Diana, Princess of Wales

Chapel Royal, St James's Palace

Contained within St James's Palace, the Chapel Royal is not an isolated building but can be approached through the State Apartments. The site of the Palace, once occupied by the leper hospital of St James the Less in the fields beyond the village of Charing, was granted by Henry VI to Eton College in 1449. By this time it was being used as a convent and in 1531 Henry VIII acquired it by an exchange of lands with the Provost of Eton. He rebuilt the convent as the Manor of St James, and his illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, died there in 1536. Little of the Tudor building remains. The Chapel ceiling, copied from the ambulatory vault of S. Costanza in Rome (of which the design was published by Serlio in Venice in 1537), with the painting attributed to Holbein, commemorates the short-lived marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves. The carved and decorated coat of arms over the main door belongs to Elizabeth I, who used a lion and dragon as supporters. At the end of the Civil War, Charles I was imprisoned in St James's Palace and on 30 January 1649 he received the sacrament of Holy Communion in the Chapel before crossing the park to his execution in Whitehall.

In 1836 Sir Robert Smirke reduced the royal closet and enlarged the Chapel, installing oak panelling and adding a new ceiling at the south end, decorated with the names and cyphers of William IV and Queen Adelaide to match the earlier Holbein ceiling.

Many Royal weddings have taken place in the Chapel, including that of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg on 10 February 1840. Their eldest daughter, Victoria, Princess Royal, was also married there in 1858 to Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, later the German Emperor Friedrick III. In 1893 the Duke of York and Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (later King George V and Queen Mary) were married in the Chapel.

During the Second World War the Chapel was damaged by bomb blast. It has now been fully restored and continues to be used as a place of worship. On 6 January each year the Epiphany ceremony of the offering of gold, frankincense and myrrh on behalf of The Queen takes place during the Sung Eucharist. Occasional Royal christenings take place in the Chapel and it is also used with The Queen's permission for christenings, weddings and funerals of members of the Royal Household.

The Chapel Royal possesses some magnificent silver-gilt plate, nearly all made at the Restoration and used to adorn the altar on festival days. Among the main pieces are the set of altar candlesticks engraved with the monogram of the Duke of York, later James II (1661); two Charles II almsdishes; and Charles II's great coronation almsdish of 1660 with scenes from the Last Supper in relief and a King Charles spaniel to commemorate the Restoration - the making of which delayed the coronation until 1661. Other pieces of Chapel Royal plate are exhibited with the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London.

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