The Career of Buckingham

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The Rise of Buckingham

Villiers and James I first met in 1614 and he subsequently became a favourite of James. Shortly after in 1615 Robert Carr fell from grace after the implication that he was involved in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, VIlliers replaced Carr as James' main man. 

In 1615, Villiers was made a Gentleman of the Bedchamber. This was a saught after position as it gave Villiers access to the King which was enviable. In 1616 he was appointed master of the Horse made a knight of the garter and became Viscount Villiers. By 1619 he had become a Marquess  after being Earl of Buckingham since 1617. 

This increase in favouritism shown towards Buckingham by James was unusual and was looked upon enviably by many. 

James referred to Buckingham as "my sweetheart" and "my only sweet and dear child".

In 1620 Buckingham married Lady Catherine Manners. He swiftly became a very rich man and build up a large business empire (for that day). He became Duke of Buckingham in 1623.

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Buckingham's influence over James I

One casualty of the rise of Buckingham was the demise in political terms of the Howard's.

In 1618 the Star Chamber spurred on by Buckingham prosecuted the Lord Treasurer, Earl of Suffolk, leader of the Howard faction for embezzlement. It ended any political influence the Howard's may have had but it also removed one of Buckingham's main rivals. 

Buckingham also used his influence over James I to get Francis Bacon appointed to be Lord Chancellor. This suited Buckingham as Bacon was a strong supporter of the royal prerogative and he was now in a position to support the King when needed. Additionally Bacon also "owed" Buckingham for his rise in the social and political order. 

Buckingham was a shrewd manipulator and knew the value of patronage - appointing his own men to positions of responsibility. This once again meant that people "owed" Buckingham. 

Buckingham also manipulated James into allowing him to go on the trip to Madrid with Charles which allowed Buckingham time to get into Charles' good books. 

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Buckingham's influence over Charles

James died on March 27th 1625 which could have left Buckingham in a void socially and politically. However Buckingham had manipulated Charles when he was a prince including when they went on the trip to Madrid. Therefore when Charles was king Buckingham moved over to be his chief minister.

Buckingham became even more powerful under Charles. He effectively ran foreign policy. He signed treaties with Denmark and Holland, whilst also being involved in the Cadiz and Mansfield expeditions. 

When parliament were angered by the failing Buckingham and threatened to impeach him Charles dissolved parliament in 1626. 

Charles in 1628 when sent a remonstrance from parliament expressing that they feared for the country if Buckingham remained in power prorogued parliament.

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Dislike towards Buckingham in James' reign

Many were envious of Buckingham especially in the early 1620s after his rapid rise to power. One of the most envious were the Howards who in 1618 he had removed from power after accusing them of embezzlment. 

Parliament however was the main area which dislike Buckingham and they intended to prevent him from becoming more powerful.

1621 - Third parliament of James impeached Lord Chancellor Bacon for accepting bribes. A man who buckingham had promoted and "owed" Buckingham for his rise to power.

1623 - Buckingham accompanied Charles on the unsuccesful trip to Madrid. 

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Buckingham Military failures 1625-8

·         Military Failures -  Mansfield; Cadiz; flip-flop support of Richelieu; La Rochelle

September 1625, English ships on loan to France were used to defeat a Huguenots force off La Rochelle. This was a military failure because the Huguenots were fellow Protestants whom the King had a moral duty to defend and Charles had made efforts to ensure the return of the ships which failed. This incident was Buckingham’s responsibility as he personally had lent the French 8 boats however he had not in return gained assurances that the French would participate further in the 30 years’ war.

6th October 1625 – Cadiz Expedition; Plan formulated by Buckingham to gain support from England against Catholic Spain. The plan was going well and the naval fleet landed at Cadiz, however Cecil allowed the men to drink wine from the ships cellars. The men were drunk and when the Spanish army arrived the 1000 sailors got shot by the Spanish and the expedition was a failure.

Mansfield Expedition January 1625; Aiming to re-occupy the palatinate in a combined Anglo-French army. The French gave nothing even though Buckingham had given them assurances that Henrietta Maria would be able to freely practice Catholicism. The expedition gained nothing though apart from death and the loss of £60,000 subsides from the crown.

·         .

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Buckingham (foreign policies & opposition to, impe

Buckingham had signed treaties with Denmark and Holland for English participation in the Danish phase of the Thirty Years War where 8,000/12,000 died on board their ships without even landing in the Netherlands.

 Buckingham took the blame for Cadiz.

1626 Parliament led by Sir Edward Coke attempted to impeach Buckingham however Charles responded by dissolving Parliament.

In 1627 Buckingham reversed his foreign policy in an attempt to gain favour with English public. In support of Huguenots he led 6,000 men to the Isle de Rhe in July 1627. In November he left after achieving nothing and with 3,000 men still alive.

In 1628 parliament once again attacked Buckingham with Sir Edward Coke calling him the “grievance of grievances”. Charles after Parliament sent him a remonstrance concerning Buckingham prorogued parliament.


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Buckingham's Death

Buckingham was murdered in August 1628 by a surviving member of the Cadiz and Il de Rhe expeditions (John Felton). Charles was mortified and deeply angered with parliament whom he blamed for Buckingham's death. 

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