London. (walks of London)". Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  9. ^ "A new Household for His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales and His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales". The Prince of Wales - Media Centre. Clarence House. 2009-01-06. Retrieved 2009-05-28. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′17″N 0°08′15″W / 51.50472°N 0.13750°W / 51.50472; -0.13750