‘Once we are at St James’s Square, Mama shall send Jones for the doctor at once. Try not to worry, darling Amelia.’
When writing this book I thought that it would be important to use places that had some historical significance during the time, and that included all the roads. Today let’s talk about the origins of St James’s Square.
St James’s Square may now be filled with embassies, company head offices and office blocks, but during Amelia’s time, the Square was the home to some of the most exclusive houses that money could buy. This was the intention from the beginning.
Building work began in 1662 after King Charles II extended a lease to Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans, who had already developed the nearby St James Street. When the lease extension was granted, he believed that it was important that the area should be “built for the conveniency of the Nobility and Gentry who were to attend upon his Majestie's Person, and in Parliament; and for the better Ornament of the Place, Directed by his Officers, not only the said Buildings, but the form and Manner also”*. What this meant that St James’s Square was only meant to be built for the people who absolutely had to be in the area for business purposes. Therefore the only people who could live there would be from the highest classes.
He added: “ye beauty of this great Towne and ye convenience of your Court are defective in point of houses fitt for ye dwellings of Noble men and other Persons of quality, and that your Majesty hath thought fitt for some Remedy hereof to appoint [that the] Place in St. James Field should be built in great and good houses”*. In short, the richest folk would be and should be the only people that live in this exclusive part of London. By the 1720s seven earls and seven dukes lived in St James’s Square.
This is a rather interesting request from someone who had a gambling problem and was rumoured to marry the widow of King Charles I, Henrietta Maria, not long after the death of the King.
*From: 'St. James's Square: General', Survey of London: volumes 29 and 30: St James Westminster, Part 1 (1960), pp. 56-76. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=40545 Date accessed: 15 March 2010.