The Grammarphobia Blog

A royal redundancy?

Q: Whence “the Court of Saint James’s”? Aren’t both “of” and an apostrophe plus “s” redundant?

A: The British royal court is known as the Court of St. James’s because its fuller name is the Court of St. James’s Palace.

St. James’s Palace and its adjacent park, St. James’s Park, are both named for Saint James the Younger. The palace is the monarchy’s administrative headquarters, which is why foreign ambassadors are accredited to the Court of St. James’s.

And lest this answer sound too bureaucratic, here are a few lines from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe:

I heard the minx remark,
She’d meet him after dark,
Inside St James’s Park …

Many people are startled by the use of what’s sometimes called the “double possessive” – that is, using “of” along with an apostrophe and “s.” But there’s nothing grammatically wrong with it. I talked about this once on the blog, and you might want to take a look at the entry.

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