The original Somerset House was built for the Lord Protector Somerset in 1547-50. After Somerset’s execution in 1552, it came to owned, occupied and modified in turn by the then-future Queen, Elizabeth I, in 1553; by the then King, James I’s wife, Anne of Denmark, in 1603; by the then-future King, Charles I, in 1619; and by the then King, Charles I’s wife, the French Henrietta Maria, in 1626. It then survived the Civil War and Commonwealth of 1642-60, during which time it was temporarily appropriated by Parliamentarian authorities, as well as the Great Fire of 1666. In 1669, the then King, Charles II’s wife, the Portuguese Catherine of Braganza, acquired it, and in 1692, shortly after Charles II had died and James II, who was a Catholic, had been deposed, she relinquished it, fearing for her safety there in the midst of what by that time had become a fiercely anti-Catholic populace. It was then allowed to fall into disrepair, and substantially demolished to make way for the present building in 1775.
Of the original, only some footings survive, in the “Archaeology Room”, together with some headstones from the former – Catholic – chapel, in the “Dead House”.