Buckingham, George Villiers, 2d duke of

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Buckingham, George Villiers, 2d duke of

George Villiers Buckingham, 2d duke of, 1628–87, English courtier; son of the 1st duke. Brought up with the royal family and educated at Cambridge, he was a strong royalist in the English civil war. In 1648 he escaped to the Continent, where he became a privy councillor of the exiled Charles II. He accompanied Charles to Scotland in 1650 and fought at Worcester (1651), but later intrigues with Oliver Cromwell's government estranged him from Charles. In 1657, Buckingham returned to England and married Mary, the daughter of the Puritan general Thomas Fairfax of Cameron. He hoped thereby to recover his estates, which had been confiscated in 1651, but instead he was imprisoned until 1659. After the Restoration (1660) he regained the favor of Charles II and was one of the most powerful courtiers of the reign. Vain and ambitious, he was known for his recklessness, quarrelsome temper, and lack of principle. He was a member of the Cabal and a bitter rival of his fellow minister, the earl of Arlington. He was furious when he was kept in ignorance of the provisions of the secret Treaty of Dover (1670) with Louis XIV. Attacked by the House of Commons for misusing public funds and conducting secret negotiations with France and by the House of Lords for his open liaison with the countess of Shrewsbury (whose husband he had killed in a duel in 1668), he was dismissed from office in 1674. He joined the enemies of the duke of York (later James II) and participated vigorously in the outcry against Roman Catholics in the furor over Titus Oates's Popish Plot (1678), although he had earlier been much in favor of religious tolerance. He did not vote for exclusion of the duke of York from succession to the throne, however, and in 1684 was restored to favor and retired from politics. Buckingham patronized science and literature, had refined tastes, wrote poetry, religious tracts, and plays, and dabbled in chemistry. He was producer and partial author of a celebrated satire on heroic drama, The Rehearsal (1671; ed. by Montague Summers, 1914).

See biographies by H. W. Chapman (1949) and J. H. Wilson (1954).

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