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George Villiers Buckingham, 1st duke of

Buckingham, George Villiers, 1st duke of (vĭlˈyərz, bŭkˈĭng-əm) [key], 1592–1628, English courtier and royal favorite. He arrived (1614) at the English court as James I was tiring of his favorite, Robert Carr, earl of Somerset. Villiers was made a gentleman of the bedchamber (1615) and, after Somerset's disgrace, rose rapidly, becoming earl of Buckingham (1617), marquess (1618), and lord high admiral (1619). In 1620 he married Lady Katherine Manners, daughter of the Roman Catholic earl of Rutland. By this time Buckingham controlled dispensation of the king's patronage, which enabled him to grant lucrative monopolies to his relatives. In 1621, Parliament began to investigate abuses of these monopolies, but Buckingham prevented action against himself (though not against his friend Sir Francis Bacon) by joining in the condemnation of his relatives. Buckingham favored the proposed marriage of Prince Charles (later Charles I) with the Infanta Maria of Spain and in 1623 went with Charles to Madrid. There his arrogance contributed to the final breakdown of the long deadlocked marriage negotiations. Buckingham, now a duke, returned to England, advocating war with Spain, which made him the hero of Parliament. He lost that popularity rapidly by negotiating (1624) the marriage of Charles with another Catholic princess, Henrietta Maria, sister of Louis XIII of France. He was also blamed for the disastrous failure (Feb.–Mar., 1625) of an English expedition, under Graf von Mansfeld, to recover the Palatinate for Frederick the Winter King; Buckingham failed to supply it adequately. By this time Charles had become king, and Buckingham was more powerful than ever, a fact that enraged Parliament. After the embarrassing failure (Oct., 1625) of an expedition against Cádiz, Buckingham was impeached (1626), and Charles dissolved Parliament to prevent his trial. The following year Buckingham led an expedition (another disaster) to relieve the Huguenots of La Rochelle, and Parliament delivered another remonstrance against him. The duke was at Portsmouth preparing yet another expedition for La Rochelle when he was killed by John Felton, a disgruntled naval officer. The romantic aspects of the duke's career figure largely in Alexander Dumas's historical novel, The Three Musketeers.

See biographies by R. Lockyer (1984) and C. Phipps (1985).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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