St James’s Palace.

The place that first deserves to be noticed is St James’s Palace both for its antiquity and its being the winter residence of the kings of England. On the scite of this palace was originally an hospital founded before the conquest for fourteen leprous females to whom eight brethren were afterwards added to perform divine service. In 1531 it was surrendered to Henry VIII who erected the present palace and inclosed St James’s Park to serve as a place of amusement and exercise, both to this palace and that of Whitehall. St James’s Palace does not seem to have been the court of the English soverigns during their residence in town till the reign of Queen Anne from which time it has been uniformly such. The external appearance of this palace is inconsiderable , yet certainly not mean.

It is a brick building; that part in which the rooms of state are being only one story, gives it a regular appearance on the outside. Although there is nothing very suberb or grand in the decorations or furniture of the state aprtments, they are commodious and handsome. The entrance to these rooms is by a staircase that opens into the principal court, next to Pall-Mall. At the top of the staircase are two guard -rooms; one to the left called the Queen’s and the other the King’s Guard-room, leading to the state apartements. Immediately beyond the Kings Guard-room is the Presence Chamber now use only as a passage to the principal rooms. There is a range of five of these, opening into each other sucessively, and fronting the park. The presence Chamber opens into the centre room , called the Privy Chamber where is a canopy under which the king recieves the quakers. On the right are two drawing rooms, one within the other. At the upper end of the further one is a throne, with its canopy on which the king receives certain formal addresses. This apartment is the grand drawing room in which the king and queen are present on certain days, the nearer room being a kind of anti-chamber, in which the nobility are permitted to sit down while their majesties are present in the further room, there being stools and sofas for the purpose. On the left, on entering the privy-chamber from the king’s guard-room and presence chamber are the two levee rooms the nearer

serving as an anti-chamber to the other; all these rooms were formerly very old and mean in their furniture. On the marriage of the Prince of Wales, they were fitted up in their present state. The walls are covered with tapestry, very beautiful and qutie fresh in their colours; for, though it was made for Charles II it had never been put up, having by some accident lain in a chest till discovered a little before the marriage of the prince. The canopy of the throne was made for the queen’s birth-day, the first which happended after the unon of the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland. It is of crimson velvet, with broad gold lace , having embroidered crowns, set with real and fine pearls. The shamrock,the badge of the Irish nation, forms one of the decorations of the crown, and is accurately executed. In the grand drawing room is a large magnificent chandelier of gilt sliver; and in the grand levee-room is a very noble bedroom, the furniture of which is of crimson velevet manufactured in Spitalfields.This bed was put up with the tapestry on the marriage of the Prince of wales.

The other parts of St James’s Palace are very irregular in their form, consisting chiefly of several courts. Some of the apartments are occupied by branches of the royal fmaily others by the king’s servants and others are granted as a benefit to their occupiers.

The sole use the king makes of St James’s Palace is for purposes of state.

Text: The Picture of London(1802) by James Feltham

Jane Austen References

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 18th September 1796