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Saint Jame’s Palace

Saint Jame’s Palace (93)

This red brick Tudor style palace has been a royal residence for more than 300 years. It was the monarch Henry VIII who ordered it to be built in the 1530s. Today, only one part of the original building is conserved, of which we could highlight the Gatehouse. This main entrance is a fortified gateway surrounded by several octagonal towers. The current building extends though 4 courtyards: Ambassadors' Court, Engine Court, Friary Court and Colour Court.

At the end of the 18th century Whitehall palace burnt down and the Court was moved to Saint James’s. Since then, all the kings until William IV have lived here. Although the Court still has its home here, since 1837, the year in which Queen Victoria ascended the throne, the sovereigns have preferred to live in Buckingham Palace. 

The palace continues to have several important roles. On the one hand, it is an important place for diplomatic reasons, since foreign ambassadors present and validate their official credentials here. Moreover, on special occasions receptions for heads of State are held here. 

Secondly, it houses the offices of important military regiments and bodies such as the Yeomen Warders.

Perhaps the palace’s most important role is to be the place where, on the death of a monarch, the Accession Council meets to announce the ascension to the throne of the new sovereign. 

In the Ambassador’s Court is a building designed by John Nash, Clarence House, which was the Queen Mother’s residence until her death in 2002. Today its tenants are Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles.

The Friary Court courtyard leads to the royal chambers, which are not open to the public. 

In the complex there are two royal chapels. One, the Royal Chapel, dating from the mid-15th century, is where the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert took place in 1840.

And in 1997, the coffin of Diana Princess of Wales was placed so that families and friends could bid their farewells in private, before her funeral in Westminster Abbey.

The royal chapel has a longstanding musical history, and is considered as the main force behind English church music. Among its many famous organists and compositors feature Thomas Tallis and George Frederick Handel, designated by George II on the 25rd of February 1723 as “his royal majesty’s composer of chapel music”. The title was thought up so that Handel, still a German citizen, would thus be able to contribute to the musical development of the royal chapel.

The other chapel inside the complex is the Queen’s Chapel, designed by Inigo Jones and was built with Portland stone between 1632 and 1635. 

This chapel has been chosen by the royal family, for example, to bid farewell in private to the Queen Mother and Her Royal highness Princess Margaret.

Both chapels are open to the public for Sunday services except in August and September.

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