The picturesque old brick gateway of St. James’s Palace still looks up St. James’s Street, one of the most precious relics of the past in London, and enshrining the memory of a greater succession of historical events than any other domestic building in England, Windsor Castle not excepted. The site of the palace was occupied, even before the Conquest, by a hospital dedicated to St. James, for “fourteen maidens that were leprous.” Henry VIII. obtained it by exchange, pensioned off the sisters, and converted the hospital into “a fair mansion and park,” in the same year in which he was married to Anne Boleyn, who was commemorated here with him in love-knots, now almost obliterated, upon the side doors of the gateway, and in the letters “H. A.” on the chimney-piece of the presence-chamber or tapestry room. Holbein is sometimes said to have been the king’s architect here, as he was at Whitehall. Henry can seldom have lived here, but hither his daughter, Mary I., retired, after her husband Philip left England for Spain, and here she died, November 17, 1558.
James I., in 1610, settled St. James’s on his eldest son, Prince Henry, who kept his court here for two years with great magnificence, having It salaried household of no less than two hundred and ninety-seven persons. Here he died in his nineteenth year, November 6, 1612. Upon his death, St. James’s was given to his brother Charles, who frequently resided here after his accession to the throne, and here Henrietta Maria gave birth to Charles II., James II., and the Princess Elizabeth. In 1638 the palace was given as a refuge to the queen’s mother, Marie de Medici, who lived here for three years, with a pension of £3,000 a month! Hither Charles I. was brought from Windsor as the prisoner of the Parliament, his usual attend-ants, with one exception, being debarred access to him, and being replaced by common soldiers, who sat smoking and drinking even in the royal bed-chamber, never allowing him a moment’s privacy, and hence he was taken in a sedan chair to his trial at Whitehall.
On the following day the king was led away from St. James’s to the scaffold. His faithful friends, Henry Rich, Earl of Holland, the Duke of Hamilton, and Lord Capel were afterward imprisoned in the palace and suffered like their master.
Charles II., who was born at St. James’s (May 29, 1630), resided at Whitehall, giving up the palace to his brother, the Duke of York (also born here, October 25, 1633), but reserving apartments for his mistress, the Duchess of Mazarin, who at one time resided there with a pension of £4,000 a year. Here Mary II. was born, April 30, 1662; and here she was married to William of Orange, at eleven at night, November 4, 1677. Here for many years the Duke and Duchess of York secluded themselves with their children, in mourning and sorrow, on the anniversary of his father’s murder. Here also Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, died, March 31, 1671, asking, “What is truth?” of Blandford, Bishop of Worcester, who came to visit her.
In St. James’s Palace also, James’s second wife, Mary of Modena, gave birth to her fifth child, Prince James Edward (“the Old Pretender”) on June 10, 1688.
It was to St. James’s that William III came on his first arrival in England, and he frequently resided there afterward, dining in public, with the Duke of Schomberg seated at his right hand and a number of Dutch guests, but on no occasion was any English gentleman invited. In the latter part of William’s reign the palace was given up to the Princess Anne, who had been born there February 6, 1665, and married there to Prince George of Denmark July 28, 1683. She was residing here when Bishop Burnet brought her the news of William’s death and her own accession.
George L, on his arrival in England, came at once to St. James’s. “This is a strange country,” he remarked afterward; “the first morning after my arrival at St. James’s I looked out of the window, and saw a park with walks, and a canal, which they told me were mine. The next day Lord Chetwynd, the ranger of my park, sent me a fine brace of carp out of my canal; and I was told I must give five guineas to Lord Chetwynd’s servant for bringing me my own carp, out of my own canal, in my own park.”
The Duchess of Kendal, the king’s mistress, had rooms in the palace, and, toward the close of his reign, George I. assigned apartments there on the ground floor to a fresh favorite, Miss Anne Brett. When the king left for Hanover, Miss Brett had a door opened from her rooms to the royal gardens, which the king’s granddaughter, Princess Anne, who was residing in the palace, indignantly ordered to be walled up. Miss Brett had it opened a second time, and the quarrel was at its height when the news of the king’s death put an end to the power of his mistress. With the accession of George II. the Countesses of Yarmouth and Suffolk took possession of the apartments of the Duchess of Kendal. As Prince of Wales, George II. had resided in the palace till a smoldering quarrel with his father came to a crisis over the christening of one of the royal children, and the next day he was put under arrest, and ordered to leave St. James’s with his family the same evening: Wilhelmina Caroline of Anspaeh, the beloved queen of George II., died in the palace, November 20, 1737, after an agonizing illness, endured with the utmost fortitude and consideration for all around her.
Of the daughters of George II. and Queen Caroline, Anne, the eldest, was married at St. James’s to the Prince of Orange, November, 1733, urged to the alliance by her desire for power, and answering to her parents, when they reminded her of the hideous and ungainly appearance of the bridegroom, “I would marry him, even if he were a baboon !” The marriage, however, was a happy one, and a pleasant contrast to that of her younger sister Mary, the king’s fourth daughter, who was married here to the brutal Frederick of Hesse Cassel, June 14, 1771. The third daughter, Caroline, died at St. James’s, December 28, 1757, after a long seclusion consequent upon the death of John, Lord Harvey, to whom she was passionately attached.
George I. and George II. used, on certain days to play at Hazard at the grooms’ postern at St. James’s, and the name “Hells,” as applied to modern gaming-houses is derived from that given to the gloomy room used by the royal gamblers.
The northern part of the palace, beyond the gateway (inhabited in the reign of Victoria by the Duchess of Cambridge), was built for the marriage of Frederick Prince of Wales.
The State Apartments (which those who frequent levees and drawing-rooms have abundant opportunities of surveying) are handsome, and contain a number of good royal portraits.
The Chapel Royal, on the right on entering the “Color Court,” has a carved and painted ceiling of 1540. Madame d’Arblay describes the pertinacity of George III. in attending service here in bitter November weather, when the queen and court at length left the king, his chaplain, and equerry “to freeze it out together.”
When Queen Caroline (wife of George II.) asked Mr. Whiston what fault people had to find with her conduct, he replied that the fault they most complained of was her habit of talking in chapel. She promised amendment, but proceeding to ask what other faults were objected to her, he replied, “When your Majesty has amended this I’ll tell you of the next.”
It was in this chapel that the colors taken from James II. at the Battle of the Boyne were hung up by his daughter Mary, an unnatural exhibition of triumph which shocked the Londoners. Besides that of Queen Anne, a number of royal marriages have been solemnized here; those of the daughters of George II., of Frederick Prince of Wales to Augusta of Saxe Cobourg, of George IV. to Caroline of Brunswick, and of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert.
The Garden at the back of St. James’s Palace has a private entrance to the Park. It was as he was alighting from his carriage here, August 2, 1786, that George III. was attacked with a knife by the insane Margaret Nicholson. “The bystanders were proceeding to wreak summary vengeance on the (would-be) assassin, when the Bing generously interfered in her behalf. `The poor creature,’ he exclaimed, `is mad: do not hurt her; she has not hurt me. He then stept forward and showed himself to the populace, assuring them that he was safe and uninjured.”