Buckingham Palace is by far the most iconic royal sight in Britain. Think of The British Monarchy and most people will say their strongest image is of Buckingham Palace, it is The Queen’s London residence but it is not her official residence.
St James’s Palace – the true official residence of the Monarch.
Her Majesty’s official residence is, in fact, a few hundred yards down the road from Buckingham Palace at St James’s Palace, where the Royal Court is officially based, foreign diplomats are accredited to, and new King and Queens proclaimed officially. Prior to the transformation of the former Buckingham House into Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace formed the official residence of the Monarch. Queen Victoria was the first Monarch to actually take up residence at Buckingham Palace in 1837 – the court, however, remained at St James’s as it does to this day.
As well as that interesting fact attached to it, St James’s Palace does have other rather strange properties to it. It also happens to be physically attached to Clarence House, a newer building that nowadays is the official residence of Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and formerly Princes William and Harry. The two residences share a garden.
The Captain of The Queen’s Guard and the colour of the regiment on duty are also lodged at St James’s Palace during the guard company’s 24/48 hour duty, not at Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace remains only the London home of The Queen.
Perhaps even more strangely is that St James’s Palace, despite its multiple claims to fame, is often forgotten both by the public and also in fact by the Monarchy itself. The residence only has apartments for a few members of the Royal Family, none of which occupy them full time.
The Royal Collection do occupy St James’s Palace but as a royal home, St James’s Palace appears to be no longer in ‘royal favour’ as it were, with the last person to use it as an official residence being the Prince of Wales.
There is talk in the future that Prince Charles could make Windsor Castle the base for his royal court when he accedes to the throne, though because of the convenience of Buckingham Palace being in central London and its iconicity, this has been discounted by many.
Whether there are changes made in the future to make Buckingham Palace the home of the Monarchy as well as the home of the Sovereign remains to be seen, St James’s could well go the way of Hampton Court and other such palaces in becoming a historic palace, not an occupied/active one, though for now St James’s Palace remains another rather quaint curiosity of the British Monarchy.