The Full Wiki

George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 2nd Duke of Buckingham.

George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, KG, PC, FRS (10 January 1628 – 16 April 1687), was an English statesman and poet.


Upbringing and education

George was the son of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, favourite of James I and Charles I, and his wife Katherine Manners. His father died when he was four months old, and he was brought up by Charles I together with his younger brother Francis and the King's own children. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained the degree of Master of Arts in 1642.[1]

Political career


Involvement in the English Civil War

In the Civil War he fought for the King, and took part in the attack on Lichfield Close in April 1643.

Under the care of the Earl of Northumberland, George and his brother travelled abroad and lived in Florence and Rome. When the Second Civil War broke out they joined Henry Rich, 1st Earl of Holland in Surrey, in July 1648.

Francis was killed near Kingston upon Thames but the Duke succeeded in escaping to the Netherlands.

Exile with Charles II

Because of his participation in the rebellion, his lands, which had been restored to him in 1647 on account of his youth, were confiscated and given to his future father-in-law, Thomas, Lord Fairfax, who refused to compound. On September 19, 1649, Charles II conferred on him the Order of the Garter (KG) and admitted him to his Privy Council on 6 April 1650.

In opposition to Hyde, Buckingham supported the alliance with the Scottish presbyterians, accompanied Charles to Scotland in June, and allied himself with the Marquess of Argyll, dissuading Charles from joining the Royalist plot of October 1650, and being suspected of betraying the plan to the covenanting leaders. That May, he had been appointed general of the eastern association in England, and was sent to raise forces abroad; the following year, he was chosen to lead the projected movement in Lancashire and to command the Scottish royalists. He was with Charles at the Battle of Worcester on September 3, 1651, but escaped alone to Rotterdam in October.

His subsequent negotiations with Oliver Cromwell's government, and his readiness to sacrifice the interests of the church, separated him from the rest of Charles's advisers and diminished his influence. His estrangement from the royal family was completed by his audacious courtship of the king's widowed sister Mary, Princess of Orange, and by a money dispute with Charles.

Return and imprisonment

In 1657 he returned to England, and on 15 September married Mary, daughter of Lord Fairfax, who had fallen in love with him although the banns of her intended marriage with the Earl of Chesterfield had been twice called in church. Buckingham was soon suspected of organizing a Presbyterian plot against the government. An order was issued for his arrest in 9 October, despite Fairfax's interest with Cromwell. He was placed under house arrest at York House in April 1658, escaped, and was rearrested on 18 August. He was then imprisoned in the Tower of London until 23 February 1659, being freed after promising not to assist the enemies of the government, and on Fairfax's security of £20,000. He joined Fairfax in his march against General John Lambert in January 1660, and afterwards claimed to have gained Fairfax to the cause of the Restoration.

After the Restoration: offices and intrigues

The returning King Charles at first received Buckingham (who met him at his landing at Dover) coldly, but Buckingham was soon back in favour. He was appointed a Gentleman of the Bedchamber, carried the Sovereign's Orb at the coronation on 23 April 1661, and was made Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding of Yorkshire on September 21. The same year, he accompanied Princess Henrietta to Paris to marry the Duke of Orleans, but made such shameless advances to her that he was recalled. On 28 April 1662 he was admitted to the Privy Council. His confiscated estates, amounting to £26,000 a year, were restored to him, and he was said to be the king's richest subject. He helped suppress the projected insurrection in Yorkshire in 1663, went to sea in the second Anglo-Dutch War in 1665, and took measures to resist the Dutch or French invasion in June 1666.

He was, however, debarred from high office by the influence of Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, the Chancellor. Buckingham now plotted to effect the Chancellor's ruin. He organized parties in both houses of parliament to support a 1666 bill prohibiting the import of Irish cattle, partly to oppose Clarendon and partly to thwart the Duke of Ormonde. Having asserted during the debates that "whoever was against the bill had either an Irish interest or an Irish understanding", he was challenged by Lord Ossory. Buckingham avoided the encounter, and Ossory was sent to the Tower. A short time afterwards, during a conference between the two Houses on 19 December, he came to blows with the Marquess of Dorchester: Buckingham pulled off the marquess's periwig, and Dorchester also "had much of the duke's hair in his hand." According to Clarendon, no misdemeanour so flagrant had ever before offended the dignity of the House of Lords. The offending peers were both sent to the Tower, but were released after apologising; and Buckingham vented his spite by raising a claim to the title of Baron Ros, held by Dorchester's son-in-law. His opposition to the government had lost him the king's favour, and he was now accused of treasonable intrigues, and of having cast the king's horoscope. His arrest was ordered on 25 February 1667, and he was dismissed from all his offices. He avoided capture till June 27, when he gave himself up and was imprisoned in the Tower.

He was released by July 17, was restored to favour and to his appointments on September 15, and took an active part in the prosecution of Clarendon. When Clarendon fell, he became the chief minister, even though he had previously held no high office except that of Master of the Horse, bought from the Duke of Albermarle in 1668. In 1671 he was elected chancellor of Cambridge, and in 1672 high steward of the University of Oxford. He favoured religious toleration, and earned the praise of Richard Baxter; he supported a scheme of comprehension in 1668, and advised the Royal Declaration of Indulgence in 1672. He upheld the original jurisdiction of the Lords in Skinner's Case. With these exceptions Buckingham's tenure of office was chiefly marked by scandals and intrigues. His illicit connection with the Countess of Shrewsbury led to a duel with her husband at Barn Elms on 16 January 1668, in which the Earl of Shrewsbury was fatally wounded. The tale that the countess witnessed the encounter disguised as a page appears to have no foundation; but Buckingham provoked an outrage when he installed the "widow of his own creation" in his own and his wife's house.

Buckingham was thought to be behind the idea of obtaining the divorce of the childless queen, Catherine of Braganza (though this never happened). He intrigued against James, Duke of York, against Sir William Coventry — one of the ablest statesmen of the time, whose fall he procured by provoking him to send him a challenge — and against the Duke of Ormonde, who was dismissed in 1669. He was even suspected of having instigated Thomas Blood's attempt to kidnap and murder Ormonde, and was charged with the crime in the king's presence by Ormonde's son, Lord Ossory, who threatened to shoot him dead in the event of his father's meeting with a violent end. Arlington, next to Buckingham himself the most powerful member of the cabal and a favourite of the king, was less easy to overcome; and he derived considerable influence from the control of foreign affairs entrusted to him. Buckingham always been an adherent of the French alliance, while Arlington concluded through Sir William Temple in 1668 the Triple Alliance. On the complete volte-face and surrender made by Charles to France in 1670, Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington, a Roman Catholic, was entrusted with the first Treaty of Dover of May 20 — which besides providing for the united attack on Holland, included Charles's undertaking to proclaim himself a Catholic and to reintroduce the Roman Catholic faith into England, — while Buckingham was sent to France to carry on the sham negotiations which led to the public treaties of 31 December 1670 and 2 February 1672. He was much pleased with his reception by Louis XIV, declared that he had "more honours done him than ever were given to any subject", and, was presented with a pension of 10,000 livres a year for Lady Shrewsbury.

In June 1672, during the Third Anglo-Dutch War, he accompanied Arlington to Nieuwerbrug to impose terms on the Prince of Orange, and when these were refused with Arlington arranged a new treaty, the Accord of Heeswijk with Louis. After all this activity he suffered a keen disappointment in being passed over for the command of the English forces in favour of the Duke of Schomberg. He now knew of the secret treaty of Dover, and towards the end of 1673 his jealousy of Arlington became open hostility. He threatened to impeach him, and endeavoured with the help of Louis to stir up a faction against him in parliament.

Political downfall

This, however, was unsuccessful, and in January 1674 both houses of Parliament attacked Buckingham. In the Lords, the trustees of the young Earl of Shrewsbury complained that Buckingham publicly continued his affair with the Countess, and that a son of theirs had been buried in Westminster Abbey with the title of Earl of Coventry; Buckingham and the countess were required to apologize and give security for £10,000 not to cohabit together again. In the House of Commons he was attacked as the promoter of the French alliance, of "popery" and arbitrary government. He defended himself chiefly by endeavouring to blame Arlington; but the house approved a petition to the king to remove Buckingham from his councils, presence and from employment forever. Charles, who had been waiting for a favourable opportunity, and who was enraged at Buckingham's disclosures, quickly consented.

Buckingham retired, reformed his ways, attended church with his wife, began to pay his debts, became a "patriot", and was claimed by the country or opposition party as one of their leaders. In the spring of 1675 he was conspicuous for his opposition to the Test Oath and for his abuse of the bishops, and on November 16 he introduced a bill for the relief of the nonconformists. On 15 February 1677 he was one of the four lords who tried to embarrass the government by raising the question whether the parliament, not having assembled according to the act of Edward III once in the year, had not been dissolved by the recent prorogation. The motion was rejected and the four lords were ordered to apologize. When they refused, they were sent to the Tower, Buckingham in particular exasperating the House by ridiculing its censure. He was released in July, and immediately entered into intrigues with Paul Barillon, the French ambassador, with the object of hindering the grant of supplies to the king; and in 1678 he visited Paris to get the assistance of Louis XIV for the opposition's cause.

He took an active part in prosecuting those implicated in the "Popish Plot", and accused the lord chief justice (Sir William Scroggs) in his own court while on circuit of favouring the Roman Catholics. Because of this, a writ was issued for his arrest, but it was never served. He promoted the return of Whig candidates to Parliament, constituted himself the champion of the dissenters, and was admitted a Freeman of the City of London. He, however, separated himself from the Whigs on the exclusion question, probably on account of his dislike of the Duke of Monmouth and the Earl of Shaftesbury, was absent from the great debate in the Lords on 15 November 1680, and was restored to the king's favour in 1684.

Retirement under James II

He took no part in public life after James II's accession, but returned to his manor of Helmsley in Yorkshire, probably because of poor health and exhausted finances. In 1685 he published a pamphlet, entitled A short Discourse on the Reasonableness of Man's having a Religion in which after discussing the main subject he returned to his favourite topic, religious toleration. The tract provoked some rejoinders and was defended, amongst others, by William Penn, and by the author himself in The Duke of Buckingham's Letter to the unknown author of a short answer to the Duke of Buckingham's Paper (1685). In hopes of converting him to Roman Catholicism, James sent him a priest, but Buckingham ridiculed his arguments. He died on 16 April 1687, from a chill caught while hunting, in the house of a tenant in Kirkbymoorside in Yorkshire (it is known as Buckingham House and it is located in the town centre), expressing great repentance and feeling himself "despised by my country and I fear forsaken by my God".

The miserable picture of his end drawn by Alexander Pope is greatly exaggerated. Buckingham was buried on 7 June 1687 in Henry VII's chapel in Westminster Abbey, with greater splendour than the late king. With his death, the family founded by the extraordinary rise to power and influence of the first duke ended. As he left no legitimate children, the title became extinct, and his great estate was completely dissipated; nothing remains of the enormous mansion he constructed at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire.

Personality and character

Buckingham is often judged ostentatious, licentious, and unscrupulous, the "Alcibiades of the seventeenth century." But even his critics agree that he was good-humoured, good-natured, generous, an unsurpassed mimic, and the leader of fashion. His good looks and amusing wit made him irresistible to his contemporaries, in spite of his moral faults and even crimes. His portrait has been drawn by Burnet, Count Hamilton in the Memoires de Grammont, John Dryden, Alexander Pope in the Epistle to Lord Bathurst, and Sir Walter Scott in Peveril of the Peak. John Reresby calls him "the first gentleman of person and wit I think I ever saw", and Burnet bears the same testimony. Dean Lockier, after alluding to his unrivalled skill in riding, dancing and fencing, adds, "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". Racing and hunting were his favourite sports, and his name long survived in the hunting songs of Yorkshire.

The Duke was the patron of Abraham Cowley, Thomas Sprat, Matthew Clifford and William Wycherley. He dabbled in chemistry, and according to Thomas Burnet, "he thought he was very near the finding of the philosopher's stone." He set up glass works at Lambeth the productions of which were praised by John Evelyn; and he spent much money, according to his biographer Brian Fairfax, in building insanae substructiones. John Dryden described him under the character of Zimri in celebrated lines in the poem Absalom and Achitophel (to which Buckingham replied in Poetical Reflections on a late Poem ... by a Person of Honour, 1682):

"A man so various that he seemed to be/Not one, but all mankind's epitome;/Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong,/Was everything by starts and nothing long;/But, in the course of one revolving moon/Was chymist, fiddler, statesman and buffoon../..Beggar'd by fools, whom still he found too late,/He had his jest, but they had his estate."

Buckingham, however, cannot with any truth be called "mankind's epitome". On the contrary, the distinguishing features of his life are incompleteness, aimlessness, imperfection, insignificance, neglected talent and wasted opportunity. "He saw and approved the best", says Brian Fairfax, "but did too often deteriora sequi". He is more severely but more justly judged by himself. In light-hearted moments he wrote "Methinks, I see the wanton houres flee, And as they passe, turne back and laugh at me", but his last recorded words, "O! what a prodigal have I been of that most valuable of all possessions—Time!" express with exact truth the fundamental flaw of his character and career, of which he had at last become conscious.

Literary career

Buckingham wrote occasional verses and satires showing undoubted (but undeveloped) poetic gifts, a collection of which, containing however many pieces not from his pen, was first published by Tom Brown in 1704; while a few extracts from a commonplace book of Buckingham of some interest are given in an article in the Quarterly Review of January 1898. He was the author of The Rehearsal, an amusing and clever satire on the heroic drama and especially on Dryden's The Conquest of Granada (first performed on 7 December 1671, at the Theatre Royal, and first published in 1672), a deservedly popular play which was imitated by Henry Fielding in Tom Thumb the Great, and by Sheridan in The Critic. Buckingham also published two adapted plays: a version of John Fletcher's The Chances (1682) and The Restoration or Right will take place, from Beaumont and Fletcher's Philaster (publ. 1714); and also The Battle of Sedgmoor and The Militant Couple (publ. 1704). The latest edition of his works is that by T. Evans (2 vols. 8vo, 1775). Another work is named by Wood, A Demonstration of the Deity, of which there is now no trace.

The American actor and director Norman Lloyd portrayed the Second Duke of Buckingham in the 1957 episode "The Trial of Colonel Blood" of NBC's anthology series, The Joseph Cotten Show.


The 2nd Duke of Buckingham's ancestors in three generations
George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham Father:
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
Paternal Grandfather:
Sir George Villiers
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Paternal Grandmother:
Mary Beaumont
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Anthony Beaumont of Glenfield
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Katherine Villiers, Duchess of Buckingham
Maternal Grandfather:
Francis Manners, 6th Earl of Rutland
Maternal Great-grandfather:
John Manners, 4th Earl of Rutland
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Elizabeth Charlton
Maternal Grandmother:
Frances Knyvett
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Maternal Great-grandmother:

Bibliographies (from 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica)

  • C H Firth, Dictionary of National Biography (1899)
  • Lady Burghchere, George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (1903).
  • Wood, Athenae Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 207
  • Brian Fairfax, Biographia Britannica
  • Horace Walpole, Catalogue of Pictures of George Duke of Buckingham (1758)
  • Arber, the Rehearsal (1868)
  • Hudibras in The Genuine Remains of Mr. Samuel Butler, by R. Thyer (1759), ii. 72.
  • Quarterly Review, Jan. 1898
  • A Conference on the Doctrine of Transubstantiation between ... the Duke of Buckingham and Father FitzGerald (1714)
  • S R Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth (1894-1901)
  • W. J. Courthope,History of Eng. Poetry(1903), iii. 460
  • Horace Walpole, Royal and Noble Authors, iii. 304
  • T. Brown, Miscellanea Aulica(1702)
  • Fairfax Correspondence (1848-1849).


  1. ^ Villiers, George in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.

This article incorporates text from the article "George Villiers Buckingham, 2nd Duke of" in the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Political offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Albemarle
Master of the Horse
Succeeded by
The Duke of Monmouth
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Lord Langdale
Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding of Yorkshire
Succeeded by
The Earl of Burlington
Preceded by
The Earl of Burlington
Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding of Yorkshire
Succeeded by
The Viscount Latimer
Preceded by
The Lord Fairfax of Cameron
Custos Rotulorum of the West Riding of Yorkshire
Succeeded by
The Earl of Burlington
Peerage of England
Preceded by
George Villiers
Duke of Buckingham
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Katherine Manners
Baron de Ros
Succeeded by
Charlotte Boyle,
after abeyance was
terminated in 1806


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

All true love is grounded on esteem.

George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, KG, PC, FRS (1628-01-301687-04-16), was an English dramatist, poet, politician, wit and rake.



  • The world is made up, for the most part, of fools and knaves, both irreconcileable foes to truth.
    • "Letter to Mr. Clifford, on his Human Reason"; cited from The Works of His Grace, George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham (London: T. Evans, 1770) vol. 2, p. 105.
    • Variant (modernized spelling): The world is made up, for the most part, of fools and knaves, both irreconcilable foes to truth.
  • She that would raise a noble love must find
    Ways to beget a passion for her mind;
    She must be that which she to the world would seem,
    For all true love is grounded on esteem:
    Plainness and truth gain more a generous heart
    Than all the crooked subtleties of art.
    • "To His Mistress", cited from The Works of His Grace, George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham (London: T. Evans, 1770) vol. 2, p. 138.
  • The world's a wood, in which all lose their way,
    Though by a different path each goes astray.
    • "A Satyr upon the Follies of the Men of the Age", line 109; cited from The Works of His Grace, George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham (London: T. Evans, 1770) vol. 2, p. 156
  • Methinks, I see the wanton houres flee,
    And as they passe, turne back and laugh at me.
    • As quoted in The Encyclopædia Britannica (1910)
  • O! what a prodigal have I been of that most valuable of all possessions — Time!
    • Last recorded words, as quoted in The Encyclopædia Britannica (1910)

The Rehearsal (1671)

Quotations from The Rehearsal are cited from Simon Trussler (ed.) Burlesque Plays of the Eighteenth Century (London: Oxford University Press, 1969).
  • We might well call this short Mock-play of ours
    A Posie made of Weeds instead of Flowers;
    Yet such have been presented to your noses,
    And there are such, I fear, who thought 'em Roses.
    • Prologue
  • Our Poets make us laugh at Tragœdy,
    And with their Comoedies they make us cry.
    • Prologue
  • Why, Sir, when I have anything to invent, I never trouble my head about it, as other men do; but presently turn over this Book, and there I have, at one view, all that Perseus, Montaigne, Seneca's Tragedies, Horace, Juvenal, Claudian, Pliny, Plutarch's lives, and the rest, have ever thought upon this subject: and so, in a trice, by leaving out a few words, or putting in others of my own, the business is done.
    • Bayes, Act I, sc. i
  • All these threatening storms, which, like impregnate Clouds, hover o'er our heads, will (when they once are grasp'd but by the eye of reason) melt into fruitful showers of blessings on the people.
    • Physician, Act II, sc. i
  • What a Devil is the Plot good for, but to bring in fine things?
    • Bayes, Act III, sc. i
  • The blackest Ink of Fate, sure, was my Lot,
    And, when she writ my Name, she made a blot.
    • Pretty-man, Act III, sc. iv
  • A Lady that was drown'd at Sea, and had a wave for her Winding sheet.
    • Bayes, Act IV, sc, i
  • I drink, I huff, I strut, look big and stare;
    And all this I can do, because I dare.
    • Drawcansir, Act IV, sc. I

Commonplace book

Quotations from Buckingham's commonplace book are cited from Robert D. Hume and Harold Love (eds.) Plays, Poems, and Miscellaneous Writings Associated with George Villiers, Second Duke of Buckingham (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), vol. 2.
  • Kisses are but like sands of gold and silver, found upon the ground which are not worth much themselves but as they promise a mine near too be dig'd.
    • P. 195
  • There are few have Dana's fortune, to have God and gold togather.
    • P. 221
    • Often misquoted as "How few, like Daniel, have God and gold together".
  • A mans fame and hayre grow most after death, and are both equally uselesse.
    • P. 268


  • Make my breast
    Transparent as pure crystal, that the world,
    Jealous of me, may see the foulest thought
    My heart holds.
    • Beaumont and Fletcher Philaster, Act III, sc. ii, line 144.
    • These lines are used almost unaltered ("holds" becoming "does hold") in Act III, sc. ii of Buckingham's The Restauration, an adaptation of Philaster. They appear with an attribution to Buckingham in many 19th century collections of quotations, e.g. Henry George Bohn A Dictionary of Quotations from the English Poets (1867) p. 63, and hence also on several quotation websites.
  • Nature's chief masterpiece is writing well.

About George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham

  • He had no principles of religion, virtue, or friendship. Pleasure, frolic, or extravagant diversion, was all that he laid to heart. He was true to nothing, for he was not true to himself.
    • Gilbert Burnet History of His Own Time (London: William S. Orr, 1850)
  • A man so various, that he seemed to be
    Not one, but all mankind's epitome:
    Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong;
    Was everything by starts, and nothing long;
    But, in the course of one revolving moon,
    Was chemist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon. …
    Beggar'd by fools, whom still he found too late,
    He had his jest, but they had his estate.
  • The first gentleman of person and wit I think I ever saw.

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address