The light brown building to the east of St. James’s Palace is Marlborough House. It was commissioned by the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, a.k.a. John and Sarah Churchill – one of the 18th-century’s most powerful couples.
The Duke of Marlborough was one of Europe’s most gifted generals – arguably the finest that England has ever produced – and had recently beat back the French at the Battle of Blenheim. And with Sarah being a close personal friend of Queen Anne, they managed to obtain a lease for the land next to the Royal residence.
In 1709 they hired Christopher Wren to work on the exterior, but lived in it for only a few short years until the Duke’s death a decade later. Sarah went on until 1744 and it remained in family hands until 1817 – when it finally reverted back to the Crown.
It was then used as place for lesser royals to live, until it was turned over once again – to the government this time, for use as a Commonwealth of Nations Conference Centre. The last royal to actually live there was Queen Mary in 1953.