St. James's Park
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
St. James's Park is a 23 hectare (58 acre) park in Westminster, central London, the oldest of the Royal Parks of London. The park lies at the southernmost tip of the St. James's area, which was named after a leper hospital dedicated to St. James the Less.
St. James's Park is bounded by Buckingham Palace to the west, The Mall and St. James's Palace to the North, Horse Guards to the east, and Birdcage Walk to the south. The park has a small lake, St. James's Park Lake, with two islands, Duck Island (named for the lake's collection of waterfowl), and West Island. A bridge across the lake affords a view of Buckingham Palace framed by trees and fountains, and a view of the main building of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, similarly framed, to the east.
During Charles II's exile in France under the Commonwealth of England, the young king was impressed by the elaborate gardens at French royal palaces, and on his ascension had the park redesigned in a more formal style, probably by the French landscaper André Mollet. This included the creation of the 775 by 38 metre (850 by 42 yard) canal visible in the old plan. Charles II opened the park to the public, as well as using the area to entertain guests and mistresses, such as Nell Gwyn. The park was notorious at the time as a meeting place for acts of degeneracy, of which John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester wrote in his poem A Ramble in St. James's Park.