St James’s Park is the oldest Royal Park in London and is at the centre of three royal palaces. Buckingham Palace, home and administrative headquarters of the Monarch; St James's Palace, the official 'Court of St James', originally built by Henry VIII as a hunting lodge and; Westminster Palace, built in 1050 and home to the Monarch for nearly 500 years, it is now known as the Houses of Parliament and at the centre of Political Government.
Named after James the Less, one of Christ’s Twelve Apostles, the Park has been in the Crown Estate since 1532. Initially a marshy water meadow it was used by Henry VIII as a deer park then by Elizabeth I for entertaining her guests with fates full of pageantry and pomp.
In 1602 the park was drained and landscaped by James I where he kept exotic animals, including camels, crocodiles, an elephant and birds.
After his return from excite in France in 1660, Charles II made further improvements including landscaping the park in a more formal style with avenues of trees, lawns and a canal. The King opened the park to the public and continued to use it to entertain his guests, mingle with his subjects and do what todays visitors like to do, feed the ducks.
In 1826, Prince Regent (George IV) changed the Park into what we see today by commissioning the architect and landscaper John Nash to convert the canal into a naturally-shaped lake with two islands and the formal avenues into the winding footpaths.
On the larger island, Duck Island, which is at the Horse Guards end of the lake, is the birdkeeps cottage. Built by the Ornithological Society of London in 1837 it was presented to the Park with some birds and is still used today. Duck Island is home too many wild breeds of beautiful ducks, gulls, swans, geese and pelicans.
The pelicans are said to be descendants from the original pair given to Charles II by the Russian Ambassador in 1664.