Where Did The British Royal Family Live Before Buckingham Palace?

Though most closely associated with Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II actually has six official residences, and the royal family owns numerous other properties (via Town and Country). They purchased what is now Buckingham Palace in 1761. It was a gift from King George III to his wife, Queen Charlotte, and was specifically chosen because of its proximity to the family's chief residence at the time, according to the Royal Family. So what was their chief residence?

It was the Tudor-era St. James's Palace, located on the Pall Mall between St. James's Park and Green Park. It became the family's chief residence after the Palace of Whitehall burned in 1697 until the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837 (via The Vintage News and British History Online). Though the current queen doesn't live there, St. James's does contain the London residences of Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; and Princess Alexandra, the queen's cousin (via The Royal Family). It also still serves certain ceremonial functions.

The building of St. James's Palace

St. James's Palace was constructed on the order of King Henry VIII, who wanted a manor house slightly removed from the heart of London, and from the Palace of Whitehall, where state business was conducted (via The Vintage News). The new palace was surrounded by fields and wooded areas stocked with game, according to British History Online. It was built on the site of a hospital for women with leprosy, which Henry had closed and demolished. Construction began in 1531 and ended in 1536. He had intended to share the palace with Anne Boleyn, but she was executed around the time of its completion. However, her initials are still visible in the state apartments of the palace, where "HA" (for Henry and Anne) is carved on some of the fireplaces, according to The Vintage News.

In addition to the house, Henry had the gatehouse and chapel built. The interior of the chapel was decorated by Hans Holbein for Henry's wedding to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. The chapel is still in use by the Royal Family, according to their website.

Historical happenings at St. James's Palace

When Henry VIII constructed St. James's, little did he suspect that two of his children would die there. The first was his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, in 1536, then his daughter, Queen Mary I, in 1558 (via The Vintage News). Earlier that year, also in the palace, she had signed the treaty giving Calais back to the French. Her sister, Queen Elizabeth I, was living at St. James's when the Spanish Armada threatened to attack England, and she rode out from the palace to rally her troops at Tilbury before the battle.

Later on, many royal children were born in the palace, including future kings Charles II and James II, future queens Mary II and Anne, and the "Old Pretender" Prince James Francis Edward Stuart (via The Royal Family).

According to the Royal Family, the chapel was the site of Queen Victoria's wedding to Prince Albert, as well as many other royal weddings, and the christening of Prince George in 2013. A bombing damaged the chapel during World War II, but it has since been restored. Today, the palace is still sometimes used for royal events, and it is the meeting place for the Accession Council, which officially names a new monarch after the previous one dies. Though no longer a residence, it remains "a busy working palace," according to the Royal Family.