St. James' Palace & Park
Location: Royal Burough of Westminster, St. James' Street and Pall Mall, The Mall, SW1
Note: You can watch the feeding of the St. James's Park pelicans daily beginning at 16:00 in the preserve area.
St. James' Park, Green Park, Westminster
St. James' Palace
Henry VIII commissioned the construction of St. James' Palace and park between 1532 and 1540. Built on the site of the Hospital of St. James for leper women, this brick palace has since witnessed the births and deaths of many monarchs.
St. James' became the principal royal residence when, in 1702, Queen Anne moved the court here following the 1698 fire that destroyed Whitehall Palace. For 3 centuries it served as a residence for the kings and queens of England. St. James' Palace remains the official residence of the sovereign; however, following Queen Victoria's accession in 1837, Buckingham Palace became the new chief residence for her and all succeeding sovereigns. The English court is still officially known as The Court of St. James. Official and ceremonial court functions continue to be held at St. James'.
Whitehall as seen from St. James' Park
The Palace that stands today is mostly the work of architect Christopher Wren (of St. Paul's Cathedral fame.) All that remains from the original structure is a fine 16th C. gateway. The Chapel Royal, preserving a Tudor ceiling dating from 1540, and nearby Queen's Chapel (on Marlborough Road) of 1623/27 is the work of Inigo Jones. The adjoining Clarence House (currently occupied by the Queen Mother) was built by John Nash from 1825 to 1829 by order of the Duke of Clarence- who later ascended to the throne as William IV.
Significant historical events that occurred here include Mary Tudor's signing of the treaty surrendering Calais and her later death, Charles I's confinement prior to his 1649 execution in Whitehall by Oliver Cromwell, Queen Victoria's wedding to her beloved Albert in 1840 and Queen Elizabeth II made her first speech as queen here in 1952.
St. James' Palace now contains the London residences of Charles, The Prince of Wales, and Princess Alexandra and Sir Angus Ogilvy. It houses several state offices as well.
St. James' Park
St. James' Park is the oldest and most royal of the 9 royal parks in London. It runs the entire length of The Mall and was originally intended for recreation as it connected Henry VIII's royal palaces of Whitehall and St. James'. King Henry VIII laid out the commissioned a deer park in 1532 and built a hunting lodge that became St. James' Palace. It was James I, however, who began the menagerie of wildlife including pelicans, crocodiles, and gallon-a-day wine drinking elephant.
After the Restoration, Charles I (influenced by his stay at Versailles) redesigned the park to include a canal for swimming, Birdcage Walk- where he kept his aviaries and the gravelled Mall, where he played Pell Mell, a French version of croquet. He then opened it to the public. In 1828, John Nash, under the orders of George IV, landscaped the park- influenced by Humphry Repton. The result was a romantic, 93 acre park softened from its formal French design into the English style with blossoming shrubs and curving paths that affords the best views of Whitehall and Westminster.
The park is now an important natural reserve and migration point for over 1,000 birds and waterfowl from 45 species. Two full-time ornithologists are employed to look after them. The park is particularly famous for its pelicans living on Duck Island (a tradition begun when Charles II received a gift of pelicans from the Russian Ambassador.)
A pelican in St. James' Park
St. James' Park
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Last Updated: 27 January 2003
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