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St. James's Palace

  • House & Family History: The Palace's name comes from the Augustinian hospital for leprous women, the Hospital of St. James, Westminster, that stood on the site in the 13th century. Henry VIII purchased the hospital's land in 1532 to build a small royal palace. Elizabeth I was living at St. James's during the campaign against the Spanish Armada; Charles I was a prisoner in the Palace before his execution in January 1649. Charles II, James II, Mary II, and Anne were all born here. St. James's Palace did not become the official residence of the monarch until 1702, when Queen Anne brought the court to St. James's after a 1698 fire burned Whitehall Palace. St. James's remained the sovereign's official residence until Victoria came to the throne in 1837 and moved the court to Buckingham Palace. Each new sovereign is proclaimed from the balcony in the courtyard of Friary Court. Though the monarch's actual London residence is today at Buckingham Palace, foreign ambassadors and high commissioners are still formally accredited to the Court of St. James's, and it remains the official seat of the monarchy. In 1952 Elizabeth II made her first speech as queen from St James's Palace.

  • Chapel & Church: Within St. James's are two chapels: The Queen's Chapel and the Chapel Royal, considered one of the jewels of Tudor London. It is one of five chapels royal in London and owes it allegiance directly to the sovereign, not a bishop. The Chapel Royal has had many noted organists and composers; among them were George Frederick Handel (appointed by George II as "Composer of Musick of His Majesty's Chappel Royal"), William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, and Henry Purcell; Purcell also lived in a suite of apartments in St James's Palace. The Queen's Chapel is located across the street from the Palace and is one of the masterpieces of Inigo Jones. It was built 1623-27 and is the first church in England built in a completely Classical style. Its large clear glass Palladian (or Venetian) window was probably the first such window in England.

  • Architect: Inigo Jones

    Date: 1623-27
    Designed: The Queen's Chapel

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    Architect: Christopher Wren

    Date: 1703
    Designed: Rebuilt state rooms

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  • Title: Best Buildings of England, The
    Author: Pevsner, Nikolaus
    Year Published: 1986
    Reference: pg. 122
    Publisher: London: Viking
    ISBN: 0670812838
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Not Listed

  • Current Seat / Home of: HM The Queen

    Past Seat / Home of: King Henry VIII, 16th century. Queen Anne, 18th century.

    Current Ownership Type: The Crown / Royal Family

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home

    Ownership Details: Owned by the crown and used as a residence for members of the royal family. The palace also contains a conservation center for the Royal Collection.

  • House Open to Public: No

    Historic Houses Member: No