Whitehall is the given name for the street which runs between Trafalgar Square and the palace of Westminster and the site of the Whitehall palace. The palace was once known as York Place (the London seat of the Archbishop of York) before it was seized by Henry VIII from Wolsey in 1529. Henry VIII extended the palace and was married to Anne Boleyn here in 1533. Good ol’ Henry also died here 14 years later.
When the palace was burned down in 1698 due to a maid leaving drying linen somewhat too close to the fire, it came to the end of its days as a royal residence. Indeed, the only area worthy of mention which did survive was the first Renaissance building, the Palladian Banqueting House built by Inigo Jones for occasions of state, and drama. It is also the historic site which saw the execution of Charles I. Although there is only one room open to the public it’s worth visiting despite the fact that none of the original furnishings have survived the onslaught of time. Take a look at the ceiling which depicts the Stuart dynasty in all their finery. These fantastic ceiling paintings are the work of Rubens at the request of Charles I who was last given the opportunity to admire Rubens art and his ancestry before his exection in January 30, 1649.
At the turn of the 18th century the function of the buildings changed and began their lives as offices for departments of state a movement which began with Thomas Ripley (1722) and Robert Adam’s Admiralty building (1759). The largest buildings are the Treasury and Gilbert Scott’s Foreign Office. Just off Whitehall, lies the address most likely to find its way into the news in Britain. No 10, Downing Street has been the official residence of the prime minister ever since it was presented by George II (1732), to the first prime minister of the country, Sir Robert Walpole.
Whitehall is also used to describe the ceremonial route taken by the Horse Guards Parade to the Mall with Edwin Lutyen’s Cenotaph in memorial to “The Glorious Dead” in the center of the street. The Horse Guards Building is now a defunct memorial to the time when it was used as the old palace guard house. The noble structures are the design of William Kent who had the buildings completed in 1755 on the site of Henry VIII’s former tournament ground. Two mounted guards of the Queen’s Household Cavalry are changed every hour while the 2 standing sentries are changed every couple of hours.