The Royal Chapels of St James’s Palace
On Thursday 23 January 2020 we enjoyed an exclusive private tour of the two Royal Chapels at St James, hosted by Serjeant of the Vestry, The Royal Household, Jon Simpson, who gave us a fascinating insight into their history and some snippets on life in this Royal Palace.
The Chapel Royal
The tour started in The Chapel Royal, which forms the larger part of the Tudor Royal Palace built by Henry VIII on the site of the St James’s Hospital. Originally a hunting lodge for King Henry it grew in importance and as well as a Royal Palace it is the home of the diplomatic corps. The Chapel is still used for Royal Services and Queen Victoria, her eldest daughter, Princess Victoria, and her grandson, the future George V, were all married here. At the end of the tour of this Chapel we were entertained by our Clerk, Adrian Mumford, for whom the Master had obtained permission to play a recital on the organ.
The Queen’s Chapel
We then moved to The Queen’s Chapel; built by Inigo Jones it was begun in 1623 and completed in 1626 for Henrietta Maria and refurnished in the 1660s for Charles I’s Catholic wife Catherine of Braganza. It is the first classical church in England. In 1761 George III married Charlotte of Meckleburg-Strelitz here. It has enjoyed a fascinating history and over the centuries has been a Catholic, Lutheran and Protestant place of worship. The Chapel was part of the Palace until it was annexed by the 1809 fire, which destroyed a larger part of the state apartments on the east.
We finished the evening with a 3-course dinner at Davy’s Wine Bar off Pall Mall. Our thanks to the Master for arranging this exclusive visit and to Steward Damon Reynolds for his help in organising it.