Buckingham, George Villiers, 1st duke of

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Buckingham, George Villiers, 1st duke of (1592–1628). Buckingham attracted James I's attention by his good looks, and by 1616 had replaced Robert Carr as the reigning favourite. Unlike Carr, however, he displayed considerable administrative ability, carrying through a major programme of naval reform after James appointed him lord admiral. The king's repeated affirmations of his dependence upon Buckingham meant that he was blamed for unpopular policies such as the ‘Spanish match’ (for Prince Charles) of which he was merely the executant. Only in 1623, during his enforced stay in Spain, did he emancipate himself from James's tutelage, and not until Charles became king in 1625 did he have a free hand in making policy. He planned to build up an anti-Spanish alliance, of which France was to be the linchpin, but religion, as always, complicated the situation, for the French protestants of La Rochelle were under attack from their own king and appealed to Charles to save them. Military operations would require massive funding from Parliament, but Buckingham's involvement in dubious practices such as the sale of titles and offices had brought him an unsavoury reputation, and his catholic connections—his mother was a catholic convert and his wife had abandoned catholicism only in order to marry him—further undermined parliamentary trust. Despite all obstacles he sent out expeditions against Cadiz in 1625 and in support of La Rochelle in 1627, but both ended in humiliating defeat. The Commons attempted to impeach him in 1626, and two years later denounced him as the cause of all England's evils. This inspired an army officer, John Felton, to assassinate him at Portsmouth in August 1628. Buckingham was in fact a patriot, dedicated to the king's service and his country's safety, and although his death was welcomed as a deliverance, subsequent events were to show that he was a symptom rather than the cause of malfunctioning in the English polity.

Roger Lockyer

Buckingham, George Villiers, 1st Duke of

views updated May 14 2018

Buckingham, George Villiers, 1st Duke of (1592–1628) English statesman and court favourite of James I and Charles I. Buckingham joined the court of James I in 1614, and rapidly acquired a series of titles. In 1623, he was largely responsible for the breakdown in negotiations of marriage between Prince Charles and the Spanish Infanta Maria. In 1624, he arranged Charles' marriage to Henrietta Maria. Buckingham's failure to provide adequate supplies for an English expedition to the Palatinate led to charges of political incompetence. The disastrous expedition to capture Cádiz (1625) led to his impeachment, but Charles dissolved Parliament. In 1627 he led another unsuccessful campaign to relieve the Huguenots at La Rochelle. He was murdered by a discontented naval officer.

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George Villiers 1st duke of Buckingham

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