all Mall, North end of St. James' Street, was originally an hospital, on the site of which the present Palace was built, in the reign of Henry VIII. It has no pretensions to architectural beauty, but its interior accommodation is very great.
Her Majesty's levees and drawing rooms, and birth-day fetes are here held.
The Chapel Royal is on the right, between the Colour-court and the Ambassadors' court.
George IV. and Queen Caroline, and Her present Majesty and Prince Albert, were here married. The late Duke of Wellington, when in town, was a constant attendant of the morning services performed in this chapel. These take place at eight a.m., and twelve at noon; a fee of two shillings will procure admission.
The Queen and Royal Family formerly attended here, but now use the one attached to Buckingham Palace.
The band of the Life Guards plays every morning at eleven in the Colour-court, and their performances are well worth hearing.Hogben's Strangers' Guide to London, By John Hogben (1850)
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FOREIGNER standing at the head of St, James's Street and looking down to the dingy red-brick gateway, with its clock tower and turrets, which forms the entrance to St. James's Palace, might think that it was a national fortress or an English Bastille. He would see little to suggest a Palace. "This will never do. It is not fit to lodge a Christian in," was the horrified gasp of Count Holcke, who accompanied Christian VII. of Denmark when that monarch come to woo the Princess Caroline Matilda, sister of George III. His young Danish Majesty looked scornful enough as his coach rumbled over the old stone pavement to the apartments in the Stable Yard where he and his retinue were to lodge. Compared with his own sea-girt palaces, St. James's must have looked uninviting enough; but Horace Walpole relates that the King was better pleased when he saw the interior of the Palace, and that he held Levees, gave banquets, and was the "puppet of the day." In spite of the bad impression which he at first received regarding the centre of the English Court, the King eventually married the Princess whom he had come to woo. Poor Caroline Matilda! I have stood in the low circular room in the castle of Kronberg where she was in after years kept prisoner by her husband, pending her banishment from Denmark. How she must have longed, as she gazed forth over the blue waters of the Sound, to be once more at dingy old St. James's, and have sighed for the "sweet shady side of Pall Mali." The remark of Miss Burney's Evelina regarding her first sight of St. James's Palace has been often echoed by country cousins in town. "This morning," she writes, "we went to Portland Chapel, and afterwards we walked in the Mall of St. James's Park, which by no means answered my expectations; it is a long, straight walk of dirty gravel, very uneasy to the feet, and at each end, instead of an open prospect, nothing is to be seen but houses built of brick. When Mrs. Mirvan pointed out the Palace to me, I think I was never much more surprised."
"We are not, as a people, distinguished for the building of great palaces. London does not contain the ashes of a Tuileries nor an untenanted Versailles, and has nothing to compare with the colossal and costly palaces of Russia. For more than two hundred years, since Whitehall Palace was burned down, England has been content to have its Court represented by so insignificant and unattractive an edifice as St. James's Palace, for though it has long ceased to be the abode of the monarch, the cachet of the Court still attaches to it. The edicts issued in the name of the Sovereign are dated from "Our Court of St. James," to it foreign ambassadors are accredited, and there the Levees are held. Doubtless there are potentates and distinguished foreigners who still drive under its gateway with the same feeling of scornful surprise which was exhibited by Christian VII. of Denmark.
The old Palace lives, however, in the page of romantic history. It has been as famous for backstair intrigues as Versailles; is not one whit behind Fontainebleau and St. Cloud for Court scandals; and might wrest the palm for political machinations from the Vatican. It is indeed storied ground. Out of the dim past rise pictures of the gay hunting cavalcades of Henry VIII., of the jousts and tourneys of Elizabeth, and later of the Royal martyr being led forth from the Palace to execution, and the Lord Protector jolting in his sedan as he passes through the courtyard. Grave changes to gay, and now it is the Merry Monarch bandying words over the Palace wall with Mistress Nell Gwynne, standing saucily at the window of her house in Pall Mall. Cavaliers throng St. James's Park, fair maids of honour walk masked in the Mulberry Garden, and there are trystings by Rosamond's Pond. Richardson meditates in the grove upon the site of which stands Marlborough House. Anon, and within the Palace, Anne is holding her queenly Courts, and, later, "Farmer George" his dull Levees. Varied, indeed, is the historic panorama which has passed through the walls of courtly St. James's.
To trace the name and early history of the Palace we must go back to Norman times, when some charitable citizens of London endowed a home for fourteen maidens who were lepers. It was built in a solitary expanse of fields and woodland far removed from the boundaries of the City, and was dedicated to St. James the Less, Bishop of Jerusalem. One of the privileges granted to the hospital was the profits of a fair held on St. James's Day, May 1st, and the four days following1, in the adjacent fields of Piccadilly.
1 Thornbury's "Old and New London." Mr. Sheppard, in his "Memorials of St. James's Palace," says that the fair was held on the anniversary of St. James the Great, July 25th, which would destroy the idea of the origin of Mayfair. Miss Strickland, in her "Life of Mary II.," describes the Court ladies attending May fair, and also another fair on St. James's Day, July 25th, and bases the statement on a letter of Lady Cavendish in the private Devonshire Papers.
"Several generations of "leper maydens" gazed from the lattices of the hospital and shook their cups and platters to solicit alms from the wayfarers who chanced to pass their solitary abode. They remained in undisturbed possession until Henry VIII. cast covetous eyes upon the hospital demesne. The King had appropriated Wolsey's Palace of Whitehall; and the fine expanse of wooded country which stretched from it to the abode of the Leper Sisters seemed a desirable addition to his new possessions. The Sisters received peremptory notice to quit, but were more fortunate than the majority of the réligieuses whose lands and houses the Defender of the Faith coveted, as they received compensation. According to the old chronicler 2, "the Kyng purchased all the meadows about saynt James, and all the whole house of saynt James, and there made a fyne mansion and a parke and buylded many costly and commodious houses for great pleasure."
2 This is the origin of the name of Mayfair by which the district is called.
The hospital was razed to the ground, and upon the site where leper nuns had said their prayers arose a Palace where Court beauties vied in wit and splendour for the favour of Princes, and the corridors of which were thronged by the most noted ecclesiastics, politicians, wits and poets of succeeding epochs. In its courts was heard the sound of pomp and heraldry, the clank of martial armour, the chanting of priests, the roll of coach and chariot, and the yells of insurrectionary mobs. Probably in no given area of its size has there occurred more memorable scenes in English history than within the precincts of St. James's.
In the first stage of its existence the Palace was known as the King's Manor House of St. James, or "The House in the Fields." Henry VIII. built it as a "Palace of ease" to Westminster and Whitehall. Though lacking the size and grandeur of the older palaces, the King's Manor House was no mere hunting lodge, but an edifice of some pretensions. Holbein designed the entrance, consisting of a gatehouse, tower, and twin turrets, which remains to-day as it was originally built. The initials H.R., typical of its Royal founder, are still visible over the doors in the clock tower. The clock itself was a later addition. The old Palace is now dwarfed by the surrounding buildings, but as it originally stood, in the midst of fields and open country and approached by a long lane - now St. James's Street - it was a picturesque country mansion. The demesne joined the grounds of Whitehall and the boundary of Westminster, and stretched north to the Hampstead woods. There were no buildings nearer to the Palace than Charing Cross, then a village not far from the Abbey Minster. The interior of the Palace had some pretensions to palatial grandeur, judging from the old Presence Chamber, a portion of the original building which remains to-day. It is now called the Tapestry Chamber, and over the fireplace is the monogram of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn entwined with a true-lovers' knot.
The Manor of St. James was purchased by Henry in 1532, and the Palace was built while he was at the height of his passion for Anne Boleyn. Among the many conflicting accounts of Henry's second marriage there is a tradition that after a secret ceremony had been performed in a garret at Whitehall,1 the bride was taken across the park to her Royal husband's new mansion.2 If so, it was at St. James's Palace that Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn spent their honeymoon. The public marriage took place some months later. The new Palace undoubtedly served them for a place of rural retirement. We may picture King "Hal" in jaunty hat and feathers, riding forth in the spring mornings from the stately gateway of his Manor House, followed by a train of courtiers in white and silver, with horns blowing and much jocund mirth, as he went a-maying to the Hampstead woods. Then there would be the return of the gay cavalcade bearing the fragrant boughs, which Anne and her ladies received as trophies of the floral chase. In autumn the King hunted the deer with which his new demesne had been stocked, and held gay revels when he returned from the chase. But soon the jovial, fickle monarch grew cold to the charms which had once caused his eye to soften and the blood to course hotly through his veins, and the tie, symbolised by that lovers' knot with which he had entwined his own name with that of the lovely Anne over the fireplace of the Presence Chamber, was cut by the axe on Tower Hill. Tragic indeed was the fate of the first mistress of St. James's.
1 Strickland's "Life of Anne Boleyn." 2 "Si, James's Magazine, vol. i., 1861.
After the execution of Anne Boleyn, unpleasant memories were attached to the King's Manor House, and he rarely occupied it, but he continued to take a delight in the demesne, and enclosed the park and laid out pleasure gardens. His son, Edward VI., occasionally stayed for a few days at St. James's, and it was considered a very suitable place of lodging for the "Lady Mary" and the "Lady Elizabeth" when they came to attend their brother's Court at Whitehall, On one occasion Mary appears to have lived in great state at St. James's, as she brought a large following of her friends with her, and they had apartments in the Palace and were entertained with much good cheer. In those days the future Queen of sombre and cruel memory was a handsome, agreeable young woman of kind and exemplary behaviour, and with a passion for music. The young King, her brother, did not like music, and Mary's visits to the Palace were marred by the prohibition she was under not to touch the virginals and lutes. Lord Thomas Seymour, one of those who attended in her retinue on the occasion just referred to, in writing to thank the Princess Mary for her hospitality, alludes to the deprivation which she must have endured by not having access to any musical instrument, and feared that she might have lost her practice.
The Princess Elizabeth was also lodged in state at St. James's on the rare occasions when she was permitted to attend her brother's Court, and she conceived such a liking for the abode, which had been the pleasure house of her parents, that she endeavoured to induce the young King to grant it to her for a residence; but his advisers thought that the sprightly and clever Elizabeth was more suitably lodged away from the capital, in the retirement of the country.
With the accession of Mary I. St. James's Palace comes more prominently into view as a Royal residence, for although the great Court functions were held, as formerly, at Whitehall, the Queen made St. James's her private residence, and it was there that her miserable death took place. She stayed at the Palace pending her coronation, and set out from thence upon her Royal progresses, first to Whitehall, and thence by barge to the Tower, afterwards going in grand procession through the City. The Princess Elizabeth accompanied the Queen. The Tudor sisters made a brave show in their separate chariots, attended by some hundreds of ladies riding upon gaily caparisoned palfreys and attended by a throng of knights and gentlemen, as they passed through St. James's Park.
A few brief years, and the kaleidoscope of history shows a scene far different. Mary, neglected and broken-hearted, moans out the last months of her life sighing for Philip who comes not, and for Calais which is lost. When the miserable Queen found that the malady from which she was suffering was a fatal one, she left Richmond Palace, where she had passed the spring, and came to St. James's. She fondly hoped that the husband who had deserted her would at least come to soothe her dying moments; but Philip contented himself with sending his last message and a ring as a token to his dying wife by the hands of Count de Feria. Then the Queen, seeming to have lost her last hold upon life, sent messages, presents, and admonitions to her sister Elizabeth, recognising her as the coming Queen. As soon as this act of Mary's was known, the Court deserted her and hastened to Hatfield, to curry favour with Elizabeth. The once regal Mary Tudor, the first Queen-regnant of England, died at St. James's Palace deserted by all save a few faithful friends. She passed away in the early morning of November 17th, 1558, as the celebration of the mass which she had commanded in her chamber closed. Mary had begged that the crown which had been so heavy a weight in life might not encumber her brow in death. It was then the custom to dress the corpse of a monarch with the regal insignia, but the Queen would rather have preferred to have been habited in the simple garb of the Sisters who for centuries had lived their saintly lives on the site of the Palace where she lay dying.
No sooner had her breath ceased, than preparations were made for embalming Mary's emaciated body. Her heart, upon which she had said, in her grief at loss of the possession, Calais would be found written, was removed, put into a coffer, and temporarily deposited in St. James's Chapel. Her body was coffined, carried into the Privy Chamber of the Palace, laid upon a specially prepared table, and covered with a purple pall. In this chamber, which was hung with black cloth and purple velvet and "garnished with scutcheons of arms," the body of Mary rested for three weeks previous to burial. The scene was profoundly impressive. Lights burned around the coffin, and each day there was a mass and a dirge, while at night relays of the Queen's gentlewomen knelt around the coffin to watch and pray. On Saturday, December l0th, the body was taken with befitting state into St. James's Chapel, which had been draped for its reception. It remained in the centre of the chapel upon an elevation, with forty-six great tapers burning around it, until the following Tuesday, a series of solemn services being performed at intervals. Finally the funeral procession was formed, and the remains of the Queen were taken from St. James's for interment in Westminster Abbey. No more unique and imposing spectacle has ever issued from the old gateway of the Palace. A herald who was an eye-witness has left a vivid picture of the scene: "Up the highway went the foremost standard, the falcon and the hart: then came a great company of mourners. Then another goodly standard of the lion and the falcon, followed by King Philip's servants riding two and two. Then the third standard with the white greyhound and falcon." Next came a procession of nobles on horseback, each bearing a banner emblematic of the Queen's estate and dignity, the banner of England going first. These were followed by four heralds bearing white banners of saints embossed in gold. "Then came the corpse, in a chariot, with an exact image representing Queen Mary dressed in crimson velvet, with many gemmed rings on the hands. The pall over the coffin was black cloth of gold, intersected by a cross of cloth of silver. The body was followed by the chief mourners; the Queen's ladies came after on horseback, but their black trains were long enough to sweep after them on the ground." And so the solemn procession passed to Westminster Abbey.
Possibly the mournful memories which were now attached to St. James's Palace made it distasteful to Queen Elizabeth. It was only used on rare occasions during her reign. The palaces of Whitehall and Greenwich were better suited to the stately splendour of her "high mightiness," Queen Bess, and her father's quondam [former; onetime] Manor House did not attract her. But she took a great pleasure in its park, and frequently rode there with her ladies. On one memorable occasion, however, did Queen Elizabeth stay at St. James's. In the summer of 1588, the crisis attendant on the sailing from Spain of the Invincible Armada brought the intrepid Queen from Richmond, where she was rusticating, to London, to await developments of the threatening danger, and she abode at St. James's Palace for upwards of two months. After her memorable address to the departing troops at Tilbury Fort, Elizabeth rode back to St. James's escorted by shouting and admiring crowds, and for the next few days the courtyard was gay with tilts and tourneys held by the noblesse for the Queen's diversion.
The courtly history of St. James's Palace begins with the Stuarts. During that chequered dynasty the Manor House of the Tudors was enlarged and beautified until it attained the importance of a Palace, and its park and pleasure gardens were greatly ornamented, and became the resort of the fashionable throngs. When James I. came over the Border to his new kingdom, he was much pleased with the unpretentious Palace, partly because it bore his own name. He did not, however, select it specially for his own use, but conferred it upon his heir. Prince Henry, aged four. To fit it for the abode of the young Prince of Wales, considerable additions were made. These occupied six years, so that it was not until Prince Henry was ten years of age that he took formal possession of the Palace. The Royal youth had a household of four hundred persons, and entertained in such a brilliant and luxurious manner that the Court at St. James's threatened to excel that of the King at Whitehall. Though sumptuous, the Prince's Court was strictly decorous. Profane language was forbidden, and apparently not being satisfied that his Royal wish would be observed, unless enforced by threats of punishment to the disobedient, the precocious princeling enacted a domestic law by which any one heard to swear within the Palace walls was fined, the money being deposited in a special box and eventually given to the poor. He must have been a youth of extraordinary wisdom and sagacity, judging from the stories related of him, and the nation regarded him as a prodigy of discernment. Commenting upon the imprisonment of Sir Walter Raleigh, for whom he had a personal liking, the Prince once said: "No King but my father would keep such a bird in such a cage." James must occasionally have felt as awed at his progeny as the hen who hatched a duckling, for when accounts reached him of the doings of his son and of the homage which he attracted from the courtiers, he exclaimed, "Will he bury me alive?"
Only for two years did Prince Henry live to preside over his exemplary Court at St. James's. At the age of twelve he sickened and died of a mysterious disease which was popularly attributed to poison, though this was never proved. The lying in state was as impressive as that of Queen Mary. Four of the chief apartments in the Palace were hung with black. The coffin containing the body of the dead Prince was placed with trappings and insignia in his Highness's bedchamber. Two thousand mourners followed the body from the Palace to Westminster Abbey, and weeping crowds lined the way to gaze upon the waxen figure of the young Prince dressed in rich apparel, which surmounted the coffin. His fair young face presented a marked contrast to that of the death effigy of Queen Mary, which had last been carried from St. James's. After a short interval, James I. placed his second son, Charles, now heir-apparent, in the dead Prince's apartments at the Palace.
It was while James I. was walking in the gardens of St. James's Palace that Dr. Mountain, the Court chaplain, made the witty repartee which secured him the bishopric of London. The King complained to his chaplain that he was greatly troubled how to dispose of the vacant see, the applicants being so many. Dr. Mountain replied that the King might easily dispose of it if he had faith. "How." asked the King. "If your Majesty," said he, "had as much faith as a grain of mustard seed, you might say to this Mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into that sea (see)!" The witty retort met with the desired reward.
St. James's Palace became a favourite private residence with Henrietta Maria, the lovely girl-bride of Charles I., and there most of her children were born. During the first year of her marriage the large retinue of attendants who had accompanied the bride from France, together with her colony of priests and friars under Cardinal Howard, were lodged at St. James's Palace in a wing overlooking Friary Court. A chapel was to be erected for the celebration of the Queen's worship, but the building being long delayed, the priests made a complaint to the King. Charles was passionately attached to his young Queen, and proportionately jealous of the priestly influences about her, and when the complaint about the chapel was made, he retorted: "Tell them that if the Queen's closet where they say mass is not large enough, they may use the Great Chamber; and if the Great Chamber is not wide enough, they may make use of the garden; and if the garden will not suit their purpose, they may go to the park, which is the fittest place of all."
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