300 Years of St James’s Palace: The power house of the Monarchy

St James's Palace the most senior Throne

We say the British Monarchy is the guardian of tradition. When Prince Charles succeeds the throne to become King and Sovereign, tradition dictates the news will be announced from the balcony of St James’s Palace.

For it is St James Palace that remains the most senior of Royal Palaces, right up to 1837 it was the Monarchs main residence for some 300 years, until Queen Victoria moved to Buckingham Palace.

The original Home of the Sovereign

Queen Victoria changed tradition and moved the sovereign’s main residence to Buckingham Palace in 1837.

St Jame's Palace

St James’s Palace

The 4 courts of St James’s Palace

  1. Ambassador’s Court,
  2. Engine Court,
  3. Friary Court
  4. Colour Court

Throne room at St James’s Palace

A working palace with a working throne room, The Throne at St James Palace is used for state visit ceremonies such as the  Lord Mayor of London and councillors of the City of Westminster present an address to visiting heads of state.

The working palace of St James’s

This Active palace is not open to the public but offers a fantastic location from the pavement opposite for looking at the world-famous changing of the guard ceremonies which take place daily. Be aware they do not allow you as a member of the public on the pavement in front of the Palace during the guard ceremonies and you will be politely guided to cross to the other side of the road. The Metropolitan Police are very efficient in managing the security operations on a daily basis and make it open and accessible as possible for all. They are friendly too, so just listen out, and remember to always

Who lives at St James Palace today

  • Prince Charles and when they were younger, Prince William and Prince Harry together lived at York House, within the St James Palace complex.
  • Princess Anne
  • Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy, cousin of the queen
  • Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugene used to have a residence at this Palace.

Make way for the Queen’s Guard

A person of the public or group of people that step in front of the Queens Guard while they are marching may receive a shout from the guard to move out of the way

‘Make way for the Queen’s Guard’

You are minded to move out of the way as quickly as possible, as they will not deviate from the marching line and may shove through. The soldiers of the Queens Guard are combat troops on operations, just like any other unit of the British Army. These are not ceremonial actors. Be mindful to respect the sentries and the guards on duty.

The Many Roles of St James Palace

St James’s Palace serves many roles, for formal and ceremonial purposes, charity events and for entertaining visitors on state visits. The onsite Chapel Royal has a significant past in its own right, surviving the Great Fire of London of 1666 and both World Wars in the 20th Century. They also base the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood at the Palace.

King Henry the VIII bought the land around 1532, removed the Leprosy Hospital that was there and built the new palaces of St James’s, completing works in 1540-41. The building in the photo below is one of the few surviving Tudor structures in the country. It is called “The Gatehouse to Colour Court”. Its diamond-shaped clock and octagonal style towers are very distinctive, strong and purposeful.

St Jame's Palace
St James’s Palace

The Spanish Armada

King Henry the VIII’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I stayed at the palace during the summer of 1588, the year of the Spanish Armada. She took the Royal boat to Tilbury where she gave her famous speech to the troops, with the famous line

” I know I have the body of a week feeble woman”.

Queen Elizabeth I


Notable Arrivals Weddings and Baptism’s

  • Prince George married Caroline of Brunswick 1795 as it has an onsite chapel.
  • Queen Victoria Married in the chapel in 1840 to Prince Albert.
  • Charles II, James II, Mary of York, Queen Anne and James Francis Edward Stuart were born at St James’s Palace
  • Baptisms of Princess Beatrice and Eugene, daughters of Prince Andrew
  • Prince George, a future heir to the throne was christened at St James’s Royal Chapel.
  • Prince Louis, George’s brother, youngest son of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, christened in July 2018.
  • They baptised Meghan Markle, into the Christian faith. This ceremony took place ahead of her Marriage to Prince Harry.

Notable passings at St James’s

  • King Henry VIII’s daughter, Mary I 1553-58, died here.
  • Charles I, last night at the Palace, before being executed in 1649.
  • In 1997 Princess Diana’s coffin was lying in state at the Palace.
  • The Last Monarch to live at St James’s Palace was William IV who died in 1837.

St Jame's Palace
St James’s Palace
St Jame's Palace
St James’s Palace, Guards preparing
St Jame's Palace
Guards leaving St James Palace on the way down the Mall

Changing of the Guard when to see the Troop Movements

The St. James’s Detachment of The Queen’s Guard mounts daily guard in Friary Court

St James’s Palace is one of the three locations the changing of the guard’s ceremony takes place. The other two being Buckingham Palace and Wellington Barracks. Daily troop movements take place between these locations

Troop movement times

  • 10:25 – St James’s Palace old guard being inspected, the band plays from Marlborough Road.
  • 10:43 – The St James’s Palace Guard set off for Buckingham Palace
  • 11:10 St James’s Palace relief Guard set off from Buckingham Palace and head towards St James’s Palace
  • 11:25 St James’s Palace contingent, old guard, leaves St James’s Palace

How to Get to St James’s Palace – Map

Saint James’s Palace, Westminster, Greater London, United Kingdom

WW1 Virtual Tour The Remembrance Art Trail – Mark Humphrey

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