Monday, 16 September 2019

1st Duke of Buckingham


This family, which is still extant in the noble houses of Jersey and Clarendon, deduced its descent from Villiers, Seigneurs de L'Isle Adam, in Normandy, France; and the first of its members who came into England was amongst the companions in arms of WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.

SIR GEORGE VILLIERS (c1544-1606), of Brooksby, Leicestershire, a person of eminent repute, married firstly, Audrey, daughter of William Saunders, of Harrington, Northamptonshire, and had issue,
William, created a Baronet;
Edward, ancestor of the EARLS OF JERSEY;
Elizabeth; Anne; Frances.
Sir George wedded secondly, Mary, daughter of Anthony Beaumont, of Glenfield, Leicestershire, which lady survived her husband, and was created COUNTESS OF BUCKINGHAM for life; and had further issue,
John, 1st Viscount Purbeck;
GEORGE, of whom presently;
Christopher, 1st Earl of Anglesey;
Sir George's second son by his last wife,

GEORGE VILLIERS (1592-1628), born at Brooksby, received the first rudiments of his education at Billesdon School in Leicestershire, whence being removed at the age of 13, by his mother, he was sent to France, and there soon attained "perfection in all polite accomplishments".

Upon his return home, he went first to London as a suitor to Sir Roger Ashton's daughter, one of the Gentlemen of the Bedchamber and Master of the Robes to JAMES I, but was dissuaded from the connection by another courtier, Sir John Graham, one of the Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, who encouraged him to "woo fortune in the court".

Soon after this he attracted the attention of the King, and succeeded the favourite Robert Carr, 1st Earl of Somerset, as cup-bearer to His Majesty (being, said Sir William Dugdale, of stature tall and comely, his comportment graceful, and of a most sweet disposition).

From this period he rose rapidly in estimation, and the Queen, through the influence of George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, an enemy of Somerset's, being induced also to protect him, his fortune was at once established.

The first honour he received was that of Knighthood, which was conferred in Her Majesty's bedchamber with the Prince's rapier: he was then sworn a Gentleman of the Bedchamber (1615), with an annual pension of £1,000 (£237,000 in today's money) payable out of the Court of Wards.

The ensuing January he succeeded Edward, 4th Earl of Worcester, as Master of the Horse; and several months later was installed a Knight of the Garter.

Before the end of the year (1616) he was elevated to the peerage as Baron Whaddon, Buckinghamshire, the ceremony of creation being performed at Woodstock; and he was very soon after advanced to a viscountcy, as Viscount Villiers.

In 1617 his lordship was created Earl of Buckingham, with a special remainder, default of male issue, to his brothers John and Christopher, and their male issue.

His lordship was further advanced, in 1618, to the dignity of a marquessate, as Marquess of Buckingham.

This last dignity was succeeded by his appointment to the great office of Lord High Admiral, and his being sworn of the Privy Council; and about this time his lordship was constituted Chief Justice in Eyre; Master of the Court of King's Bench; High Steward of Westminster Abbey; Constable of Windsor Castle; and Chancellor of Cambridge University.

In 1623, Lord Buckingham was sent into Spain with Charles, Prince of Wales, to accelerate the marriage then in contemplation between His Royal Highness and a Spanish princess.

The journey, a most exceptional one, commenced on the 18th February, when Prince Charles and Lord Buckingham, putting on false beards, assumed the names of Thomas and John Smith, their sole attendant being Sir Richard Graham, 1st Baronet, Master of the Horse.

Post-riding to Canterbury, where they took fresh horses, they were stopped by the mayor, as suspicious persons, whereupon Lord Buckingham was constrained to take off his beard, and to satisfy the mayor by stating that he was going incognito to survey the fleet as Lord High Admiral.

At Dover they found Prince Charles's private secretary, Sir Francis Cottington, and Mr Endymion Porter, who had provided a vessel for their use: on which they embarked, and landing at Boulogne, proceeded to Paris, and thence travelled through France to Madrid.

During their sojourn in Paris, Lord Buckingham is said to have fallen in love with Anne of Austria (Queen of France, consort of LOUIS XIII).

It is certainly the case that, upon his return, Cardinal Richelieu refused him permission to land in a French port.

At Madrid, Buckingham was involved in a dispute with the Count-Duke of Olivares, and received some affronts for his haughtiness, French garb, and great familiarity with Prince Charles.

His royal master continuing, however, to lavish favours upon him, sent out letters patent, in 1623, creating him DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM.

The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Buckingham, failing in the object of their journey, departed from Madrid on the 12th September, and arrived at Portsmouth in October, when His Grace was appointed Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Steward of the Manor of Hampton Court.

The death of JAMES I followed about a year and a half later, but the influence of Buckingham was undiminished.

His Grace officiated as Lord High Steward at the coronation of the new King; and was shortly afterwards sent as Ambassador Extraordinary to Holland, where he purchased a rare collection of Arabic manuscripts, procured in remote countries by the industry and diligence of Thomas Erpenius, a famous linguist.

Those valuable documents were presented to Cambridge University, for which he intended them, after the 1st Duke's death.

His Grace continued to bask in the same sunshine of royal favour, under CHARLES I, that he had so beneficially enjoyed in the last reign, but with the populace he had become an object of contempt.

His influence was paramount, and to that influence was attributed all the grievances of the nation.

The failure, too, of an expedition to Saint-Martin-de-RĂ©, for the relief of his Huguenot allies at La Rochelle, completed his unpopularity.

To recover the ground he had lost by this untoward enterprise, His Grace projected another expedition, and had repaired to Portsmouth in order to forward its sailing.

Here, while passing through a lobby, after breakfasting with Sir Thomas Fryer and other persons of distinction, he was stabbed in the heart by John Felton, an army officer, and died instantaneously.

The 1st Duke's assassination occurred on the 23rd August, 1628, when His Grace had just turned 36 years of age.

The Duchess was in the house, in an upper room, hardly out of bed; and the King and court at Sir Daniel Norton's, Southwick, Hampshire, merely six miles away.

His Grace had married the Lady Katherine Manners, only daughter and heiress of Francis, Earl of Rutland and Baron de Ros (which latter dignity she inherited at the decease of her father in 1632), and had issue,
GEORGE, his successor;
Following the 1st Duke's murder, Her Grace wedded secondly, Randal, 2nd Earl and 1st Marquess of Antrim, of Dunluce Castle, County Antrim.

A lost masterpiece of the 1st Duke by Rubens was recently discovered.

George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham KG

His Grace was succeeded by his eldest son,

GEORGE, 2nd Duke (1628-87), KG, and in right of his mother, 20th Baron de Ros.

This nobleman was very young at the time of his father's murder, and spent some years abroad after that event, travelling.

He returned to England after the civil war, and had a command in the royal army at the battle of Worcester, 3rd September, 1651, from which unfortunate field, making his escape with difficulty, he reached London and was thence enabled to make good his retreat to Holland.

At the restoration of the monarchy His Grace, with General Monck, rode uncovered before the King upon his public entry into London, and he was soon afterwards appointed a Knight of the Garter.

The 2nd Duke formed one of the unpopular administrations of CHARLES II, which was designated the Cabal, from the initial letters of the ministers' names.

"But towards the latter half of that monarch's reign", said the infamous genealogist and lawyer, Thomas Christopher Banks, "by his strange conduct and unsteady temper he sunk very low in the opinion of most people. He first seduced the wife of Francis Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and then killed the Earl in a duel."

Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, in his Catalogue of Noble Authors, observed,
"When this extraordinary man, with the figure and genius of Alcibiades, could equally charm the Presbyterian Fairfax, and the dissolute Charles; when he alike ridiculed the witty king and his solemn chancellor; when he plotted the ruin of his country with a cabal of bad ministers, or equally unprincipled, supported its cause with bad patriots; one laments that such parts should be devoid of every virtue. 
But when Alcibiades turns chemist, when he is a real bubble, and a visionary miser, when ambition is but a frolic, when the worst designs are for the foolishest ends, contempt extinguishes all reflections on his character."
This nobleman, profligate as he was, held an elevated place amongst the great minds of his day, and as a wit was hardly equalled by any of his contemporaries.

"He began life (said Banks) with all the advantages of fortune and person which a nobleman could covet; and afterwards, by favour of the King, had great opportunities of making himself as considerable as his father had been. But he miserably wasted his estate, forfeited his honour, damned his reputation, and, at the time of his death, is said to have wanted even the necessaries of life, and not to have had one friend in the world."

Alexander Pope described him as more famous for his vices than his misfortunes; that having been possessed of £50,000 a year (in excess of £10 million today), and passed through many of the highest posts in the Kingdom, he died in 1687 at a remote inn in Yorkshire, reduced to the utmost misery.

His Grace had married Mary, only daughter and heiress of Thomas, Lord Fairfax, the parliamentary general, and granddaughter maternally of Horatio, 1st Baron Vere of Tilsbury, but had no issue.

He died in 1687, and his sister Mary, to whom the dukedom of Buckingham was in remainder, provided she had outlived the male descendants of her father, having predeceased him, all the honours which he had inherited from his father expired; while the barony of DE ROS, derived from his mother, fell into abeyance between the heirs-general of the sisters and heirs of George Manners, 7th Earl of Rutland.

Former residences ~ Helmsley Castle, Yorkshire; Wallingford House, Admiralty, London; York House, Strand, London.

First published in September, 2017.   Buckingham arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

1 comment :

Demetrius said...

Re Brooksby in Leicestershire, it is not far from Bradgate Park by Newtown Linford, I was there many times when young. It was where Lady Jane Grey was born in 1537, one of the tragedies of history. If the Villiers family were around with the right connections then. perhaps they may not have been quite as obscure as we are led to believe.