Portrait of George Villiers (1592-1628), Viscount Villiers (1616), Earl of Buckingham (1617), Marquess of Buckingham (1618), Duke of Buckingham (1623), Master of the Horse (1616-1628), Lord High Admiral (1619-1628), Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports (1625-1628), favourite of the Kings of England (James I and Charles I), 1625
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, 28 August 1592 – 23 August 1628), was an English courtier, statesman, and patron of the arts. He was a favourite of King James I of England. Despite a patchy political and military record, Buckingham remained at the height of royal favour for the first three years of the reign of King Charles I, when a disgruntled army officer assassinated him. George Villiers was born in Brooksby, Leicestershire, on 28 August 1592, the son of the minor gentleman Sir George Villiers (1550–1606). His mother Mary (1570–1632), daughter of Anthony Beaumont of Glenfield, Leicestershire, was left a widow early and educated him for a courtier's life, sending him to France with Sir John Eliot. Under the king's patronage Villiers advanced rapidly through the ranks of the nobility, and his court appointments grew in importance. In 1615 he was knighted as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber. In 1616, when he was made the King's Master of Horse, he was elevated to the peerage as Baron Whaddon, Viscount Villiers, and made a Knight of the Garter. The next year he was made Earl and in 1618 promoted Marquess of Buckingham, then finally in 1623 Duke of Buckingham. Villiers' new rank allowed him to dance side by side with the royal heir Charles I, with whom his friendship developed through his tutoring of the prince in dance. Villiers was appointed Lord Admiral of the Fleet in 1619, and in 1623 the former dukedom of Buckingham was recreated for him when he was negotiating abroad on the king's behalf. Since reductions in the peerage had taken place during the Tudor period, Buckingham was now the highest-ranking subject outside the royal family as the only duke in England. Until James I died in 1625, Buckingham was the king's constant companion and closest advisor, enjoying control of all royal patronage. Buckingham used his influence to prodigiously enrich his relatives and advance their social positions, which soured public opinion towards him.
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