St James's Palace
St James's Palace was built between 1532 and
1540 by Henry VIII on the site of the Hospital of St James, Westminster. For over
300 years it was a residence of kings and queens of England.
brought the court to St James's in 1702 after the disastrous fire which destroyed
the Palace of Whitehall in 1698. It has remained the official residence of the
Sovereign, although since the death of William IV in 1837 the Sovereign has lived
at Buckingham Palace. Foreign Ambassadors and High Commissioners are still formally
accredited to the Court of St. James's for this reason.
It was in St
James's Palace that Mary Tudor signed the treaty surrendering Calais. Elizabeth
I was resident there during the campaign against the Spanish Armada and set out
from St James's to address the troops assembled at Tilbury Camp. Charles I was
confined to the Palace before his execution in January 1649.
two historic chapels in St James's Palace - the Chapel Royal and The Queen's Chapel.
The conducting of services and the administration of the Chapel Royal, St James's
Palace is the responsibility of the sub-Dean. This role was created in the 15th
century and his responsibilities were to choose the music and anthems to be sung,
authorise absences and prescribe penalties for minor offences that could be dealt
with without recourse to the Dean.
In origin and still in principle,
the Chapel Royal is not a building but an establishment; a body of priests and
singers to serve the spiritual needs of the Sovereign. It was Henry VIII who constructed
the present Chapel within St James's Palace.
The original Tudor Closet was
a gallery on stilts, and it was here that Elizabeth I said her prayers for the
defence of the Realm against the threat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, having
chosen to remain at St James's Palace to receive messages of its progress by fire
beacons from Cornwall. At the end of the Civil War, Charles I received the Sacrament
of Holy Communion before crossing St James's Park to his execution in Whitehall
in 1649. In 1997, the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales lay before the altar
where her family and friends could pay their respects in private, before the Princess's
funeral in Westminster Abbey.
Alterations to the building were carried out
in 1836 with the addition of the side galleries and a new ceiling with William
IV and Adelaide to match the 1540 ciphers. The panelling dates from this time,
and the pews were installed in 1876.
The Chapel Royal has always been considered
to be the cradle of English church music, and among its many noted organists and
composers were Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons and Henry Purcell
- the latter lived in a suite of apartments in St James's Palace. The poet Dryden,
who was frequently in debt, used to take refuge with Purcell in his apartments
in order to avoid the clutches of persistent creditors.
One of the Chapel's
most notable organists and composers was George Frederick Handel, who was appointed
by George II on 25 February 1723 as 'Composer of Musick of His Majesty's Chappel
Royal', a title carefully constructed to allow Handel, still a German citizen,
to contribute to the musical development of the Chapel Royal without actually
being a member of it. Handel composed the great anthem 'Zadok the Priest' for
the coronation of George II in 1727 and it has been used at every coronation since.
It is also sung each year at the Royal Maundy service in which the Queen distributes
St. James's Palace is the senior Palace of the Sovereign, with a long history
as a royal residence. As the home of several members of the Royal Family and their
household offices, it is often in use for official functions and is not open to
Palace has served as the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since
1837. It evolved from a town house that was owned from the beginning of the eighteenth
century by the Dukes of Buckingham. Today it is The Queen's official residence.
Although in use for the many official events and receptions held by The Queen,
areas of Buckingham Palace are opened to visitors on a regular basis.
State Rooms of the Palace are open to visitors during the Annual Summer Opening
in August and September. They are lavishly furnished with some of the greatest
treasures from the Royal Collection - paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer,
Poussin, Canaletto and Claude; sculpture by Canova and Chantrey; exquisite examples
of Sèvres porcelain, and some of the finest English and French furniture
in the world.
Visits to Buckingham Palace can be combined
with visits to The Queen's Gallery, which will reopen in the spring of 2002. The
nearby Royal Mews is open throughout the year.
House in Norfolk has been the private home of four generations of Sovereigns since
1862. The Queen and other members of the Royal family regularly spend Christmas
at Sandringham and make it their official base until February each year.
Like Balmoral, the Sandringham Estate is a commercial estate managed privately
on The Queen's behalf. Sandringham House, the museum and the grounds are open
Palace in London is a working Royal residence. Of great historical importance,
Kensington Palace was the favourite residence of successive sovereigns until 1760.
It was also the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria. Today Kensington
Palace accommodates the offices and private apartments of a number of members
of the Royal Family. Although managed by Historic Royal Palaces, the Palace is
furnished with items from the Royal Collection
of the most celebrated Royal residences used by former kings and queens can still
be visited today.
The Tower of London, begun by William
I, is a fascinating complex constructed over several centuries. It provided historic
Royal families with a residence for more than five centuries, and was a prison
for other Royal figures, including Lady Jane Grey. The Tower housed the Royal
Mint until 1810. There were also armouries and workshops in which weapons were
designed and manufactured; items including armour worn by Henry VIII remain there
today. The Tower remains the storehouse of the Crown Jewels and regalia, as it
has done for nearly 700 years. Today the Tower is under the management of the
Historic Royal Palaces Trust.
Hampton Court Palace is
also managed by Historic Royal Palaces. Given by Cardinal Wolsey to Henry VIII
c.1526, the palace was a residence for figures including Mary I and Elizabeth
I, Charles I, William III and Mary II, and retains many furnishings and objects
from their times. It houses some important works of art and furnishings in the
The Banqueting House in Whitehall is
the only remaining part of London's old Palace of Whitehall. It was created by
Inigo Jones for James I. Charles I commissioned Rubens to paint the vast ceiling
panels, which celebrate kingship in general and the Stuart reign in particular.
It was from the Banqueting House that Charles I stepped on to the scaffold on
30 January 1649. In 1689 the Prince and Princess of Orange went to the Banqueting
House to accept the crown, becoming joint Sovereigns William III and Mary II.
Today the Banqueting House is managed by Historic Royal Palaces.
Royal residences which can be visited include Osborne House, the beloved home
of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on the Isle of Wight, and the Brighton Pavilion,
former residence of George IV when he was Prince Regent.
Castle is an official residence of The Queen and the largest occupied castle in
the world. A royal palace and fortress for over 900 years, the Castle remains
a working palace today. Visitors can walk around the State Apartments, extensive
suites of rooms at the heart of the working palace; for part of the year visitors
can also see the Semi State rooms, which are some of the most splendid interiors
in the castle. They are furnished with treasures from the Royal Collection including
paintings by Holbein, Rubens, Van Dyck and Lawrence, fine tapestries and porcelain,
sculpture and armour.
Within the Castle complex there are many additional attractions.
In the Drawings Gallery regular exhibitions of treasures from the Royal Library
are mounted. Another popular feature is the Queen Mary's Dolls' House, a miniature
mansion built to perfection. The fourteenth-century St. George's Chapel is the
burial place of ten sovereigns, home of the Order of the Garter, and setting for
many royal weddings. Nearby on the Windsor Estate is Frogmore House, an attractive
country residence with strong associations to three queens - Queen Charlotte,
Queen Victoria and Queen Mary.
Castle on the Balmoral Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland is the private residence
of The Queen. Beloved by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Balmoral Castle has
remained a favourite residence for The Queen and her family during the summer
holiday period in August and September. The Castle is located on the large Balmoral
Estate, a working estate which aims to protect the environment while contributing
to the local economy.
The Estate grounds, gardens and the Castle Ballroom
are open to visitors from mid-April to the end of July each year, under the management
of the Balmoral Estate Office.
as a monastery in 1128, the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh is The Queen's
official residence in Scotland. Situated at the end of the Royal Mile, the Palace
of Holyroodhouse is closely associated with Scotland's turbulent past, including
Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived here between 1561 and 1567. Successive kings and
queens have made the Palace of Holyroodhouse the premier royal residence in Scotland.
Today, the Palace is the setting for State ceremonies and official entertaining.
Visitors can see the historic Royal Apartments used for these official functions.
They are decorated with magnificent works of art from the Royal Collection. From
2002 the new Queen's Gallery, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, will host changing
exhibitions from the Royal Collection.