Royal Palaces: St. James's Palace

Royal Palaces: St. James’s Palace

St. James’s Palaces is on the of the oldest palaces in London. It is located in Pall Mall, north of St. James’s Park, and near Clarence House. It was built by King Henry VIII from 1531 to 1536 on the site of the Hospital of St. James. The palace complex spread to cover the area of four courts, which are now known as the Ambassadors’ Court, Engine Court, Friary Court, and Color Court. Much of the original palace survives, including the gatehouse at the sourthern end of St. James’s Street, which bears the royal cyper of Henry VIII, HR surmounted by a crown.

Important Events

In 1536, Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII died at the palace at the age of seventeen. Following his death, St. James’s Palace became the home of a series of royal residents. Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, stayed at the palace the night after her coronation. In 1558 Queen Mary I signed the treaty surrendering Calais to the French at St. James. Ten years later, her sister, Queen Elizabeth I left to St. James to address her troops at Tilbury in anticipation of war with the Spanish Armada. St. James’s Palace was the birthplace and childhood home of the later Stuart monarchs: King Charles II, King James II, Queen Mary II, and Queen Anne. It was also the birthplace of James Stuart, also known as the Old Pretender. In 1698, the Palace of Whitehall was destroyed by fire and St. James’s Palace became the official London residence of the monarch. In 1809 part of the palace burned down, but these rooms were restored by 1813. King William IV was the last sovereign to live at St. James’s Palace.

A Working Palace

Queen Victoria was the first sovereign to live in Buckingham Palace and subsequent monarchs have decided to make Buckingham Palace their London home. However, St. James’s Palace remains the official residence of the British Sovereign and is a working palace. Foreign ambassadors are accredited at the Court of St. James. It contains the working households of many member of the Royal Family, including Prince William and Prince Harry, as well as various government agencies. The palace is the official London residence of Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, and Princes Alexandra. The State Apartments are used for state visits and to host charity receptions. St. James’s Palace also has an important ceremonial function. Following the death of a monarch, the Accession Council meets at St. James’s Palace and the accession of the new monarch is announced by the Garter King of Arms from the Proclamation Gallery. The palace is not open to the public.