Upon visiting St James’s Palace in London, one may initially feel slightly underwhelmed, as it doesn’t seem to have the extravagant exterior of a palace. St James’s Palace history places it as an important landmark in the centre of London.

With this being said, what is St James’s Palace used for? Well, it’s still regarded as the most senior royal palace, with many royal families using it as a residence. Despite this, St James’s Palace events are somewhat rare, as most royal activity has shifted to Buckingham Palace.

Speaking of the palace as a residence, you may be wondering who lives in St James’s Palace. For upwards of three centuries, St James’s Palace was home to the kings and queens of the country. Today, it contains the official residence of Princess Anne, Princess Beatrice, and Princess Alexandra.

The Lion King Borrowed from the Palace

We all remember that iconic scene from the Lion King, in which Simba is born and raised over a cliff by Rafiki, displaying him to the public as the new prince of the pride lands. Despite this, it’s not so common knowledge that this bears great similarity to one of the traditions of St James’s Palace. This is the one that has the initial announcement of a new member ascending to the monarchy taking place on the Palace’s balcony.

The Palace Has Been Around Since the 1500s

The construction of St James’s Palace was overseen by King Henry VIII from 1531 to 1536. Originally, St James’s Hospital also stood in this place; however, the palace was burnt down in 1809, resulting in the severe alteration of the initial conception.

Following the fire, the Palace was remodelled but, of course, the Tudor works remain to this day. These include the turrets, parts of the staterooms, the gatehouse, and the Chapel Royal.

Few days back we published STRANGE RULES YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT LONDON’S ROYAL PARKS be sure to give it a read.

It’s Home to Happy and Sad Memories

As one of the oldest British palaces, it’s no wonder that St James’s Palace has been the site of many notable memories. For instance, the memorial of Henry Fitzroy, Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, was hosted by the Palace in 1536.

Later, Mary Tudor signed a treaty of surrender in the Palace in 1558. Similarly, St James’s Palace was the setting in which Queen Elizabeth I addressed threats made by the Spanish Armada. Additionally, Charles I spent his last night in the Palace and took communion.

With this being said, not only doom and gloom have taken place in the Palace; it has also been the site of baptisms and birthdays, including those of Charles II, James II, James Francis, Edward Stuart, and more. The Palace has also been the setting of various royal marriages, such as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, William and Mary, and George V and Mary.

The Palace Has an Armoury

One of the notable features of St James’s Palace is its display of armoury, which boasts a collection of weapons that date all the way back to the 16th Century. These weapons include rifles, pistols, targets, blades, swords, and much more.

HA on the Left, H on the Right

For Henry VIII, St James’s Palace was intended to be a space of quiet, away from official duties. Meanwhile, his second wife, Anne Boleyn, was to live with him. Consequently, the construction saw “HA” being imprinted on some of the Palace fireplace; however, Anne had been executed by the time the construction of the fireplace came to an end. As a result, the right side of the fireplace only says “H”.


Rich State Apartments

The state apartments were the worst affected by the notorious fire of the 19th Century, meaning that they underwent remodelling and are newer than the Palace itself. Despite this, this remodel didn’t see the use of regular materials. In fact, parts of these apartments are comprised of some of the most precious minerals, such as marble-carved tables, silver tapestries, malachite vases, and gold-gilded chandeliers. Since the Monarch’s apartment wasn’t subjected to this same remodelling, it doesn’t appear as shiny.

The Palace is a Court

As previously mentioned, St James’s Palace was intended to be a space of quiet for Henry VIII; however, upon the Palace of Whitehall burning down in 1691, the court was relocated to St James’s Palace.

During this service as the court, the Palace doubled as the primary residence of King George III. Though, soon after, he bought Buckingham House, which we now know as Buckingham Palace. Therefore, he moved from St James’s to Buckingham Palace, yet St James’s remained as the court. As a result, anyone who’s set to become an ambassador to the UK is admitted to the court of St James.

The Palace is Named After a Disciple of Christ

As formerly touched on, the grounds of the Palace were once home to a hospital, which was dedicated to one of Jesus’s disciples, James. Despite this, Jesus had two disciples called James – James, the son of Zebedee, and James, Son of Alpheus. The Palace is named after the son of Zebedee.

St James’s Palace Changing of the Guard

St James’s Palace is an essential landmark when it comes to witnessing the Changing of the Guard. Learn more about the Westminster and Changing of the Guard Tour here. We also offer private tours, which you can find out more about here. Alternatively, you can book in for one of our public walking tours.


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