Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Villiers, George (1628-1687)
VILLIERS, GEORGE, second Duke of Buckingham (1628–1687), born on 30 Jan. 1627–8 at Wallingford House, Westminster, was the second son of George Villiers, first duke of Buckingham [q. v.], by Lady Katherine Manners. His elder brother Charles died in infancy. King Charles I, out of affection to their father, bred up George and his young brother, Francis Villiers, with his own children (Brian Fairfax, Life of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham). Both were sent to Trinity College, Cambridge, where the duke is said to have contracted a close friendship with Abraham Cowley and Martin Clifford (ib.) He was admitted to the degree of M.A. on 5 March 1642 (Doyle, Official Baronage, p. 260). At the beginning of the civil war Buckingham and his brother joined the king at Oxford, and served under Prince Rupert at the storming of Lichfield Close in April 1643. Later they were both committed to the care of the Earl of Northumberland, sent to travel, and lived for some time at Florence and Rome ‘in as great state as some of those sovereign princes’ (Wood, Athenæ, iv. 207; Brian Fairfax). Parliament, which had sequestered Buckingham's estates, restored them to him on 4 Oct. 1647, taking into consideration his youth at the time of his delinquency (Lords' Journals, ix. 467). Regardless of this act of favour, Buckingham at once plunged into the royalist plot which gave rise to the second civil war, and at the beginning of July 1648 he and his brother joined the Earl of Holland in Surrey, with the intention of raising the siege of Colchester (Life of Colonel Hutchinson, ii. 130, ed. Firth; Clarendon, Rebellion, xi. 5). On 7 July the House of Commons voted Buckingham and his associates traitors, and ordered the sequestration of their estates (Old Parliamentary Hist. xvii. 288–92; Rushworth, vii. 1178, 1180). The same day Lord Francis Villiers was killed in a skirmish near Kingston with the parliamentary troops under Sir Michael Livesey [q. v.] and Major Gibbon (Ludlow, Memoirs, i. 198, ed. 1894; Aubrey, Hist. of Surrey, i. 46). Buckingham and Holland, with the rest of the party, were surprised at St. Neots on 10 July by Colonel Scrope. Holland and most of the others were captured. The duke, more fortunate, escaped, taking ship for Holland (Rushworth, vii. 1187; Report on the Duke of Portland's MSS. i. 478; Herbert, Memoirs, p. 55; Clarendon, xi. 104; Fairfax, Correspondence, iv. 252). In 1649 Buckingham thought of endeavouring to compound for his lands. But he could not stomach the ‘base submission’ required of him, and it is doubtful whether parliament would have condoned a second offence. His great estates, therefore, were all included in the act of confiscation passed on 16 July 1651. Helmsley Castle and York House in the Strand went to Lord Fairfax in satisfaction of his arrears, while New Hall was purchased by the state for Cromwell (Cal. of Committee for Compounding, iii. 2182; Peacock, Index of Royalists whose Estates were confiscated, pp. 1, 25; Cal. Clarendon Papers, ii. 7). Luckily, a faithful servant had conveyed to Antwerp a part of the duke's collection of pictures and jewels, by selling or pledging which he obtained money for his subsistence (ib. ii. 7; Brian Fairfax, Life of Buckingham). The young king rewarded Buckingham by conferring upon him the order of the Garter on 19 Sept. 1649 and admitting him to the privy council on 6 April 1650. He entered that body as one of the representatives of the party which opposed the unyielding church policy of Nicholas and Hyde, and wished to come to an understanding with the presbyterians both in England and Scotland (Clarendon State Papers, ii. 53; Nicholas Papers, i. 173; Gardiner, Charles II and Scotland, pp. 54, 60, 118). Consequently, after the landing of Charles II in Scotland, Buckingham was the only conspicuous English royalist allowed by the Scots to remain with the king (July 1650) (Walker, Historical Discourses, pp. 159–63). He maintained his position by allying himself with Argyll, whose creature he was commonly considered; dissuaded Charles from putting himself at the head of the Scottish royalists, and was credited with treacherously revealing the king's plan to the presbyterian leaders (Clarendon, Rebellion, xii. 124; xiii. 3, 47; Walker, Historical Discourse, p. 197; Nicholas Papers, i. 201, 206, 254).
In spite of Buckingham's want of military experience, he was selected for the highest command in the intended rising among the English royalists. In 1650 he was designated general of the eastern association, and was also commissioned to raise forces for the king on the continent (Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth, i. 268; Egerton MS. 2542, f. 35). In the spring of 1651 he was appointed to head a movement in Lancashire, which was to be backed by a division of Scottish cavalry. He also received a commission (16 May 1651) to command in chief all the English royalists in Scotland, and succeeded in getting together a regiment of horse—mostly Englishmen—but the projected insurrection in Lancashire was frustrated by the discovery of the plot (Egerton Charters, 422, in Brit. Mus.; Report on the Duke of Portland's MSS. i. 567, 597; Cary, Memorials of the Civil War, ii. 283, 418). Buckingham accompanied Charles II in his expedition into England, and fought at Worcester. According to Clarendon, the duke pressed Charles to make him general-in-chief, alleging that no peer of England would willingly take orders from David Leslie; and, when the king told him he was too young, answered that Henry IV of France ‘commanded an army and won a battle when he was younger than he.’ So chagrined was Buckingham by the king's refusal that he ‘came no more to the council, scarce spoke to the king, neglected everybody else and himself, insomuch as for many days he never put on clean linen or conversed with any body.’ But, though this piece of presumption is quite in keeping with Buckingham's character, the story is not mentioned by other authorities (Rebellion, xiii. 72). The duke parted from the king during their flight from Worcester, and, thanks to his skill in disguising himself, escaped safely to the continent, landing at Rotterdam in October 1651 (Nicholas Papers, i. 277; Fea, The Flight of the King, pp. 12, 24). Ere long he was busily engaged in new political intrigues, his chief confidants being Titus and Leighton. In June 1652 he sent Leighton over to England with a letter to Cromwell, which the latter refused to receive; and in the following May it was said that he had been endeavouring to make his peace through Major-general Lambert (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1651–2, p. 317; Cal. Clarendon Papers, ii. 208). During the same period he discussed with John Lilburne [q. v.] the feasibility of effecting a restoration of monarchy through an agreement with the levellers, and these negotiations were one of the chief charges against Lilburne at his trial in 1653. Lilburne asserted that Buckingham's only aim in these conferences was to obtain advice how to make his peace with the English government, and that the duke was willing to give any security for his peaceable living which the state demanded (Lilburne's Defensive Declaration, 1653, pp. 15, 16; Several Informations against Lieutenant-Colonel John Lilburne, 1653).
These intrigues, and Buckingham's policy of sacrificing the interests of the church to the political exigencies of the moment, deepened the breach between the duke and the ministers of Charles II. Hyde and Nicholas habitually speak of him as a man of no religious principles, probably either a papist or a presbyterian, possessed of some wit but with no ballast, and far inferior to his father in ability (Nicholas Papers, ii. 287, iii. 41, 158, 170). His influence with the king had by this time greatly decreased. In 1652 a report that Buckingham aspired to the hand of the widowed Princess of Orange caused the greatest indignation among the royal family, and the queen protested that she would tear her daughter in pieces with her own hands if she thought she would degrade herself by such a match (Clarendon State Papers, iii. 50; Green, Lives of the Princesses of England, vi. 186). The freedom with which Buckingham criticised the king's policy, added to a quarrel with Charles about money, produced by 1654 a complete estrangement (Cal. Clarendon Papers, ii. 302, 374; Nicholas Papers, ii. 72, 113, 123, 344). In the spring of 1655 it was reported that Buckingham had made a secret visit to Dover to confer with one of Cromwell's agents on the question of his return to England and restoration to his estates, and it was also asserted that he was betraying the king's designs to the Protector. But the latter part of the story was certainly untrue (ib. ii. 207, 219, 226, 250, 262, 320). Nevertheless, in the spring of 1656, when Buckingham sought a reconciliation with the king, Hyde urged Charles strongly to show him no countenance (Cal. Clarendon Papers, iii. 113).
In the summer of 1657 Buckingham, tired of exile and hopeless of regaining the king's favour, suddenly returned to England without waiting to obtain the Protector's leave. To marry Fairfax's only daughter, regain thereby part of his estates, and through Fairfax's influence obtain the Protector's pardon, was his design. Mary Fairfax had been promised to the Earl of Chesterfield, and the banns had been twice published at St. Martin's, Westminster; but Buckingham was irresistible, the lady fell deeply in love with him, and the proposed match was broken off. On 15 Sept. 1657 Buckingham and Mary Fairfax were married at Bolton Percy in Yorkshire (Chester, Westminster Registers, p. 255; ‘Autobiography of Brian Fairfax’ in Markham's Life of Robert Fairfax, p. 142). Cowley wrote an epithalamium for their wedding (Poems on Several Occasions, ed. 1700, p. 135). Cromwell and his council regarded this alliance as a presbyterian plot, on the ground that Lady Vere and Major Robert Harley, two of the leaders of that party, had been active in forwarding it. On 9 Oct. the council ordered that Buckingham should be arrested, but he succeeded in evading capture, and remained some time hidden in London. Fairfax vainly appealed to the Protector on behalf of his son-in-law. Cromwell himself inclined to lenity, and finally, about April 1658, Buckingham was allowed to reside at York House in a sort of honourable confinement (Thurloe, vi. 580, 616, 648; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1657–1658, pp. 124, 169, 196, 357). He found this restraint too irksome, and, going to Cobham to see his sister, was arrested on 18 Aug. 1658 and sent to the Tower (Thurloe, vii. 344).
A passionate scene took place between Fairfax and Cromwell; but Buckingham asserted that if the Protector had lived he would have been certainly put to death (Life of Robert Fairfax, p. 143; Fairfax Correspondence, iv. 253). He did not obtain his liberty till 23 Feb. 1659, when parliament released him on his word of honour not to abet the enemies of the Commonwealth and on Fairfax's security for 20,000l. (Burton, Diary, iii. 370, 435). This did not prevent him from taking the field with Lord Fairfax against Lambert in January 1660; but the soldiers would not allow a known royalist to march with them. Buckingham subsequently claimed that but for his influence Fairfax would not have stirred, and that he therefore had an important share in promoting the Restoration (Fairfax Correspondence, iv. 164–6, 252).
On the return of Charles II, Buckingham became again a gentleman of the king's bedchamber, bore the orb at his coronation (23 April 1661), and was admitted to the privy council (28 April 1662). From 21 Sept. 1661 to 4 March 1667 he was lord-lieutenant of the West Riding of Yorkshire. The estates confiscated by the Commonwealth were restored to him, and, as they brought in 26,000l. a year, he was reputed the richest man in England, and was the most prominent figure in the king's court. In 1663 he was busy in the suppression of the supposed insurrection threatened by the fanatics in Yorkshire (Miscellanea Aulica, 1702, p. 307; Reresby, Memoirs, p. 59). In 1665, during the first Dutch war, he went to sea on board the Prince, attended by Brian Fairfax (Life of Robert Fairfax, p. 137). Clarendon's influence prevented him from obtaining any important office, and in domestic politics all Buckingham's energies were directed to the chancellor's overthrow. In 1663 there was a report that Buckingham and his friends had ‘cast my lord chancellor upon his back, past ever getting up again;’ but the attack was premature (Pepys, 15 May 1663). Buckingham next formed a plan to make Frances Teresa Stuart [q. v.] the king's mistress and govern Charles through her; but here also he failed (ib. 6 Nov. 1663; Grammont, Memoirs, p. 141, ed. 1853). In 1666, however, he succeeded in uniting the opposition leaders in the two houses on the bill for prohibiting the import of Irish cattle, a measure which Clarendon opposed, and Buckingham, partly from hostility to the Duke of Ormonde, supported (Clarendon, Continuation of Life, § 950). But he discredited himself by his want of decency. In a debate on 25 Oct. 1666 he asserted that ‘whoever was against the bill had either an Irish interest or an Irish understanding.’ Lord Ossory challenged him for reflecting upon the whole Irish nation; and Buckingham, after accepting, complained to the House of Lords, which sent Ossory to the Tower (ib. §§ 967–76; Carte, Ormonde, iv. 270; Lords' Journals, xii. 18–20). A few weeks later (19 Dec.) Buckingham had a scuffle with the Marquis of Dorchester at a conference between the two houses. Blows were exchanged, and Buckingham pulled off Dorchester's periwig, while Dorchester in return ‘had much of the duke's hair in his hand’ (ib. xii. 52–5; Clarendon, Continuation, p. 979). Both were sent to the Tower, but released on apologising; and Buckingham avenged himself by raising a vexatious claim to the title of Lord Roos, which was enjoyed by Dorchester's son-in-law (ib. p. 1008; Lords' Journals, xii. 82, 98; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1666–7, p. 335). By this time the king had become highly incensed against Buckingham as the chief source of the opposition to the government in the two houses, and the duke was also accused of treasonable practices, intriguing with disaffected republicans, and getting the king's horoscope calculated. On 25 Feb. 1667 his arrest was ordered, and he was put out of the privy council and of his other offices. Buckingham concealed himself, and lay hid till 27 June, when he gave himself up and was committed to the Tower (ib. pp. 532, 553, 1667 p. 2388; Pepys, iv. 293; Clarendon, Continuation, § 1118; PEPYS, 3 March 1667).
This disgrace was only temporary. On 13 Sept. Buckingham was restored to his places in the bedchamber and the privy council (Doyle; Pepys, 25 Sept. 1667). Regarding Clarendon as the author of his late eclipse, he took a very energetic part in the prosecution of the chancellor. Reports were even circulated that he was to be lord high steward of the court by which Clarendon was to be tried (Clarendon, Continuation, 1150–63; Pepys, Diary, 15 Nov. 21 Nov. 6 Dec.; Lords' Journals, xii. 141). On Clarendon's fall Buckingham was generally regarded as the principal minister among the king's new advisers, though he held no high office, except the mastership of the horse, which he purchased from the Duke of Albemarle (6 July 1668). ‘The king,’ Pepys was told by one informant, ‘is now fallen in and become a slave to the Duke of Buckingham’ (27 Nov. 1667); ‘the Duke of Buckingham do rule all now,’ said another (30 Dec. 1667; cf. Reresby, Memoirs, p. 76). This belief was so widespread that Charles himself felt bound to contradict it in a letter to his sister (Cartwright, A Life of Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans, 1894, p. 259).
Buckingham's accession to power was marked by fresh scandals. For some time he had been carrying on an intrigue with the Countess of Shrewsbury, and the earl, at last discovering it, sent him a challenge [cf. art. Talbot, Charles, Duke of Shrewsbury]. They fought at Barn Elms on 16 Jan. 1668, three a side, Buckingham's seconds being Sir Robert Holmes and Mr. William Jenkins. Shrewsbury was badly wounded, and died two months later, but not till the king had pardoned all the actors in the duel (24 Feb. 1668). Buckingham continued to live openly with the countess, though even the lax public opinion of the day was surprised at his impunity (Pepys, ed. Wheatley, vii. 283, 305; Reresby, p. 67; Grammont, p. 299).
The commencement of Buckingham's administration was also marked by a movement in favour of toleration, which was expressly recommended to parliament in the king's speech on 6 Feb. 1668. A scheme for comprehension was drawn up which was generally attributed to John Wilkins [q. v.], bishop of Chester, who owed his post to Buckingham's influence. ‘The man was of no religion,’ says Baxter of Buckingham, ‘but notoriously and professedly lustful, and yet of greater wit, and parts, and sounder principles as to the interest of humanity and the common good than most lords in the court. Wherefore he countenanced fanatics and sectaries, among others, without any great suspicion, because he was known to be so far from them himself’ (Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, iii. 21–34; Christie, Shaftesbury, ii. 5; Pepys, vii. 243). But the scheme fell through, though in 1672 Buckingham had the satisfaction of advising the issue of the ‘Declaration of Indulgence’ (cf. Miscellaneous Works, I. ii. 8).
Rumour credited Buckingham likewise with the authorship of various schemes for getting rid of the queen and enabling the king to marry again (Burnet, i. 469, 473; Ludlow, Memoirs, ii. 503; Life of James II, i. 438). He also endeavoured in every possible way to undermine the influence of the Duke of York. The feud between them was so notorious that at one time Buckingham professed to believe that James intended to have him assassinated (ib. i. 434–40; Pepys, viii. 135, 141, 151). Sir William Coventry [q. v.], the duke's right-hand man in the management of the navy, Buckingham endeavoured to gain to his own faction by promises, and when the design failed threatened to expose him to ridicule in a play. On this Coventry sent him a challenge, which Buckingham evaded accepting, and contrived to get his opponent put out of office for sending (ib. viii. 240, 243, 249, 297; Burnet, i. 479; Christie, Shaftesbury, ii. 3).
Against the Duke of Ormonde Buckingham's intrigues were equally persistent, and in the end equally successful. One of his chief instruments was Sir Robert Howard, and he was also assisted by the Earl of Orrery. It was said that Buckingham aimed at being lord-lieutenant of Ireland himself; but when the king was at last persuaded to dismiss Ormonde (February 1669), the vacant post was given to Lord Robartes. Even after Ormonde's fall he privately instigated attacks on his administration, and Lord Ossory, believing that Buckingham was implicated in Blood's attempt to kidnap his father, is reported to have told Buckingham publicly that if his father died a violent death he should regard him as his murderer, and pistol him though he stood behind the king's chair (Carte, Ormonde, iv. 311, 325, 345, 352, 374, 449, 497).
During the whole existence of the Cabal ministry a constant rivalry existed between Buckingham and Arlington. Marvell even speaks of two cabals—one headed by Buckingham, the other by Arlington—of which, in April 1670, the former was the dominant one. Lauderdale and Ashley were both reckoned Buckingham's supporters, and he had also among his adherents a number of new men whom he had brought into office, chief of whom were Sir Thomas Osborne (afterwards Earl Danby) [q. v.] and Sir John Trevor (1626–1672) [q. v.] (Christie, Shaftesbury, ii. 4, 43, 54; Marvell, Works, ii. 326; Life of James II, i. 434; Reresby, pp. 88, 93). But from 1670 Buckingham steadily lost ground, while Arlington obtained increasing influence with the king. This was clearly evident in the conduct of foreign affairs. The French ambassador, Ruvigny, found Buckingham in 1667 a warm advocate of an alliance with France, provided he could obtain thereby some advantage to his country and himself; but the conclusion of the triple alliance, for which Arlington was chiefly responsible, frustrated the incipient negotiations. Colbert de Croissy in 1668 judged Buckingham sincerely anxious for alliance with France, and Louis XIV was equally convinced of the genuineness of his zeal (Mignet, Négociations relatives à la Succession d'Espagne, ii. 513, 525, 528, iii. 15, 52, 57). In November 1668 Buckingham sent Sir Ellis Leighton to Paris, and opened a secret negotiation with Louis XIV, which was to be carried on through the Duchess of Orleans (ib. iii. 58–69; Burnet, i. 537 n.; Cartwright, Life of Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans, pp. 275, 280). In April 1669 Charles II sent agents of his own to Paris to treat for a joint war with Holland, and for support in his projected declaration of catholicism. Buckingham, wrote the king to his sister, knew nothing, and was to know nothing, of his intentions with respect to the catholic religion; and to blind his eyes he was entrusted with a sham negotiation with the French ambassador (ib. p. 284; Mignet, iii. 69, 84, 135). He was therefore not in the secret of the treaty of Dover (22 May 1670), which was signed by his colleagues Arlington and Clifford. In July 1670 Charles sent Buckingham to Versailles to negotiate a second treaty with Louis XIV, which was to be a repetition of the first so far as concerned the war with Holland, but to omit the provisions relative to religion. Louis received Buckingham with the greatest distinction, gave him a pension of ten thousand livres a year for Lady Shrewsbury, and promised to stipulate that he should command the English auxiliary forces in the intended war. ‘I have had more honours done me than ever were given to any subject,’ wrote Buckingham to Arlington. ‘Nothing but our being mealy-mouthed can hinder us from finding our accounts in this matter. For you may almost ask what you please. … The king of France is so mightily taken with the discourses I make to him of his greatness by land that he talks to me twenty times a day; all the courtiers wonder at it’ (ib. iii. 209–22; Miscellaneous Works, i. 67–9). His subsequent letters to Louis XIV and Lionne are filled with protestations of devotion to France and the French king (Mignet, iii. 247–55; Dalrymple, i. 113–19). The negotiations ended in the conclusion of two treaties for a united attack upon Holland (21 Dec. 1670, 2 Feb. 1672), both of which were signed by Buckingham (ib. iii. 265, 700).
When the war began, Buckingham became alarmed at the rapid success of the French arms, and urged that a separate peace should be made with the Dutch. Charles sent him, accompanied by Arlington, to The Hague in June 1672, in order to persuade the Prince of Orange to accept the terms of the allied powers, and, when the prince refused, the two kings renewed their engagements (Foxcroft, Life of Halifax, i. 80–93). Buckingham, as one of the negotiators of this new treaty, was given by Louis XIV a snuffbox, with his portrait set in diamonds, worth twenty-eight thousand livres (ib. iv. 43–9). But his hopes of military glory had received a severe blow by the discovery that Monmouth, not himself, was destined to command the English auxiliary force with the French army. He was made lieutenant-general on 13 May 1673, and took great pains in drilling the little army assembled at Blackheath, but resigned in disgust when Schomberg was appointed general over his head (ib. iii. 654; Letters to Sir Joseph Williamson, ed. Christie, i. 12, 67, 91, 99). He had by this time learnt the secret of the treaty of Dover, and the old grudge between himself and Arlington became in the latter part of 1673 open enmity. He threatened to impeach Arlington, and endeavoured to procure money from Louis XIV to form a party in the House of Commons (ib. i. 119, ii. 29, 92). But Charles supported Arlington, and told the French ambassador that he only continued to show Buckingham favour in order to deprive him of credit with parliament (Mignet, iv. 240; Forneron, Louise de Kéroualle, p. 75).
In January 1674 a combined attack upon Buckingham was commenced in both houses (Letters to Sir Joseph Williamson, ii. 105). In the lords the trustees of the young Earl of Shrewsbury petitioned for redress, alleging that Buckingham not only ostentatiously lived with the countess, but that they had shamelessly caused a baseborn son of theirs to be solemnly interred in Westminster Abbey under the title of Earl of Coventry. Buckingham put in a long apologetic narrative, professing penitence and promising to avoid scandal for the future; but the lords required the duke and the countess to give bonds for 10,000l. apiece that they would not cohabit again (Lords' Journals, xii. 599, 628; Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. ii. 35; Chester, Westminster Registers, p. 173). On 13 Jan. 1674 the commons attacked Buckingham as the author of the French alliance and a promoter of popery and arbitrary government. He was heard twice in his defence, and sought to cast all the blame upon Arlington, declaring that if his advice had been followed France would not have reaped all the profits of the alliance, and the House of Commons would have been consulted as to the treaty. His vindication was inconclusive and unsuccessful. The house voted an address requesting the king to remove Buckingham from all employments held during his majesty's pleasure, and from his presence and councils for ever (Grey, Debates, ii. 245–70; Letters to Sir Joseph Williamson, ii. 105, 115, 131; Mignet, iv. 256–63). Charles, angered by the revelations which the duke had made in his attempt to save himself, was delighted to throw him overboard. An appeal to the king, recounting his losses in the royal cause and begging leave to sell his office of master of the horse, was apparently fruitless (Fairfax Correspondence, iv. 249).
Buckingham now entered on a new phase in his career. He reformed his way of living, was seen in church with his wife, kept regular hours, and began to pay his debts (Forneron, p. 80; Essex Papers, pp. 167, 173). At the same time he became a patriot, and was welcomed by the country party as one of their leaders. ‘He was so far a gainer,’ wrote Marvell, ‘that with the loss of his offices and dependence he was restored to the freedom of his own spirit, to give thenceforward those admirable proofs of the vigour and vivacity of his better judgment, in asserting, though to his own imprisonment, the due liberties of the English nation’ (Marvell, Works, ed. Grosart, iv. 299; cf. Burnet, ii. 81). In the spring of 1675 he distinguished himself by his speeches and protests against the bill for imposing a non-resistance oath on the nation (Marvell, i. 467; Chandler, Proceedings of the House of Lords, 1742, i. 157). ‘Never were poor men exposed and abused all the session as the bishops were by the Duke of Buckingham upon the Test.’ The next session, on 16 Nov. 1675, he brought in a bill for the relief of protestant dissenters, which was read a first time but went no further (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. ii. 68; for his speech see Miscellaneous Works, vol. i.; and Chandler, i. 164). The king now prorogued parliament for fifteen months, and as soon as it met again (15 Feb. 1677) Buckingham raised the question whether it was not dissolved by this prorogation, it being contrary to two unrepealed statutes of Edward III. Shaftesbury, Wharton, and Salisbury supported his proposition, but the house rejected the motion and ordered the four lords to ask pardon, and, on their refusal, sent them to the Tower (16 Feb.) Buckingham's contemptuous treatment of the censure inflicted upon him enraged both the lords and the king (ib. i. 187; Miscellaneous Works, vol. i.; Life of James II, i. 506; Report on the Duke of Rutland's MSS. ii. 39).
In July 1677 Buckingham was released for a month, and, thanks to the influence of Nell Gwyn and others of ‘the merry gang,’ his release was made permanent (Savile, Correspondence, pp. 50, 58, 62, 66; Portland MSS. iii. 354). The vote committing the four peers to the Tower was annulled by the House of Lords on 13 Nov. 1680.
Buckingham at once began a new course of intrigues. In the spring of 1678 and through 1679 he was concerting measures with Barillon to prevent the king from obtaining supplies, and to force him to dissolve his army. He did not hesitate to ask and to receive money. Barillon found him (April 1678) the only one of the opposition leaders disposed to enter into formal and immediate engagements with France, and believing that their real safety depended upon what Louis would do in their favour (Dalrymple, i. 165, 190, 381; Mignet, iv. 534). When the revelations about the popish plot took place, Buckingham showed great zeal in eliciting evidence, and boldly accused the chief justice of illegally favouring papists (North, Examen, p. 245; Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. ii. 46, 99; Report on the Le Fleming Papers, p. 162). All his local influence was used to promote the return of whig candidates to parliament (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. p. 474; Clark, Life of Anthony à Wood, ii. 523). With the dissenters of the city he was reputed to possess great influence, and, to increase it, took a house in the city and was admitted as a freeman (7 March 1681). But, in spite of his boasts and of his real popularity in London, Barillon did not regard him as the real leader of the dissenting party there (Dalrymple, i. 313, 342, 357, 359; Luttrell, Diary, i. 69; North, Examen, p. 683). When the exclusion bill came before the House of Lords (15 Nov. 1680) Buckingham was purposely absent, professing to be dissatisfied with Shaftesbury (Christie, Life of Shaftesbury, ii. 377). Barillon, writing in December 1680, describes him as an enemy to Monmouth, and thereby in some measure friendly to the Duke of York; and it is possible that Buckingham, who claimed descent from the Plantagenets, thought himself as suitable a pretender as Monmouth (Dalrymple, ii. 313, 359). In any case, Buckingham gradually separated himself from the rest of the opposition, and took no part in the plots which followed the dissolution of the Oxford parliament in 1681. In the epilogue to his version of Philastre, written evidently in 1683, Buckingham sneers at Shaftesbury as one who claimed infallibility and railed against popery in order to make himself a pope. In that year and in 1684 he is alluded to as again restored to the king's favour (Luttrell, i. 316; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. pp. 343, 351, 376).
When James II ascended the throne, Buckingham created some stir by a pamphlet in favour of toleration which produced a brisk controversy (A Short Discourse on the Reasonableness of Men's having a Religion). But his public career was over, and he lived retired in Yorkshire, occupying himself with hunting and other country pursuits. In a letter from Ratisbon, dated November 1686, Etherege expresses the astonishment with which he heard of his friend's retreat, and compares it to the abdication of Charles V. ‘Is it possible,’ he adds, ‘that your grace should leave the play at the beginning of the fourth act, when all the spectators are in pain to know what will become of the hero, and what mighty matters he is reserved for, that set out so advantageously in the first?’ (Miscellaneous Works, i. 124). Ill-health was doubtless one cause of Buckingham's retirement. In March 1686 he was described as ‘worn to a thread with whoring,’ and there are frequent references to his illnesses during the last ten years of his life (Ellis Correspondence, i. 63). King James hoped to convert him to catholicism, but Buckingham ridiculed the priest sent for the purpose (An Account of a Conference between the late Duke of Buckingham and Father Fitzgerald, faithfully taken by one of his domestics). He died, of a chill caught while hunting on 16 April 1687, in the house of a tenant of his own at Kirkby Moorside, Yorkshire. Pope's account of his death in ‘the worst inn's worst room,’ amid squalor and neglect, is, though based on contemporary rumours, refuted by the evidence of Lord Arran and Brian Fairfax (Pope, Moral Essays, Epistle iii. 1. 299; Fairfax Correspondence, iv. 268; Ellis Correspondence, i. 276). Buckingham's body was embalmed and interred on 7 June 1687 in Henry VII's chapel in Westminster Abbey, ‘in greater state,’ said one of the mourners, ‘than the late king, and with greater splendour’ (Markham, Life of Robert Fairfax, p. 50; Chester, Westminster Registers, p. 218). The duchess survived her husband seventeen years, dying on 20 Oct. 1704 at her house near the mews at St. James's. She was buried in Westminster Abbey (ib. p. 255; Fairfax Correspondence, iv. 240). The duke's great estate had been sold or vested in trustees for the payment of his debts, and little was left to the duchess except what she inherited from her father (ib. iv. 256–67; Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. vi. 218; Aylesbury Memoirs, i. 13). Buckingham left no legitimate issue, and the title consequently became extinct.
A portrait of Buckingham by Lely is in the National Portrait Gallery. Others, by Wright and Van Dyck, were exhibited in the National Portrait Exhibition of 1866, which also contained two portraits of the duchess. Engravings are prefixed to Buckingham's ‘Miscellaneous Works,’ 1705 and 1775.
Reresby describes Buckingham as ‘the finest gentleman of person and wit I think I ever saw’ (Memoirs, p. 40), and Burnet speaks of his ‘noble presence’ and ‘the liveliness of his wit’ (Own Time, i. 182). ‘He was reckoned,’ said Dean Lockier to Pope, ‘the most accomplished man of the age in riding, dancing, and fencing. When he came into the presence chamber, it was impossible for you not to follow him with your eye as he went along, he moved so gracefully’ (Spence, Anecdotes, p. 63). ‘The portrait of this duke,’ says Walpole, ‘has been drawn by four masterly hands. Burnet has hewn it out with his rough chisel; Count Hamilton touched it with that slight delicacy which finishes while it seems but to sketch; Dryden catched the living likeness; Pope completed the historical resemblance’ (Walpole, Royal and Noble Authors, ed. Park, iii. 304). Sir Walter Scott added a fifth portrait in ‘Peveril of the Peak.’
Dryden's Zimri is in truth a faithful likeness, not a caricature. In the choice of the name the poet no doubt intended an oblique reference to the amours of Buckingham and the Countess of Shrewsbury (cf. Numbers xxv. 6–14), but he purposely attacked Buckingham's follies rather than his vices. ‘'Tis not bloody,’ he said of the character, ‘but 'tis ridiculous enough. And he for whom it was intended was too witty to resent it as an injury. If I had railed, I might have suffered for it justly; but I managed my own work more happily, perhaps more dexterously. I avoided the mention of great crimes, and applied myself to the representing of blind sides and little extravagances, to which the wittier a man is, he is generally the more obnoxious. It succeeded as I wished: the jest went round, and he was laughed at in his turn who began the frolic’ (Dryden, Works, ed. Scott, xiii. 10, 95). Buckingham, however, felt Dryden's satire keenly, and replied at once in ‘Poetic Reflections on a late Poem entitled “Absalom and Achitophel.” By a Person of Honour’ (ib. ix. 272). In some unpublished verses addressed to Dryden he complains that the poet's ‘ill-made resemblance’ was like a waxen image made by a witch, that ‘wastes my fame’ (Quarterly Review, 1898, i. 101).
As a statesman Buckingham's only claim to respect is his consistent advocacy of religious toleration, a cause that lost more than it gained by his support. Vanity, and a restless desire for power, which he was incapable of using when obtained, were the governing motives of his political career. His servant, Brian Fairfax, who complains that the world, severe in censuring his foibles, forgot to notice his good qualities, praises his charity, courtesy, good nature, and willingness to forgive injuries. If he was extravagant, he was not covetous. While ‘his amours were too notorious to be concealed and too scandalous to be justified,’ much was imputed to him of which he was guiltless (Brian Fairfax, Memoirs of the Life of George, Duke of Buckingham). A charge of unnatural crime, brought against him in 1680, ended in the punishment of the informers for conspiracy and perjury (Luttrell, i. 45, 48, 86, 107, 148; Somers Tracts, viii. 450, ed. Scott; Dalrymple, i. 313; Narrative of the Design laid by Philip del Mar against George, Duke of Buckingham, 1680). Fairfax also praises Buckingham's courage, but contemporaries accused him of being much readier to give offence than to give satisfaction (Reresby, Memoirs, pp. 68, 298; Letters to Sir Joseph Williamson, ii. 89). Like the king himself, Buckingham was attracted by the scientific movement of the period, and dabbled in chemistry. He had a laboratory of his own, and when he was a prisoner was allowed to establish one in the Tower (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. ii. 62). ‘For some years,’ says Burnet, ‘he thought he was very near the finding the philosopher's stone;’ and his chemical experiments were, according to Brian Fairfax, one of his great expenses (Own Time, i. 182, ed. Airy). The only useful result of this scientific taste was the setting up of some glass works at Lambeth, whose productions are praised by Evelyn (Diary, ii. 322). Buckingham spent much on building ‘in that sort of architecture which Cicero calls insanæ substructiones,’ says Fairfax. Cliefden House, built for him by Captain William Wynne (or Winde), was an immense and costly pile (Blomfield, Renaissance Architecture in England, p. 190); its gardens are described by Evelyn, ii. 354). His favourite sports were racing and hunting (Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. p. 338; Quarterly Review, p. 108), and he was long remembered as a huntsman in local songs and traditions.
A wit and an author himself, Buckingham was naturally a patron of men of letters. Cowley was his friend, owed something to his bounty, and was indebted to him for the monument in Westminster Abbey (Johnson, Lives of the Poets, ed. Cunningham, pp. 15, 17; Sprat, Life of Cowley). Sprat was Buckingham's chaplain, and was given a living by him, and Matthew Clifford is mentioned also as one of his intimates. Etherege was one of his correspondents, and Wycherley, who was in 1672 a lieutenant in Buckingham's regiment, was ‘honoured with his familiarity and esteem’ (Pack, Miscellanies, 1726, p. 135). On the other hand, Buckingham is credited with promising patronage to Lee and Butler, and subsequently neglecting both (ib.; Spence, Anecdotes, p. 62). Butler's prose character of Buckingham is possibly the result of his resentment at this treatment (Thyer, Genuine Remains of Butler, ii. 72). Buckingham's own poetical works consist of some pindarics in memory of Lord Fairfax, a few occasional verses, and a number of satires and lampoons first collected by Tom Brown in 1704–5 (many of the pieces attributed to him in this collection are not his). As a dramatic author the ‘Rehearsal’ constitutes his sole claim to remembrance. From their first appearance Buckingham had been an unsparing critic of the heroic dramas which came into vogue at the Restoration. Howard's ‘United Kingdoms’ and one of Dryden's plays are said to have been damned by his ridicule (Spence, Anecdotes, p. 62; Key to the Rehearsal). His attack upon this class of plays was for some years in preparation. It is said to have been ready for the stage in 1665, and the ‘Session of the Poets’ announced that ‘a play tripartite was very near made,’ in which the duke was assisted by ‘malicious Mat. Clifford and spiritual Spratt’ (Poems on Affairs of State, i. 206). The original hero of the piece was, according to a doubtful tradition, Sir Robert Howard, under the name of Bilboa (Key to the Rehearsal). Internal evidence shows that Bayes was originally intended to represent Sir William D'Avenant. After his death Buckingham made Dryden the chief character, and personally instructed Lacy, who acted the part, how to deliver his verses (Spence, Anecdotes, p. 63). The ‘Rehearsal’ was first performed on 7 Dec. 1671 at the Theatre Royal. Evelyn notes in his ‘Diary,’ under 11 Dec.: ‘Went to see the Duke of Buckingham's ridiculous farce and rhapsody called the Recital, buffooning all plays, yet profane enough’ (ii. 272). A contemporary news-letter says: ‘I am told the fame of the Duke of Buckingham's new play has reached the French court, and that that king asked Mons. Colbert when he would write him a play, who excusing his want of talents that way to serve him, the king told him he would be out of fashion, for the chief minister of state in England had gotten a great deal of honour by writing a farce’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. p. 368).
The ‘Rehearsal,’ first printed in 1672, reached a fifth edition in 1687, ‘with amendments and large additions by the author.’ It was long popular on the stage, and was imitated by Fielding in his ‘Tom Thumb the Great,’ and by Sheridan in the ‘Critic.’ A ‘Key’ to the play was printed in 1705, in the second volume of Buckingham's ‘Miscellaneous Works.’ It was republished, with notes and a valuable preface, in 1868, in Arber's ‘English Reprints.’
Buckingham was also the author of two adaptations of older plays. 1. ‘The Chances,’ a version of Fletcher's play of the same name, printed in 1682 as ‘corrected and altered by a person of honour,’ and reprinted in Evans's edition of Buckingham's ‘Works’ (1775). It is possible that this is the play which Pepys saw performed on 5 Feb. 1667 (Diary, ed. Wheatley, vi. 162). 2. ‘The Restoration, or Right will take place,’ published in 1714. This is an adaptation of Beaumont and Fletcher's ‘Philaster.’ Genest asserts that it was never acted, and calls in doubt Buckingham's authorship; but the prologue and epilogue printed in Buckingham's ‘Works’ are clearly his, and were probably written in 1683 (Works, i. 9–12). In addition to these, Buckingham wrote a piece called ‘The Battle of Sedgmoor,’ directed against the Earl of Feversham, and a dialogue called ‘The Militant Couple,’ both printed in 1704 (ib. i. 15, 239).
In 1685 Buckingham published ‘A Short Discourse on the Reasonableness of Men having a Religion,’ and a defence of it entitled ‘The Duke of Buckingham's Letter to the unknown author of … a short Answer to the Duke of Buckingham's Paper,’ &c. Both are reprinted in the ‘Somers Tracts’ (ix. 18, ed. Scott). This led to a lively controversy, in which Buckingham was attacked by Edmund Blount, and defended by William Penn and others. According to Wood he also wrote ‘A Demonstration of the Deity,’ which does not appear to have been published. Some other writings on religious questions are included in his ‘Miscellaneous Works.’ Extracts from a commonplace book of Buckingham's are given in an article in the ‘Quarterly Review’ for January 1898.
Buckingham's ‘Miscellaneous Works,’ collected by Tom Brown, were published in 1704–5, with a number of pieces by other wits of the period. A third edition appeared in 1715. Other editions are 1754, 1 vol. 12mo; by T. Evans, 2 vols. 8vo, 1775. Thomas Percy agreed to publish an edition for Tonson in 1761, which was partially printed, but never completed, and destroyed by fire in 1808. A copy of this unfinished work is in the British Museum (Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, iii. 753, Illustrations, vii. 567).
[Doyle's Official Baronage, i. 260; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iv. 207; Walpole's Royal and Noble Authors; Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges, vol. iii., under title ‘Jersey;’ Brian Fairfax's Life of Buckingham, originally published in Horace Walpole's Catalogue of the Curious Collection of Pictures of George, Duke of Buckingham, 1758, 4to, is reprinted in the preface to Mr. Arber's edition of the Rehearsal; Pepys's Diary, ed. Wheatley; Memoirs of Sir J. Reresby, ed. Cartwright, 1875; Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion, ed. Macray, 1888; Life and Continuation, ed. 1857; Mignet's Négociations relatives à la Succession d'Espagne, 1842; Dalrymple's Memoirs of Great Britain and Ireland, ed. 1790; Lady Burghclere's George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, 1903. Letters of Buckingham are contained in the Fairfax Correspondence, 4 vols. 1848–9, in Miscellanea Aulica, 1702, and in Buckingham's Miscellaneous Works. A lampoon against Buckingham, entitled the Duke of Buckingham's Litany, is printed in Poems on Affairs of State, iii. 93. A poem to the memory of the illustrious Prince George, Duke of Buckingham, is printed in Gildon's Chorus Poetarum, 1694, p. 75.]