St. James's Palace

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Main entrance of St. James's Palace, London
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Main entrance of St. James's Palace, London

St. James's Palace is one of London's oldest and most historic palaces. It is situated on The Mall in London, England, just north of St. James's Park.

The palace was commissioned in 1530 by Henry VIII, on the site of a former leper hospital dedicated to Saint James the Less (from whom the Palace and the nearby Park take their names). It was constructed in the red-brick Tudor style around four courtyards. It became the principal residence of the monarch in London from 1698, when the Whitehall Palace was destroyed by fire, and became the administrative centre of the monarchy (a role it still retains). Mary I died there, with her heart and bowels being buried in the palace's Chapel Royal. It was used as a barracks during the English Commonwealth period, before being renovated by Charles II, who also laid out St. James's Park.

Although the Hanoverians initially used St. James's Palace, it was mostly destroyed by fire in 1809, leaving Henry VIII's gateway as the only major surviving fragment of the Tudor original. While it was being rebuilt, George III chose to live at Buckingham House – the predecessor to Buckingham Palace – instead. St. James's Palace 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 official residence of the monarch.

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 and Princess Alexandra of Kent. The Palace forms part of a sprawling complex of buildings housing Court offices and officials' apartments. The complex includes York House, the former home of the Prince of Wales and his sons, the Princes William and Harry, Lancaster House, which is used by HM Government for official receptions, as well as the nearby Clarence House, the home of the late Queen Mother and now the residence of the Prince of Wales.

The Queen's Chapel, built by Inigo Jones, adjoins St. James's Palace. While the Chapel is open to the public at selected times, the palace is not accessible to the public. St. James's Palace is one of the three royal buildings in London where Household Cavalry guards can be seen (the other two are Buckingham Palace and Horse Guards).

See also

no:St. James's Palace

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