Victorian London - Buildings, Monuments and Museums - St. James's Palace

We go down St. James' Street, and reach the point where it joins Pall Mall; there we stand, in front of St. James' Palace, an old black and rambling building, with no interest, except what it derives from the past; and even in the past, it was considered as a mere appendage to Whitehall; and only after Whitehall was burned down, did St. James' Palace become the real seat of royalty; and it continued to be so until George IV. took up his residence at Buckingham Palace. At the present day, the old palace is used for court ceremonies only; the Queen holds her levees and drawing- rooms in  it. In the three large saloons there are, on such - occasions, crowds of people who have the entree, in full dress, and great splendour, thronging round the throne, which is ornamented with a canopy of red velvet, and a gold star and crown. The walls are decorated with pictures of the battles of Waterloo and Vittoria; in the back-ground are the Queen's apartments, where she receives her ministers. The anti-chambers are filled with yeomen of the guard, and court officials of every description. In the court-yard are the state-carriages of -- the nobility; and the streets around the park are thronged with crowds of anxious spectators.
    These are the moments when that gloomy building is lighted up with the splendour of modern royalty; at all other times, night and day, red grenadiers pace to and fro in front of the dark walls. The court-yards are given up to the gambols of birds, cats, and children; but every morning, a military band of music plays in the colour court.

source: Max Schlesinger, Saunterings in and about London, 1853

St. James's Palace is the oldest of the royal establishments in London, but has long since ceased to be used by royalty for any but ceremonial purposes. Of late years its cramped and inconvenient rooms have been found highly impracticable for the more important of those functions, and Her Majesty's drawing-rooms have been removed to Buckingham Palace, where the fight for priority of admission to the royal presence is not embittered by quite such close packing, and Her Majesty's lieges are enabled to preserve their toilettes in comparatively sound condition even to the exit. Levees, however, still continue to be held at St. James's, and this is the only use to which the palace as such is now put, though custom still recognises it as the head-quarters of English royalty, and the English court is always diplomatically referred to as the court of St. James's. A considerable portion of the palace is now appropriated to the use of various persons to whom Her Majesty has been pleased to assign accommodation. NEAREST Railway Station, St. James's-park; Omnibus Routes, Piccadilly, Regent-street, and Strand; Cab Rank, St. James's-street.

source: Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

ST. JAMES'S PALACE, PALL MALL ... Originally an hospital, which was purchased by Henry VIII, who altered and rebuilt it. Here are held the State Levees. In the Colour Court of the Palace the band of the Guards plays every morning at eleven. Admission to the Palace by the Lord Chamberlain's order.

source: Reynolds' Shilling Coloured Map of London, 1895

see also George Sala in London Up to Date - click here

source: George Birch, The Descriptive Album of London, c.1896


In May, 1894, the Prince of Wales opened in state the new building of the Royal College of Music. It is situated in Prince Consort Road, to the south of the Royal Albert Hall. Red in colour, Elizabethan in style, the College which was built out of funds provided by Mr. Samson Fox, has accommodation for four hundred pupils, Dr. Hubert Parry being the Director.


Of Henry VIII.'s Palace the red-brick gateway, probably the work of Holbein, is almost all that remains. It faces St. James's Street, and through the archway access is gained to "Colour Court." The clock dates from the time of George II. As shown in our picture, sentries guard this entrance to "the court of St. James's."

source: The Queen's London, 1896