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Wednesday, 8 November 2017

A Regency History guide to the Monument, London

The Monument, London
The Monument, London
What is The Monument?

The Monument is … well … a monument. Specifically, it is a monument to the Great Fire of London of 1666 and the rebuilding of the city. It is a Doric-style stone pillar, 202 feet tall, situated 202 feet away from Pudding Lane where the Great Fire started.
 
The Monument, London
The Great Fire of London

The Great Fire of London raged from 2-5 September 1666. The fire started at the house of the king’s baker in Pudding Lane and the wind caused it to spread rapidly. While it raged, the fire destroyed thousands of houses and more than 80 churches, including St Paul’s Cathedral. Very few lives were lost, but a large area of the city was burnt down.

The Monument c1800 from Old and New London byW Thornbury (1873)
The Monument c1800 from
Old and New London by W Thornbury (1873)
A monument to the Great Fire

An Act of Parliament was passed for rebuilding the City of London and it decreed:
That a Columne or Pillar of Brase or Stone be erected on or as neere unto the place where the said Fire soe unhappily began as conveniently may be, in perpetuall Remembrance thereof.1
Sir Christopher Wren, Surveyor General to Charles II, designed the obligatory commemorative pillar in conjunction with his colleague, Dr Robert Hooke. Wren also designed many churches that were rebuilt after the fire, including, most famously, St Paul’s Cathedral. The existing design was agreed upon after plans for a pillar surmounted with a phoenix or a statue of the king were dismissed as too costly and unsuitable.

One of Wren's rejected designs for the top of the Monument from Old and New London byW Thornbury (1873)
One of Wren's rejected designs for the top
of the Monument from
Old and New London by W Thornbury (1873)
The resulting memorial was a Doric column made of Portland stone supporting a drum and a copper urn containing flames representing the Great Fire. It was built in 1671-7 on the site of St Margaret’s Church, off Fish Street Hill, the first church to be destroyed by the fire. Inside the Monument is a cantilevered stone staircase which leads to a viewing platform, 160 feet above street level.

The inscription on the north side of the pedestal states that the total height of the Monument of 202 feet is equal to the distance eastward to the house in Pudding Lane where the fire broke out.

In his history, Welch described the Monument as the ‘finest isolated stone column in the world.’2

The Monument, London
The Monument, London
A Georgian tourist attraction

Graffiti at the Monument, London
Graffiti at the Monument, London
Feltham’s Picture of London for 1810 described the Monument:
THE MONUMENT
About 20 yards north of London-bridge is situated the finest pillar in the world, erected by Sir Christopher Wren, in memory of the great fire, which, in 1666, broke out at a house on this spot, and destroyed the metropolis, from the Tower to Temple Bar.
It is a fluted column, of the Doric order: the total height of it is 202 feet; the diameter at the base 15 feet, and the height of the column 120 feet. The height of the massy pedestal is 40 feet, and the cone at the top, with its urn, is 42 feet. Within the column is a flight of 345 steps, and from the iron balcony at top is a most fascinating prospect of the metropolis, and the adjacent country. The admittance to the top is sixpence. It is impossible not to lament the obscure situation of this beautiful monument, which in a proper place would form one of the most striking objects of the kind that architecture is capable of producing.3
The Monument 1809 from History of the Monument by C Welch (1893)
The Monument 1809 from History
of the Monument
by C Welch (1893)
The Original Picture of London (1829) went into more detail, adding:
The column occupies the spot where formerly stood the parish church of St Margaret. It was begun in 1671, and completed in 1677. On the north and south sides of the pedestal are inscriptions in English and Latin, descriptive of the conflagration which consumed the city, and of its subsequent restoration. On the west side is an emblematical group of sculpture in alto and basso relievo executed by Caius Gabriel Cibber, representing Time raising London, (which is personified by a female figure, reclining on the ruins of the city,) under the fostering patronage of Charles II and his brother, the Duke of York, who are attended by three females representing Imagination, Ichnographia, and Liberty. Below the king is Envy, blowing flames from her mouth, and behind him, Mars and Fortitude. In the background, on the left, is the city in flames, and on the right, are labourers erecting new buildings. A short inscription in English goes round the pedestal, ascribing the conflagration to the treachery and malice of a popish faction. This immense column, which far exceeds in altitude the celebrated pillars of Trajan and Antoninus at Rome, contains upwards of 28,000 feet of solid Portland stone.4

Detail of Cibber's sculpture on the Monument from History of the Monument by C Welch (1893)
Detail of Cibber's sculpture on the Monument
from History of the Monument by C Welch (1893)
The Monument, London
The anti-Catholic inscription

The short inscription blaming the Catholics for starting the Great Fire of London was added in 1681 as a result of the anti-Catholic feeling engendered by Titus Oates and the Popish Plot.

The Picture of London for 1810 dismissed this as ridiculous:
No rational being can entertain the notion, that the catholics, or any religious sect, could wilfully have perpetrated so horrible a deed as this pillar was intended to impute to them, nor can so much credit be given to human foresight, as for it to be concluded that a fire, which broke out in a single house, could upon this, rather than upon other occasions, have extended its ravages in so extraordinary a manner.5
Crosby’s guide agreed:
The inscription on the pedestal, imputing the calamity to the Papists, is now universally considered as unjust.6
The objectional lines were removed by order of the Court of Common Council dated 6 December 1830.

How many steps?

The Monument staircase from above from History of the Monument by C Welch (1893)
The Monument staircase from above
from History of the Monument by C Welch (1893)
The staircase from above at the Monument, London
The Monument staircase from above
When I visited the Monument in August 2017, the certificate I was given for completing the ascent stated that I had climbed the 311 steps up to the platform. However, in Old and New London, Wren’s son is quoted as reporting 345 steps:
Within is a large staircase of black marble, containing 345 steps 10½ inches broad and 6 inches risers.7
The Georgian guidebooks and Welch’s History of the Monument concur that there were 345 steps. I am perplexed as to what has happened to the other 34 steps. Has the staircase been rebuilt at some stage? Is the viewing platform lower now than it once was? I have been unable to find anything that explains why the number varies so greatly. Can anyone solve the mystery for me?

The Monument staircase from below from History of the Monument by C Welch (1893)
The Monument staircase from below
from History of the Monument by C Welch (1893)
The staircase from below at the Monument, London
The Monument staircase from below
A scientific laboratory

Old and New London wrote that the Monument
… was at first used by the members of the Royal Society for astronomical purposes, but was abandoned on account of its vibration being too great for the nicety required in their observations.8
A daring descent

The Original Picture of London (1829) wrote:
In September 1732, a sailor slid down a rope stretched from the gallery of the Monument to the Three Tuns Tavern in Gracechurch Street; and on the following day, a waterman's boy descended by the same rope into the street.9
The Monument c1720 from History of the Monument by C Welch (1893)
The Monument c1720 from
History of the Monument by C Welch (1893)
Lighting up the Monument

Old and New London wrote:
On June 15, 1825, the Monument was illuminated with portable gas, in commemoration of laying the first stone of New London Bridge. A lamp was placed at each of the loop-holes of the column, to give the idea of its being wreathed with flame; whilst two other series were placed on the edges of the gallery, to which the public were admitted during the evening.10
Fish Street Hill from the Monument from History of the Monument by C Welch (1893)
Fish Street Hill from the Monument from
History of the Monument by C Welch (1893)
Signal tower

On 18 November 1852, four artillery men of the Royal Artillery were stationed on the Monument in order to pass signals from St Paul’s Cathedral to the Tower on the occasion of the funeral of the Duke of Wellington.

The introduction of the cage

In 1750, a dreadful accident occurred. A weaver named William Green leaned too far over the railings of the balcony to look at an eagle which was kept in a cage there and fell over the edge to his death.

During the years 1788 to 1842, six people committed suicide from the Monument, including Lyon Levi, a Jewish diamond merchant, on 18 January 1810. To prevent further tragedy, the building was temporarily closed in August 1842, and before it reopened, the gallery was enclosed with an iron cage.

The balcony or cage from History of the Monument by C Welch (1893)
The balcony or cage from
History of the Monument by C Welch (1893)
Renovations and restorations

The Monument has been renovated approximately every 100 years with the latest comprehensive restoration programme taking place in 2007-9. The stonework was cleaned and repaired, the urn re-gilded and a new gallery cage installed.

The Monument, London
The Monument today

The Monument is open to visitors all year round except 24-26 December. You may have to wait for entry at busy times as a maximum of 33 people are allowed inside at one time. It is also highly unlikely that you will beat the time of a lad who ran up the Monument and down again in 2 minutes 32 seconds in 1732, for a wager. The stairs can get quite busy with people going up and down and you need to be prepared to stop regularly to allow people to pass. However, this does give you a chance for a breather as you make the long climb. If you succeed in climbing the 311 steps, you will be rewarded with fine views of London from the balcony.

View from the Monument, London (2017)
View from the Monument, London (2017)
View from the Monument, London (2017)
View from the Monument, London (2017)
Visited August 2017.

Notes
(1) From Welch, Charles, History of The Monument with some account of the great fire of London, which it commemorates (1893).
(2) From Welch, Charles, History of The Monument with some account of the great fire of London, which it commemorates (1893).
(3) From Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).
(4) From Feltham, John, The Original Picture of London 26th edition (1829).
(5) From Feltham, John, The Original Picture of London 26th edition (1829).
(6) From Crosby, B, A View of London; or the Stranger's Guide through the British Metropolis (Printed for B Crosby, London, 1803-4).
(7) From Thornbury, Walter, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873, London) Vol 1.
(8) From Thornbury, Walter, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873, London) Vol 1.
(9) From Feltham, John, The Original Picture of London 26th edition (1829).
(10) From Thornbury, Walter, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873, London) Vol 1.

Sources used include:
Crosby, B, A View of London; or the Stranger's Guide through the British Metropolis (Printed for B Crosby, London, 1803-4)
Feltham, John, The Original Picture of London 26th edition (1829)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810)
Thornbury, Walter, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873, London) Vol 1
Welch, Charles, History of The Monument with some account of the great fire of London, which it commemorates (1893)


All photographs © RegencyHistory.net

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The notorious Lady Craven, Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Bayreuth

Lady Craven by Romney from Romney by R Davies (1914)
Lady Craven by Romney
from Romney by R Davies (1914)
Profile

Elizabeth, Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Bayreuth, previous married name Lady Craven (17 December 1750 – buried 13 January 1828), was a playwright and author, notorious for her scandalous affairs during her first marriage to Lord Craven.

Early years

Elizabeth Berkeley was born on 17 December 1750, the youngest daughter of Augustus Berkeley, 4th Earl of Berkeley, and his wife, Elizabeth Drax of Charlborough in Dorset.

The infamous Lady Craven

William Craven, 6th Baron Craven, from   The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's   memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
William Craven, 6th Baron Craven, from 
The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's
memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
On 10 May 1767, at the age of 16, Elizabeth married William Craven (1738-91), a man some twelve years her senior. Two years later he became the 6th Baron Craven on the death of his uncle. They had seven children: Elizabeth (1768); Maria (1769) who married William, 2nd Earl of Sefton; William, 1st Earl of Craven (1770); Georgiana; Arabella; Henry Augustus Berkeley (1776); and Keppel Richard (1779).

The marriage, however, was not a success. Both Elizabeth and her husband indulged in affairs, notably Elizabeth’s scandalous liaison with the French ambassador, the Count of Guines, in 1773, which even made it into the pages of the Morning Chronicle.

The Count, afterwards the Duke, of Guines, from   The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's   memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
The Count, afterwards the Duke, of Guines, from 
The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's
memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
Elizabeth became friends with Horace Walpole, corresponding with him and visiting his home at Strawberry Hill. Some of her early work was published on the Strawberry Hill Press. During this period, she wrote a satire on German snobbery and several plays, including The Miniature Picture, which was put on at Drury Lane in 1780/1.

Horace Walpole  from The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's   memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
Horace Walpole
from The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's
memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
Whilst Lord Craven tolerated Elizabeth’s behaviour, she was still received in society, but in 1783, Lord Craven had had enough. He arranged a separation, giving Elizabeth a settlement of £1,500 a year.

Travel and intrigues

Lady Craven, from   The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's   memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
Lady Craven and her son,
from The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's
memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
Taking her youngest son Keppel with her, Elizabeth went to live near Versailles in France where she wrote plays for the court theatre. She became romantically involved with Henry Vernon, the great nephew of Admiral Edward Vernon, and over the next few years, she travelled extensively in Europe, in France, Italy, Austria, Poland, Bulgaria, Russia, Greece and Turkey. Whilst on her travels, she wrote to Christian Frederick Charles Alexander, the Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Bayreuth, whom she had met in France. The Margrave was part of the Prussian royal family with a sickly wife back at home.

At the suggestion of Horace Walpole, Elizabeth published the story of her travels, A Journey through the Crimea to Constantinople (1789), her most popular work.

Lady Craven and the Margrave of Anspach  from The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's   memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
Lady Craven and the Margrave of Anspach
from The Beautiful Lady Craven, Lady Craven's
memoirs edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
 The Margrave of Ansbach

In 1787, Elizabeth visited her long-time correspondent, the Margrave of Ansbach, and successfully displaced his mistress in his affections. Together they travelled to Berlin to arrange the sale of the Margrave’s principality to the King of Prussia for a very handsome sum. The Margrave’s ailing wife died in early 1791, and Lord Craven followed suit in September. Less than a month later, on 13 October 1791, Elizabeth married the Margrave in Lisbon with great style.

The Margrave of Anspach from The Beautiful   Lady Craven, Lady Craven's memoirs   edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
The Margrave of Anspach from The Beautiful
 Lady Craven, Lady Craven's memoirs
 edited by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
Brandenburg House

Elizabeth and the Margrave travelled to England and bought a house in Fulham overlooking the Thames which they called Brandenburg House. If Elizabeth had hoped that her wealth and position would see her past indiscretions forgotten, she was to be disappointed.

The Bon Ton in March 1792 said:
The Margravine of Anspach is not visited by any of the leading Ladies of Fashion, although she had not been wanting in sending round her cards of invitation, and calling at their houses. At a ball given at her house a few nights since, to which there was a general invitation, only thirty people of both sexes were present.1
It must have been an even greater blow to Elizabeth that she was not received at court. George III disapproved of her marriage, thinking it unequal – the Margrave was a member of the Prussian royal family and Elizabeth was only the daughter of an earl. The King refused to recognise the title of Princess Berkeley that the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II had bestowed on her.

Despite these setbacks, Elizabeth entertained lavishly at Brandenburg House and frequently put on plays in the little theatre near the house.

Brandenburg House from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Brandenburg House from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Benham Park

Around 1799, the Margrave bought Benham Park, near Newbury in Berkshire, the country seat of the Cravens. The Margrave took a keen interest in horseracing and bred horses at Benham.

The Margrave died quite suddenly on 5 January 1806 leaving his wife a fortune of around £150,000. Elizabeth erected a huge memorial to him near Benham, on the Bath Road.

The widowed Margravine continued to divide her time between Benham Park and Brandenburg House with occasional trips to Europe.

The Persian ambassador

Mirza Abul Hassan Khan by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1810)  in Fogg Art Museum  Photo by Daderot CCO via Wikimedia Commons
Mirza Abul Hassan Khan by Sir Thomas
Lawrence (1810) in Fogg Art Museum
Photo by Daderot CCO via Wikimedia Commons
Elizabeth entertained the Persian ambassador, Mirza Abul Hassan, several times during his diplomatic visit to England in 1809-10. He first visited Brandenburg House in March 1810. In his journal, he described it as ‘a heavenly house overlooking the Thames’, and wrote of a room full of Chinese porcelain and another full of musical instruments, all of which, he was told, Elizabeth could play. He wrote of Elizabeth that: ‘In her youth she was incomparable in beauty, grace and charm; even now, in old age, her face bears the traces of youthful beauty.’2

The ambassador was back at Brandenburg House on 6 April 1810, during the London riots over Sir Francis Burdett’s arrest. He noted that two of the Margravine’s guests, Lord Keith and his daughter Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, arrived covered with mud, because the rioters had pelted them with stones for refusing to remove their hats.

On 16 May, he was invited to experience the Brandenburg House Theatricals:
Brandenburgh House Theatre was opened yesterday for the first time since the death of the Margrave. Miss Jane Cramer’s performance was much admired. The Persian Ambassador was in the fashionable circle, and the Duke of Kent’s Band attended.3
Queen Caroline and the end of Brandenburg House

In June 1820, Caroline, Princess of Wales, the estranged wife of George IV, returned to England to claim her position as Queen Consort of England. Elizabeth lent Brandenburg House to Queen Caroline, and it was here that Caroline died on 7 August 1821, having failed in her attempt to be crowned Queen. The following February, Elizabeth commissioned the sale of furniture, china and books at Brandenburg House, and in May, the fabric of the building was sold off, including staircases, chimney pieces, doors, windows, and the scenery and machinery of the theatre.

Villa Craven

Elizabeth was living in Villa Craven, her house in Naples, when she wrote her colourful memoirs which were published in 1826. She died two years later and was buried in the British cemetery at Naples on 13 January 1828.

The tomb of the Margravine of Anspach, Naples,   from The Beautiful  Lady Craven, Lady Craven's   memoirs ed by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)
The tomb of the Margravine of Anspach, Naples,
from The Beautiful  Lady Craven, Lady Craven's
 memoirs ed by AM Broadley and L Melville (1914)

Notes
(1) From Craven, Elizabeth Craven, Baroness, The beautiful Lady Craven edited by AM Broadley and Lewis Melville (1914). Ansbach was sometimes spelt Anspach as in this article.
(2) From Hassan Khan, Mirza Abul, A Persian at the Court of King George 1809-10, edited by Margaret Morris Cloake (1988).
(3) From Craven, Elizabeth Craven, Baroness, The beautiful Lady Craven edited by AM Broadley and Lewis Melville (1914). Brandenburg was sometimes spelt Brandenburgh as in this book.

Sources used include:
Davies, Randall, Romney (1914)
Courthope, William, editor, Debrett's Complete Peerage of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1838)
Craven, Elizabeth Craven, Baroness, later Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Bayreuth, The Beautiful Lady Craven edited by AM Broadley and Lewis Melville (1914)
Hassan Khan, Mirza Abul, A Persian at the Court of King George 1809-10, edited by Margaret Morris Cloake (1988)
Turner, Katherine, Elizabeth, Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Byreuth (other married name Elizabeth Craven, Lady Craven) (1750-1828) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edition May 2010; accessed 9 June 2017)
Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878, London) Vol 6

LBHF Libraries blog: The end of Brandenburg House

Friday, 6 October 2017

St James's Palace in Regency London

St James's Palace, London (2012)
St James's Palace, London, today
St James’s Palace is a royal palace in London with its main entrance opening onto Pall Mall. 

History of St James’s Palace

St James’s Palace is built on the site of a lepers’ hospital. Henry VIII acquired the land in 1531 and built the palace in the years that followed, naming it St James after the saint to whom the hospital was dedicated. He pulled down the hospital, with the exception of the chapel, and erected a red-brick Tudor palace, and enclosed the nearby meadow to form St James’s Park. 

Charles I stayed at St James’s Palace on the night before his execution and was led through St James’s Park to the scaffold outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall.

After most of the Palace of Whitehall was burnt down in 1698, St James’s Palace became the principal London residence of the monarchy and the setting for state occasions.

View of St James's Palace during the time of Queen Anne from Old and New London (1878)
View of St James's Palace during the time of Queen Anne
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
The Court of St James’s

In The history of the Royal Residences, Pyne wrote that after George III’s accession to the throne:
The court was immediately removed to St James’s Palace, the king having issued an order for holding a drawing-room there every Thursday and Sunday.1
The Picture of London for 1813 wrote:
Well-dressed persons who wish to see the nobility and other persons of distinction go to court, on drawing-room days, may easily obtain admission to the ante-room, by permission of the officer of the guard, the yeomen, or other persons in waiting, provided application be made before the court begins. On birth-days, admission may be obtained to the gallery of the ball-room, either by the ticket of a peer, or the introduction of a page, or any person in the royal household. Admission may also be obtained to the Lord Chamberlain's box, but it is necessary to be full dressed. In this, as in most other cases, a small fee, properly applied, is the readiest and most independent passport.2
St James's Palace  from The History of he Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
St James's Palace
from The History of he Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
Royal marriages and births

George III and Queen Charlotte were married at St James’s Palace on 8 September 1761. George III bought Buckingham House, what is now Buckingham Palace, for his wife, and this became the main London residence for the royal family. However, it was at St James’s Palace, not Buckingham House, that George III’s first child, the future George IV, was born on 12 August 1762.

Pyne recorded that:
For the gratification of the public, it was announced, before the young prince was twelve days old, that his royal highness was to be seen at St. James’s from one until three o’clock on drawing-room days.3
The future George IV and Princess Caroline of Brunswick were married in the Chapel Royal of St James’s Palace on 8 April 1795.

Princess Caroline of Brunswick by Sir Thomas Lawrence (c1804) © National Portrait Gallery, London George IV when Prince of Wales by John Hoppner (1792) © The Wallace Collection
Princess Caroline of Brunswick by Sir Thomas Lawrence (c1804)
© National Portrait Gallery, London
George IV when Prince of Wales by John Hoppner (1792)
© The Wallace Collection
Fire at St James’s Palace

Old and New London stated:
On the 22nd of January, 1809 … about half-past two in the morning, a fire was discovered in St James's Palace, near the King's back stairs. The whole of the private apartments of the Queen, those of the Duke of Cambridge, the King's court, and the apartments of several persons belonging to the royal household, were destroyed; the most valuable part of the property was preserved.4
Feltham wrote in The Picture of London for 1818:
In 1808 the south-eastern wing of the building was destroyed by fire, and it still continues a vast mass of ruins; the state apartments were, however, uninjured, and the court of George the Third and his Queen were held here. It is said this palace will speedily be pulled down, and on the spot facing St James's Street a grand triumphal arch will be erected, to commemorate the victories of the late war, and to form a grand passage into St James's Park.5
Contrary to Feltham’s expectations, two centuries later, St James’s Palace is still standing, but the king’s private apartments were never rebuilt. The Queen’s Chapel stands apart and is now separated from the rest of St James's Palace by Marlborough Road.

The German Chapel or Queen's Chapel, St James's Palace  from The History of he Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The German Chapel or Queen's Chapel, St James's Palace
from The History of he Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
Residents of St James’s Palace

The Picture of London for 1818 wrote:
The other parts of St James's Palace are very irregular in their form, consisting chiefly of several courts. Some of the detached apartments are occupied by the Duke of Cumberland and the Duke of Clarence, others by the king's servants, and others are granted as a benefit to their occupiers.6
On 31 May 1810, the Duke of Cumberland’s valet, Joseph Sellis, was found dead in the Duke’s apartments in St James’s Palace. The event led to scandalous accusations against the Duke that Sellis had been murdered by his master rather than committing suicide. You can read a full account here:

The exterior of St James’s Palace

St James's Palace from The Beauties of England and Wales Vol X   by EW Brayley, J Nightingale and J Brewer (1814)
St James's Palace from The Beauties of England and Wales Vol X
  by EW Brayley, J Nightingale and J Brewer (1814)
The outside of the palace was not universally admired. The Microcosm of London wrote:
This royal residence, it must be acknowledged, does not wear an appearance suited to the character of the sovereign who there holds his court; or to the power, wealth, and extent of that empire which he governs. Foreigners, accustomed to view the magnificence of the continental palaces, never fail to express their astonishment at its unappropriate exterior: and some of their travelling writers have almost doubted the affection of the English people for their kings, by permitting them to inhabit a structure so inferior in its figure to the proud character of the metropolis in which it is situated, and to the high claims of the monarch of the most opulent nation of the world.7
The Picture of London for 1810 was not so harsh:
The external appearance of this palace is inconsiderable, yet certainly not mean. It is a brick building; that part in which the rooms of state are, being only one story, gives it a regular appearance on the outside.8
The Microcosm of London continued:
It is an irregular, heavy, brick building, but of considerable extent, and is not relieved by any ornaments. In the front which presents itself to St James's-street, is a Gothic arched gateway, with embattled towers, which leads into a square court, where the company of guards on duty is daily relieved, and where it parades in form on state days: the colours are fixed in the center of it. On the south and west sides are handsome colonnades, forming a covered passage to the great staircase, which is at the south-west corner of it. There are two other courts beyond it, besides an inhabited open space, called the Stable-yard, but they do not deviate from the ordinary appearance of the rest of the structure; though some of their apartments have an agreeable view over the garden, as well as St James's and the Green parks.9
Courtyard of St James's Palace in 1875  from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
Courtyard of St James's Palace in 1875
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
A tour of St James’s Palace

The writer of The Microcosm of London felt the interior of the palace was much superior to its exterior:
The Palace … has, for many years, been employed merely as the scene of the royal drawing-rooms on court days; but, with all its disadvantages as to exterior appearance, the number, succession, and proportions of its apartments are such, for every display of regal state and ceremonial connected with a court, that it may be said, we believe, to rival the most admired palaces of foreign princes.10
The Chapel Royal

On the west side of the first and principal court is the chapel royal, which is the same as belonged to the ancient hospital; and, ever since the demolition of that building, has been converted to the use of the royal family.
Before the King made Windsor the principal place of his residence, he always went, attended by the royal family, in great state, to the chapel on Sundays, and after divine service there was a regular drawing-room.11
Old and New London described the Chapel Royal:
It is oblong in plan, and plain, and has nothing about it to call for particular mention, excepting, perhaps, the ceiling, which is divided into small painted squares, the design of which was executed by Hans Holbein.12
The Chapel Royal, St James's Palace  from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
The Chapel Royal, St James's Palace
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)
The State apartments

The Microcosm of London wrote:
The state apartments are of handsome proportions, and range in commodious succession; but they do not contain those superb decorations or splendid furniture, which might be expected to adorn the residence of George the Third.13
Old and New London wrote:
The State Apartments, in the south front of the Palace, face the garden and St James's Park. The sovereign enters by the gate on this side; it was here, on the 2nd of August, 1786, that Margaret Nicholson made an attempt to assassinate George III as he was alighting from his carriage.14
The Microcosm of London continued:
The entrance to these rooms is by the staircase that opens into the principal court next Pall-Mall. The guard-rooms are at the top of it: that to the left is called the Queen's, that to the right is the King's, which leads to the apartments, and is occupied by the yeomen of the guard.15
Guard Chamber, St James's Palace  from The History of he Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
Guard Chamber, St James's Palace
from The History of he Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
Immediately beyond the latter is the King's presence-chamber, where the band of pensioners range themselves on court-days.16
King's Presence Chamber, St James's Palace  from The History of he Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
King's Presence Chamber, St James's Palace
from The History of he Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
That is a mere passage-room to the principal apartments, of which there are five, opening into each other, and fronting the park. The center room is called the privy-chamber, with a canopy of state, which is used on one peculiar occasion that very seldom occurs; when his Majesty receives an address from the people called Quakers.
On the right are two drawing-rooms en suite: the first serves as an antichamber to the latter, which is called the grand council-chamber, and where the councils of state were held when this Palace was inhabited by the royal family. At the upper end is a canopy, beneath which the King receives addresses delivered in form to the throne. In the center of the room is suspended a large chandelier of silver gilt. The canopy of the throne was put up on account of the union of the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, and was displayed on the first drawing-room after that event, which happened to be the Queen's birth-day. It is of crimson velvet, bordered with a broad gold lace, and enriched with embroidered crowns, set with fine pearls. The shamrock, the badge of the Irish nation, forms one of the decorations of the crown, and is accurately executed. It is the apartment in which their Majesties hold their drawing-rooms.17
A drawing room at St James's Palace from The Microcosm of London by R Ackermann and W Combe (1808-10)
A drawing room at St James's Palace
from The Microcosm of London by R Ackermann and W Combe (1808-10)
To the left of the center room, are two levee-rooms; the first serving as an antichamber to the other. They retained their old and worn-out furniture, till the marriage of the Prince of Wales, when they were fitted up in their present state. The walls are now covered with very beautiful tapestry, whose colours are quite fresh, though it was fabricated for Charles II. It had never been put up, but had lain forgotten, during the long interval of so many years, among the useless lumber of the Palace, till it was accidentally discovered in an old chest, some time previous to the occasion which suggested the appropriate use that has been made of it. In the grand levee-room a very superb bed was put up at the same time. The furniture is of crimson velvet, manufactured in Spitalfields.18
Old and New London wrote of the old Presence Chamber or Tapestry Chamber:
When a drawing-room is held, a person attends here to receive the cards containing the names of the parties to be presented, a duplicate being handed to the lord in waiting, to prevent the presentation of persons not entitled to that privilege.19
Queen's Levée Room, St James's Palace  from The History of he Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
Queen's Levée Room, St James's Palace
from The History of he Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
Old and New London wrote:
The "Royal Closet" is the name conventionally given to the room in which the Queen gives audiences to ambassadors, and also receives an address annually on her birthday from the clergy of the Established Church.20
The Microcosm of London concluded:
The ball-room is in that part of the Palace which stretches on to the Stable-yard. It is of considerable dimensions, with ranges of seats above each other for the court: there is a gallery at one end for the musicians, and two side galleries for the spectators. The area is for the dancers and the royal circle. It used to be employed for the court balls on birth-nights and other royal festivities, when the assembled company formed a magnificent and splendid spectacle; but it does not in itself possess the least decoration. It is painted of one colour; nor does it appear to have been refreshed by the brush for many a year. But these festal scenes have been omitted for many seasons; and indeed the Palace itself is only used for purposes of state.21
Old bedchamber

Pyne wrote:
The old bedchamber is the last room at the east end of the south front of St James’s Palace, looking into the garden; the apartments east of which were destroyed by the fire that happened there a few years since.22
Old Bedchamber, St James's Palace  from The History of he Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
Old Bedchamber, St James's Palace
from The History of he Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
The kitchens

Kitchen, St James's Palace  from The History of he Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
Kitchen, St James's Palace
from The History of he Royal Residences by WH Pyne (1819)
St James’s Palace today

St James’s Palace is still a working palace today and houses various royal officials and is the London residence of some members of the royal family. The Queen’s Chapel is occasionally open to the public.

St James's Palace today (2012)
St James's Palace today
Notes
(1) Pyne, WH, The History of the Royal Residences of Windsor Castle, St James's Palace, Carlton House, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, Buckingham House and Frogmore (1819).
(2) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1813 (1813).
(3) Pyne op cit.
(4) Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878, London) Vol 4.
(5) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1818 (1818).
(6) Ibid.
(7) Ackermann, Rudolph and Combe, William, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 3 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904).
(8) Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).
(9) Ackermann op cit.
(10) Ackermann op cit.
(11) Ackermann op cit.
(12) Walford op cit.
(13) Ackermann op cit.
(14) Walford op cit.
(15) Ackermann op cit.
(16) Ackermann op cit.
(17) Ackermann op cit.
(18) Ackermann op cit.
(19) Walford op cit.
(20) Walford op cit.
(21) Ackermann op cit.
(22) Pyne op cit.

Sources used include:
Ackermann, Rudolph and Combe, William, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 3 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904)
Brayley, Edward Wedlake, Nightingale, J and Brewer, J, The Beauties of England and Wales Vol X part II (London and Middlesex)(1814)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1813 (1813)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1818 (1818)
Pyne, WH, The History of the Royal Residences of Windsor Castle, St James's Palace, Carlton House, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, Buckingham House and Frogmore (1819)
Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878, London) Vol 4

Royal Residences website
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