Welcome to our St James's Palace history section. You can skip to subsequent pages using the links below or simply continue reading to start at the beginning.
St. James's Palace, at the western end of Pall Mall, is the most intimate of the royal palaces of London, in the sense that, save on the park side, it is unenclosed and the public are allowed to walk through certain portions of the precincts.
It was built by Henry VIII, partly with material from the old palace at Kennington, on the site of an ancient leper hospital dedicated to St. James the Less, and was originally a sort of domestic adjunct to Whitehall. With the latter palace and the park, it formed the King's Manor of St. James.
When Whitehall was burnt in 1698 the Court became established at St. James's Palace, and it is still to the Court of St. James's that foreign ambassadors are accredited.
Of the original palace, the Great Gatehouse (facing St. James's Street), the adjoining Chapel Royal and the Presence Chamber are the chief remains, the rest of the buildings being additions or reconstructions made by Charles I, Anne, and the Georges.
An archway near the Great Gatehouse leads to Ambassadors Court, on the north side of which is the York House.
On the west are the original York House of St. James's and Clarence House, which were built, respectively, for the Duke of York and the Duke of Clarence (afterwards William IV), the sons of George III.
The State Apartments of St. James's Palace are used by the sovereign only on the occasions of levees and other special functions; the ordinary apartments are occupied by members of the royal household. Royal weddings take place in the Chapel Royal. On the east side of the palace is the old-world Friary Court, where the Changing of the Guard is carried out.
Queen Mary I died at St. James's Palace, and Charles II, James II, Mary II, and George IV were born here. It was here, too, that Charles I parted from his two youngest children, the Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Gloucester, crossing St. James's Park on his last journey to Whitehall:
"Then the King taking the Duke of Gloster upon his knee, said, Sweetheart, now they will cut off thy Father's head. Upon which words, the Child looked steadfastly at him." - Appendix to Elkon Basilike. An historic incident of happy memory that took place at the palace was the presentation here to Queen Anne, by the English and Scottish commissioners, of the articles of agreement for the Parliamentary union of England and Scotland.
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