Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/George Villiers, Second Duke of Buckingham

From volume IV of the work.
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BUCKINGHAM, George Villiers, Second Duke of (1627–1688), was born at London January 30, 1627, about a year and a half before the murder of his father. He was educated at Cambridge, returned from a Continental tour on the outbreak of the civil war, and at once threw in his lot with the king. The detachment in which he held a command was defeated at Nonsuch, and he with difficulty effected an escape from England. His estates were confiscated by Parliament, and part of them were bestowed upon Fairfax. He returned with Charles II. and took part in the battle of Worcester, after which he again fled. About 1657 he returned secretly to England and married one of Fairfax's daughters. Arrested by order of Cromwell, he was thrown into the Tower and kept in confinement for some time. After the Restoration he recovered his estates, and rose to high favour with Charles II. He was a man of great talent, but utterly without principle, versatile and whimsical to the last degree.

"A man so various that he seemed to be
Not one, but all mankind's epitome."

He was a profligate and a statesman, a musician, an alchemist, a writer of farces, and a courtier,—"everything by starts, and nothing long." He was radically fickle, and could not be faithful to any party. In 1671 his power was at its height. He had done much to bring about the dismissal of Clarendon, had formed the famous council called the Cabal, and was in fact prime minister of England. But the measures he and his associates passed were little calculated to allay the strong popular feeling against the Government. The Cabal was quickly dissolved, and Buckingham, with his usual versatility, at once became an ardent friend of the democratic leaders. Soon afterwards he seems to have been disgusted with politics, and gradually withdrew from court. After the death of Charles he retired to his seat at Helmsley in Yorkshire, and devoted himself to hunting and other country amusements. He died on the 17th April 1688, in the house of one of his tenants, having been seized with a fever produced by sitting on the damp ground after being heated with riding. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. Buckingham was the author of some farces, comedies, and miscellaneous poems, but he is chiefly remembered in English literature by the Rehearsal, a clever parody upon Dryden and other stilted tragedians. His works were collected in 1704.