St. James’s Palace

I have been doing some background reading on St. James’s Palace, partly because I pass it every day and partly because it was where the Royal Academy celebrated its foundation on 10 December 1768.   Vanbrugh drew up grandiose plans for its reconstruction early in George I’s reign, but these were not implemented.   The only alterations were made to accommodate the King’s tailor, his Turkish servants and dwarf and, in the next reign, the creation of a library for Queen Caroline. Meanwhile, there was an endless litany of complaints as to its inadequacy, particularly when compared to the state palaces of Europe.   Defoe described it as ‘really mean, in comparison of the rich furniture within’.  Baron Bielfeld, the Prussian ambassador, described it in 1741 as a ‘lodging-hous;  crazy, smoky and dirty’ and ‘to the last degree spiritless’.   But when his letters were translated in 1768, William Hooper, the translator, provided a footnote in which he described how ‘the glory of a British monarch consists, not in a handful of tinsel courtiers, or in expensive and pompous festivals;  but in…the freedom, the dignity and happiness of its people’.   Today, it’s the same:  modest and old-fashioned outside;  but with rooms for the court indoors.

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