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GEORGE VILLIERS, the celebrated Duke of Buckingham, was born in 1592 at Brookesby in Leicestershire, where his ancestors had chiefly continued about the space of four hundred years, rather without obscurity than with any great lustre, having long before been seated at Kinalton in the county of Nottingham. He was the third son of Sir George Villiers, by Mary daughter of Anthony Beaumont of Cole-Orton, Esq., names on either side well known of ancient extraction. He was nurtured where he had been born, in his first rudiments, till his tenth year; and was thence sent to Billisden school in the same county, where he was taught the principles of music and other slight literature, till his thirteenth, at which time his father died. Then his beautiful and provident mother, for those attributes will not be denied her, took him home to her house at Goodby, where she had him in especial care; so that he was first, as we may say, a domestic favourite: but find-t
* Written, with few variations, by a contemporary in the stile of the times.
ing him, as it should seem, by nature a little studious and contemplative, she chose rather to endue him with the livelier qualities and ornaments of youth, dancing, fencing, and the like (not without aim then perchance, though far off, at a courtier's life) to which lessons he had such a dexterous proclivity, that his teachers were fain to restrain his forwardness, to the end that his brothers, who were under the same training, might hold pace with him. . .. ,
About the age of eighteen, he travelled into France, where he improved himself well in the language, for one that had so little grammatical foundation; but more in the exercises of that nobility, for the space of three years, and yet came home in his natural plight without affected forms, the ordinary disease of travellers. Upon his return, he passed another whole year at Goodby, under the wing and counsels of his mother; and then was forward to become a suitor at London to the daughter of Sir Roger Ashton, a Gentleman of the Bed-Chamber to King James, and Master of the Robes. About which time, he fell into intimate society with Sir John Greham, then one of the Gentlemen of his Majesty's Privy Chamber; who, I know not upon what luminaries he espied in his face, dissuaded him from marriage, and gave him rather encouragement to woo fortune in court. This advice sunk well into his fancy: for within some while the King had taken upon certain glances, whereof the first was at Apthorpe in a progress, such liking of his person, that he resolved to make him a master-piece, and to mould him as it were platonically to his own idea. Neither was his Majesty content only to be the architect of his fortune, without putting his gracious hand likewise to some part of the work itself. He even veiled his goodness to the giving of his foresaid friend, Sir John Greham, secret directions, how and by what degrees he should bring him into favour. But this was quickly discovered by him, who was then as yet in some possession of the King's heart. For there is nothing more vigilant, nothing more jealous than a favourite, especially in the wane of his influence. Many arts were, accordingly, adopted to resist the progress of this new affection. All which notwithstanding, there was conveyed to Mr. Villiers an intimation of the King's pleasure to wait, and to be sworn his servant, and shortly afterward hisCup-Bearer at large; and, the summer following, he was admitted into ordinary. After which, favours came thick upon him, liker main showers than sprinkling drops or dews; for the next St. George's Day he was knighted, and made Gentleman of the King's Bed-Chamber, and the very same day received an annual pension of 1000/. for his better support out of the Court of Wards.
At New Year's Tide following, the King appointed him Master of the Horse; and bestowed upon him the most noble Order of the Garter. In August, he was created Baron of Whaddon and Viscount Villiers: and four months afterward was made Earl of Buckingham, and sworn of his Majesty's Privy Council.
The ensuing March, he attended his Majesty into Scotland, and was likewise sworn a Councillor in that kingdom; where he carried himself with singular and most judicious sweetness of temper, being new in favour, and having succeeded one of that nation, the Earl of Somerset, in his Sovereign's graces.
About New Year's Tide again, after his return (For those beginnings of years were very propitious to him, as if kings selected remarkable days to inaugurate their favours, that they may appear acts as well of the times as of the will) he was created Marquis of Buckingham, and made Lord Admiral of England, Chief Justice in Eyre of all the parks and forests south of Trent, Master of the King's Bench Office, Head Steward of Westminster, and Constable of Windsor Castle.
These offices and dignities, however, were but the facings or fringes of his greatness; in comparison of the trust which his gracious master reposed in him, when he made him the chief attendant of his son the Prince of Wales, in a journey of much adventure, and of which all communication had been withheld from the rest of his most confidential councillors.
This journey they commenced in 1623, from the Marquis' house at New Hall in Essex, setting out with disguised beards, under the assumed names of Thomas and John Smith, and attended only by Sir Richard Greham, Master of the Horse to the Marquis and in his peculiar favour. Upon passing the river opposite Gravesend, for want of silver, they gave the ferryman a piece of two-and-thirty shillings; which so affected the poor fellow, that suspecting they were going to decide some quarrel beyond sea, he entreated the officers of the town to cause them to be arrested at Rochester, through which place however they had passed before the intelligence arrived. On the brow of the hill beyond that city, they were somewhat perplexed by espying the French embassador, with the King's coach and others attending him, which made them quit the beaten road, and * teach post hackneys to leap hedges.'
At Canterbury, whither some rumour (it should seem) had preceded them, the mayor of the town came himself to seize them, as they were taking fresh horses; bluntly alleging a warrant to stop them, first from the Council, next from Sir Lewis Lewkner Master of the Ceremonies, and lastly from Sir Henry Mainwaring, then Lieutenant of Dover Castle. At these confused fictions the Marquis had no leisure to laugh; but removing his beard, he told him, that 'he was going privately to take a secret view, as Admiral, of the forwardness of his Majesty's fleet, which was then in preparation on the narrow seas.' This, with some difficulty, procured their liberation. It was six o'clock at night, on account of bad horses and frequent impediments, before they reached Dover; where they found Sir Francis Cottington (then Secretary to the Prince, afterward Baron of Hanworth) and Mr. Endymion Porter, who had been sent before to provide a vessel for their passage to the continent. Of these gentlemen, the former was admitted on account of his official connexion with the Prince, as well as from his long residence in the court of Spain, where he had gained singular credit, even with that cautious nation, by the evenness of his carriage and behaviour; and the latter, not only as a bed-chamber servant of confidence to his Royal Highness, but likewise as a necessary instrument for his natural skill in the Spanish tongue. These five, at first, constituted the whole of the party.
The next morning, taking shipping about six o'clock, they landed at Boulogne nearly two hours