Curiosities of Literature, by Isaac Disraeli

The Minister — Duke of Buckingham, Lord Admiral, Lord General, &c. &c. &c.

“Had the Duke of Buckingham been blessed with a faithful friend, qualified with wisdom and integrity, the duke would have committed as few faults, and done as transcendent worthy actions as any man in that age in Europe.” Such was the opinion of Lord Clarendon in the prime of life, when, yet untouched by party feeling, he had no cause to plead, and no quarrel with truth.1

The portrait of Buckingham by Hume seems to me a character dove-tailed into a system, adjusted to his plan of lightening the errors of Charles the First by participating them among others. This character conceals the more favourable parts of no ordinary man: the spirit which was fitted to lead others by its own invincibility, and some qualities he possessed of a better nature. All the fascination of his character is lost in the general shade cast over it by the niggardly commendation, that he possessed ”some accomplishments of a courtier.” Some, indeed! and the most pleasing; but not all truly, for dissimulation and hypocrisy were arts unpractised by this courtier. “His sweet and attractive manner, so favoured by the graces,” has been described by Sir Henry Wotton, who knew him well; while Clarendon, another living witness, tells us that “he was the most rarely accomplished the court had ever beheld; while some that found inconvenience in his nearness, intending by some affront to discountenance him, perceived he had masked under this gentleness a terrible courage, as could safely protect all his sweetnesses.”

The very errors and infirmities of Buckingham seem to have started from qualities of a generous nature; too devoted a friend, and too undisguised an enemy, carrying his loves and his hatreds on his open forehead;2 too careless of calumny,3 too fearless of danger; he was, in a word, a man of sensation, acting from impulse; scorning, indeed, prudential views, but capable at all times of embracing grand and original ones; compared by the jealousy of faction to the Spenser of Edward the Second, and even the Sejanus of Tiberius, he was no enemy to the people; often serious in the best designs, but volatile in the midst; his great error sprung from a sanguine spirit. “He was ever,” says Wotton, “greedy of honour and hot upon the public ends, and too confident in the prosperity of beginnings.” If Buckingham was a hero, and yet neither general nor admiral; a minister, and yet no statesman; if often the creature of popular admiration, he was at length hated by the people; if long envied by his equals, and betrayed by his own creatures,4 “delighting too much in the press and affluence of dependents and suitors, who are always the burrs, and sometimes the briars of favourites,” as Wotton well describes them; if one of his great crimes in the eyes of the people was, that “his enterprises succeeded not according to their impossible expectation;” and that it was a still greater, that Buckingham had been the permanent favourite of two monarchs, who had spoilt their child of fortune; then may the future inquirer find something of his character which remains to be opened; to instruct alike the sovereigns and the people, and “be worthy to be registered among the great examples of time and fortune.”

Contrast the fate of BUCKINGHAM with that of his great rival, RICHELIEU. The one winning popularity and losing it; once in the Commons saluted as “their redeemer,” till, at length, they resolved that “Buckingham was the cause of all the evils and dangers to the king and kingdom.” Magnificent, open, and merciful; so forbearing, even in his acts of gentle oppression, that they were easily evaded; and riots and libels were infecting the country, till, in the popular clamour, Buckingham was made a political monster, and the dagger was planted in the heart of the incautious minister. The other statesman, unrelenting in his power, and grinding in his oppression, unblest with one brother-feeling, had his dungeons filled and his scaffolds raised, and died in safety and glory — a cautious tyrant!

There exists a manuscript memoir of Sir Balthazar Gerbier, who was one of those ingenious men whom Buckingham delighted to assemble about him: for this was one of his characteristics, that although the duke himself was not learned, yet he never wanted for knowledge; too early in life a practical man, he had not the leisure to become a contemplative one; he supplied this deficiency by perpetually “sifting and questioning well” the most eminent for their experience and knowledge; and Lord Bacon, and the Lord Keeper Williams, as well as such as Gerbier, were admitted into this sort of intimacy. We have a curious letter by Lord Bacon, of advice to our minister, written at his own request: and I have seen a large correspondence with that subtle politician, the Lord Keeper Williams, who afterwards attempted to supplant him, to the same purpose. Gerbier was the painter and architect, and at the same time one of the confidential agents of Buckingham; the friend of Rubens the painter, with whom he was concerned in this country to open a Spanish negotiation, and became at length the master of the ceremonies to Charles the Second, in his exile. He was an actor in many scenes. Gerbier says of himself, that “he was a minister who had the honour of public employment, and may therefore incur censure for declaring some passages of state more overtly than becomes such an one; but secrets are secrets but for a time; others may be wiser for themselves, but it is their silence which makes me write.”5

A mystery has always hung over that piece of knight-errantry, the romantic journey to Madrid, where the prime minister and the heir apparent, in disguise, confided their safety in the hands of our national enemies; which excited such popular clamour, and indeed anxiety, for the prince and the protestant cause. A new light is cast over this extraordinary transaction, by a secret which the Duke imparted to Gerbier. The project was Buckingham’s; a bright original view, but taken far out of the line of precedence. It was one of those bold inventions which no common mind could have conceived, and none but the spirit of Buckingham could have carried on with a splendour and mastery over the persons and events, which turned out, however, as unfavourable as possible.

The restoration of the imprudent Palatine, the son-in-law of James the First, to the Palatinate which that prince had lost by his own indiscretion, when he accepted the crown of Bohemia, although warned of his own incompetency, as well as of the incapacity of those princes of the empire, who might have assisted him against the power of Austria and Spain, seemed, however, to a great part of our nation necessary to the stability of the protestant interests. James the First was most bitterly run down at home for his civil pacific measures, but the truth is, by Gerbier’s account, that James could not depend on one single ally, who had all taken fright, although some of the Germans were willing enough to be subsidised at £30,000 a month from England; this James had not to give, and which he had been a fool had he given; for though this war for the protestant interests was popular in England, it was by no means general among the German Princes: the Prince Elector of Treves, and another prince, had treated Gerbier coolly; and observed, that “God in these days did not send prophets more to the protestants than to others, to fight against nations, and to second pretences which public incendiaries propose to princes, to engage them into unnecessary wars with their neighbours.” France would not go to war, and much less the Danes, the Swedes, and the Hollanders. James was calumniated for his timidity and cowardice; yet, says Gerbier, King James merited much of his people, though ill-requited, choosing rather to suffer an eclipse of his personal reputation, than to bring into such hazard the reputation and force of his kingdoms in a war of no hopes.

As a father and a king, from private and from public motives, the restoration of the Palatinate had a double tie on James, and it was always the earnest object of his negotiations. But Spain sent him an amusing and literary ambassador, who kept him in play, year after year, with merry tales and bon mots.6 These negotiations had languished through all the tedium of diplomacy; the amusing promises of the courtly Gondomar were sure, on return of the courier, to bring sudden difficulties from the subtle Olivarez. Buckingham meditated by a single blow to strike at the true secret, whether the Spanish court could be induced to hasten this important object, gained over by the proffered alliance with the English crown, from the lips of the prince himself. The whole scene dazzled with politics, chivalry, and magnificence; it was caught by the high spirit of the youthful prince, who, Clarendon tells us, “loved adventures;” and it was indeed an incident which has adorned more than one Spanish romance. The panic which seized the English, fearful of the personal safety of the prince, did not prevail with the duke, who told Gerbier that the prince ran no hazard from the Spaniard, who well knew that while his sister, the fugitive Queen of Bohemia, with a numerous issue, was residing in Holland, the protestant succession to our crown was perfectly secured: and it was with this conviction, says Gerbier, that when the Count-Duke Olivarez had been persuaded that the Prince of Wales was meditating a flight from Spain, Buckingham with his accustomed spirit told him, that “if love had made the prince steal out of his own country, yet fear would never make him run out of Spain, and that he should depart with an equipage as fitted a Prince of Wales.” This was no empty vaunt. An English fleet was then waiting in a Spanish port, and the Spanish court, inviting our prince to the grand Escurial, attended the departure of Charles, as Hume expresses it, with “elaborate pomp.”

This attempt of Buckingham, of which the origin has been so often inquired into, and so oppositely viewed, entirely failed with the Spaniard. The catholic league outweighed the protestant. At first, the Spanish court had been as much taken by surprise as the rest of the world. All parties seemed at their first interview highly gratified. “We may rule the world together,” said the Spanish to the English minister. They were, however, not made by nature, or state interests, to agree at a second interview. The Lord Keeper Williams, a wily courtier and subtle politician, who, in the absence of his patron Buckingham, evidently supplanted him in the favour of his royal master, when asked by James “whether he thought this knight-errant pilgrimage would be likely to win the Spanish lady,” answered with much political foresight, and saw the difficulty: “If my lord marquis will give honour to the Count-Duke Olivarez, and remember he is the favourite of Spain; or, if Olivarez will show honourable civility to my lord marquis, remembering he is the favourite of England, the wooing may be prosperous: but if my lord marquis should forget where he is, and not stoop to Olivarez; or, if Olivarez, forgetting what guest he hath received with the prince, bear himself like a Castilian grandee to my lord marquis, the provocation may cross your majesty’s good intentions.”7 What Olivarez once let out, “though somewhat in hot blood, that in the councils of the king the English match had never been taken into consideration, but from the time of the Prince of Wales’s arrival at Madrid,” might have been true enough. The seven years which had passed in apparent negotiation resembled the scene of a fata morgana, — an earth painted in the air, raised by the delusive arts of Gondomar and Olivarez. As they never designed to realise it, it would of course never have been brought into the councils of his Spanish majesty. Buckingham discovered, as he told Gerbier, that the Infanta, by the will of her father, Philip the Third, was designed for the emperor’s son — the catholic for the catholic, to cement the venerable system. When Buckingham and Charles had now ascertained that the Spanish cabinet could not adopt English and protestant interests, and Olivarez had convinced himself that Charles would never be a Catholic, all was broken up; and thus a treaty of marriage, which had been slowly reared during a period of seven years, when the flower seemed to take, only contained within itself the seeds of war.8

Olivarez and Richelieu were thorough-paced statesmen, in every respect the opposites of the elegant, the spirited, and the open Buckingham. The English favourite checked the haughty Castilian, the favourite of Spain, and the more than king-like cardinal, the favourite of France, with the rival spirit of his island, proud of her equality with the continent.

There is a story that the war between England and France was occasioned by the personal disrespect shown by the Cardinal-Duke Richelieu to the English Duke, in the affronting mode of addressing his letters. Gerbier says, the world are in a ridiculous mistake about this circumstance. The fact of the letters is true, since Gerbier was himself the secretary on this occasion. It terminated, however, differently than is known. Richelieu, at least as haughty as Buckingham, addressed a letter, in a moment of caprice, in which the word Monsieur was level with the first line, avoiding the usual space of honour, to mark his disrespect. Buckingham instantly turned on the cardinal his own invention. Gerbier, who had written the letter, was also its bearer. The cardinal started at the first sight, never having been addressed with such familiarity, and was silent. On the following day, however, the cardinal received Gerbier civilly, and, with many rhetorical expressions respecting the duke: “I know,” said he, “the power and greatness of a high admiral of England; the cannons of his great ships make way, and prescribe law more forcibly than the canons of the church, of which I am a member. I acknowledge the power of the favourites of great kings, and I am content to be a minister of state, and the duke’s humble servant.” This was an apology made with all the politesse of a Gaul, and by a great statesman who had recovered his senses.

If ever minister of state was threatened by the prognostics of a fatal termination to his life, it was Buckingham; but his own fearlessness disdained to interpret them. The following circumstances, collected from manuscript letters of the times, are of this nature. After the sudden and unhappy dissolution of the parliament, popular terror showed itself in all shapes; and those who did not join in the popular cry were branded with the odious nickname of the dukelings.

A short time before the assassination of Buckingham, when the king, after an obstinate resistance, had conceded his assent to the “Petition of Right,” the houses testified their satisfaction, perhaps their triumph, by their shouts of acclamation. They were propagated by the hearers on the outside, from one to the other, till they reached the city. Some confused account arrived before the occasion of these rejoicings was generally known. Suddenly the bells began to ring; bonfires were kindled; and in an instant all was a scene of public rejoicing. But ominous indeed were these rejoicings; for the greater part was occasioned by a false rumour that the duke was to be sent to the Tower. No one inquired about a news which every one wished to hear; and so sudden was the joy, that a MS. letter says, “the old scaffold on Tower-hill was pulled down and burned by certain unhappy boys, who said they would have a new one built for the duke.” This mistake so rapidly prevailed as to reach even the country, which blazed with bonfires to announce the fall of Buckingham.9 The shouts on the acquittal of the seven bishops, in 1688, did not speak in plainer language to the son’s ear, when, after the verdict was given, such prodigious acclamations of joy “seemed to set the king’s authority at defiance; it spread itself not only into the city, but even to Hounslow Heath, where the soldiers, upon the news of it, gave up a great shout, though the king was then actually at dinner in the camp.”10 To the speculators of human nature, who find its history written in their libraries, how many plain lessons seem to have been lost on the mere politician, who is only such in the heat of action!

About a month before the duke was assassinated, occurred the murder, by the populace, of the man who was called “the duke’s devil.” This was a Dr. Lambe, a man of infamous character, a dealer in magical arts, who lived by showing apparitions, or selling the favours of the devil, and whose chambers were a convenient rendezvous for the curious of both sexes. This wretched man, who openly exulted in the infamous traffic by which he lived, when he was sober, prophesied that he should fall one day by the hands from which he received his death; and it was said he was as positive about his patron’s . At the age of eighty, he was torn to pieces in the city; and the city was imprudently heavily fined £600011 for not delivering up those who, in murdering this hoary culprit, were heard to say, that they would handle his master worse, and would have minced his flesh, and have had every one a bit of him. This is one more instance of the political cannibalism of the mob. The fate of Dr. Lambe served for a ballad; and the printer and singer were laid in Newgate.12 Buckingham, it seems, for a moment contemplated his own fate in his wretched creature’s, more particularly as another omen obtruded itself on his attention; for, on the very day of Dr. Lambe’s murder, his own portrait in the council-chamber was seen to have fallen out of its frame — a circumstance as awful, in that age of omens, as the portrait that walked from its frame in the “Castle of Otranto,” but perhaps more easily accounted for. On the eventful day of Dr. Lambe’s being torn to pieces by the mob, a circumstance occurred to Buckingham, somewhat remarkable to show the spirit of the times. The king and the duke were in the Spring Gardens, looking on the bowlers; the duke put on his hat; one Wilson, a Scotchman, first kissing the duke’s hands, snatched it off, saying, “Off with your hat before the king.” Buckingham, not apt to restrain his quick feelings, kicked the Scotchman; but the king interfering, said, “Let him alone, George; he is either mad or a fool.” “No, sir,” replied the Scotchman, “I am a sober man; and if your majesty would give me leave, I will tell you that of this man which many know, and none dare speak.” This was, as a prognostic, an anticipation of the dagger of Felton!

About this time a libel was taken down from a post in Coleman-street by a constable and carried to the lord-mayor, who ordered it to be delivered to none but his majesty. Of this libel the manuscript letter contains the following particulars:—

Who rules the kingdom? The king. Who rules the king? The duke. Who rules the duke? The devil.

Let the duke look to it; for they intend shortly to use him worse than they did the doctor; and if things be not shortly reformed they will work a reformation themselves.

The only advice the offended king suggested was to set a double watch every night! A watch at a post to prevent a libel being affixed to it was no prevention of libels being written, and the fact is, libels were now bundled and sent to fairs, to be read by those who would venture to read to those who would venture to listen; both parties were often sent to prison.13 It was about this time, after the sudden dissolution of the parliament, that popular terror showed itself in various shapes, and the spirit which then broke out in libels by night was assuredly the same, which, if these political prognostics had been rightly construed by Charles, might have saved the eventual scene of blood. But neither the king nor his favourite had yet been taught to respect popular feelings. Buckingham, after all, was guilty of no heavy political crimes; but it was his misfortune to have been a prime minister, as Clarendon says, “in a busy, querulous, froward time, when the people were uneasy under pretensions of reformation, with some petulant discourses of liberty, which their great impostors scattered among them like glasses to multiply their fears.” It was an age, which was preparing for a great contest, where both parties committed great faults. The favourite did not appear odious in the eyes of the king, who knew his better dispositions more intimately than the popular party, who were crying him down. And Charles attributed to individuals, and “the great impostors,” the clamours which had been raised.

But the plurality of offices showered on Buckingham rendered him still more odious to the people:14 had he not been created lord high admiral and general, he had never risked his character amidst the opposing elements, or before impregnable forts. But something more than his own towering spirit, or the temerity of vanity, must be alleged for his assumption of those opposite military characters.15

A peace of twenty years appears to have rusted the arms of our soldiers, and their commanders were destitute of military skill. The war with Spain was clamoured for; and an expedition to Cadiz, in which the duke was reproached by the people for not taking the command, as they supposed from deficient spirit, only ended in our undisciplined soldiers under bad commanders getting drunk in the Spanish cellars, insomuch that not all had the power to run away. On this expedition, some verses were handed about, which probably are now first printed, from a manuscript letter of the times; a political pasquinade which shows the utter silliness of this “Ridiculus Mus.”


There was a crow sat on a stone,

He flew away — and there was none!

There was a man that run a race,

When he ran fast — he ran apace!

There was a maid that eat an apple,

When she eat two — she eat a couple!

There was an ape sat on a tree,

When he fell down — then down fell he!

There was a fleet that went to Spain,

When it returned — it came again!

Another expedition to Rochelle, under the Earl of Denbigh, was indeed of a more sober nature, for the earl declined to attack the enemy. The national honour, among the other grievances of the people, had been long degraded; not indeed by Buckingham himself, who personally had ever maintained, by his high spirit, an equality, if not a superiority, with France and Spain. It was to win back the public favour by a resolved and public effort, that Buckingham a second time was willing to pledge his fortune, his honour, and his life, into one daring cast, and on the dyke of Rochelle to leave his body, or to vindicate his aspersed name. The garrulous Gerbier shall tell his own story, which I transcribe from his own hand-writing, of the mighty preparations, and the duke’s perfect devotion to the cause; for among other rumours, he was calumniated as never having been faithful to his engagement with the protestants of Rochelle.

“The duke caused me to make certain works, according to the same model as those wherewith the Prince of Parma blew up, before Antwerp, the main dyke and estacado; they were so mighty strong, and of that quantity of powder, and so closely masoned in barks, that they might have blown up the half of a town. I employed therein of powder, stone-quarries, bombs, fire-balls, chains, and iron-balls, a double proportion to that used by the Duke of Parma, according to the description left thereof.”16

“The duke’s intention to succour the Rochellers was manifest, as was his care to assure them of it. He commanded me to write and to convey to them the secret advertisement thereof. The last advice I gave them from him contained these words, ‘Hold out but three weeks, and God willing I will be with you, either to overcome or to die there.’ The bearer of this received from my hands a hundred Jacobuses to carry it with speed and safety.” The duke had disbursed threescore thousand pounds of his money upon the fleet; and lost his life ere he could get aboard. Nothing but death had hindered him or frustrated his design, of which I am confident by another very remarkable passage. “The duke, a little before his departure from York House, being alone with me in his garden, and giving me his last commands for my journey towards Italy and Spain, one Mr. Wigmore, a gentleman of his, coming to us, presented to his lordship a paper, said to have come from the prophesying Lady Davers,17 foretelling that he should end his life that month; besides, he had received a letter from a very considerable hand, persuading him to let some other person be sent on that expedition to command in his place; on which occasion the duke made this expression to me: ‘Gerbier, if God please, I will go, and be the first man who shall set his foot upon the dyke before Rochel to die, or do the work, whereby the world shall see the reality of our intentions for the relief of that place.’ He had before told me the same in his closet, after he had signed certain despatches of my letters of credence to the Duke of Lorraine and Savoy, to whom I was sent to know what diversion they could make in favour of the king, in case the peace with Spain should not take. His majesty spake to me, on my going towards my residency at Bruxelles —‘Gerbier, I do command thee to have a continual care, to press the Infanta and the Spanish ministers there, for the restitution of the Palatinate; for I am obliged in conscience, in honour, and in maxim of state, to stir all the powers of the world, rather than to fail to try to the uttermost to compass this business.’”

In the week of that expedition, the king took “George” with him in his coach to view the ships at Deptford on their departure for Rochelle, when he said to the duke, “George, there are some that wish both these and thou mightest perish together; but care not for them; we will both perish together, if thou doest!”

A few days before the duke went on his last expedition, he gave a farewell masque and supper at York-house to their majesties. In the masque the duke appeared followed by Envy, with many open-mouthed dogs, which were to represent the barkings of the people, while next came Fame and Truth; and the court allegory expressed the king’s sentiment and the duke’s sanguine hope.

Thus resolutely engaged in the very cause the people had so much at heart, the blood Buckingham would have sealed it with was shed by one of the people themselves; the enterprise, designed to retrieve the national honour, long tarnished, was prevented; and the Protestant cause suffered by one who imagined himself to be, and was blest by nearly the whole nation as, a patriot! Such are the effects of the exaggerations of popular delusion.

I find the following epitaph on Buckingham in a manuscript letter of the times. Its condensed bitterness of spirit gives the popular idea of his unfortunate attempts.


If idle trav’llers ask who lieth here,

Let the duke’s tomb this for inscription bear;

Paint Cales and Rhé, make French and Spanish laugh;

Mix England’s shame — and there’s his epitaph!

Before his last fatal expedition, among the many libels which abounded, I have discovered a manuscript satire, entitled “Rhodomontados.”18 The thoughtless minister is made to exult in his power over the giddy-headed multitude. Buckingham speaks in his own person; and we have here preserved those false rumours and those aggravated feelings then floating among the people: a curious instance of those heaped up calumnies which are often so heavily laid on the head of a prime minister, no favourite with the people.

’Tis not your threats shall take me from the king! —

Nor questioning my counsels and commands,

How with the honour of the state it stands;

That I lost Rhé and with such loss of men,

As scarcely time can e’er repair again;

Shall aught affright me; or the care to see

The narrow seas from Dunkirk clear and free;

Or that you can enforce the king believe,

I from the pirates a third share receive;

Or that I correspond with foreign states

(Whether the king’s foes or confederates)

To plot the ruin of the king and state,

As erst you thought of the Palatinate;

Or that five hundred thousand pounds doth lie

In the Venice bank to help Spain’s majesty;

Or that three hundred thousand more doth rest

In Dunkirk, for the arch-duchess to contest

With England, whene’er occasion offers;

Or that by rapine I fill up my coffers;

Nor that an office in church, state, or court,

Is freely given, but they must pay me for’t.

Nor shall you ever prove I had a hand

In poisoning of the monarch of this land,

Or the like hand by poisoning to intox

Southampton, Oxford, Hamilton, Lennox.

Nor shall you ever prove by magic charms,

I wrought the king’s affection or his harms.

Nor fear I if ten Vitrys now were here,

Since I have thrice ten Ravilliacs as near.

My power shall be unbounded in each thing,

If once I use these words, “I and the king.”

Seem wise, and cease then to perturb the realm,

Or strive with him that sits and guides the helm.

I know your reading will inform you soon,

What creatures they were, that barkt against the moon.

I’ll give you better counsel as a friend:

Cobblers their latchets ought not to transcend;

Meddle with common matters, common wrongs;

To the House of Commons common things belongs.

Leave him the oar that best knows how to row,

And state to him that best the state doth know.

If I by industry, deep reach, or grace,

Am now arriv’d at this or that great place,

Must I, to please your inconsiderate rage,

Throw down mine honours? Will nought else assuage

Your furious wisdoms? True shall the verse be yet —

There’s no less wit required to keep, than get.

Though Lambe be dead, I’ll stand, and you shall see

I’ll smile at them that can but bark at me.

After Buckingham’s death, Charles the First cherished his memory as warmly as his life, advanced his friends, and designed to raise a magnificent monument to his memory;19 and if any one accused the duke, the king always imputed the fault to himself. The king said, “Let not the duke’s enemies seek to catch at any of his offices, for they will find themselves deceived.” Charles called Buckingham “his martyr!” and often said the world was much mistaken in the duke’s character; for it was commonly thought the duke ruled his majesty; but it was much the contrary, having been his most faithful and obedient servant in all things, as the king said he would make sensibly appear to the world. Indeed, after the death of Buckingham, Charles showed himself extremely active in business. Lord Dorchester wrote —“The death of Buckingham causes no changes; the king holds in his own hands the total direction, leaving the executory part to every man within the compass of his charge.”20 This is one proof, among many, that Charles the First was not the puppet-king of Buckingham, as modern historians have imagined.

1 In “The Disparity.” to accompany “The Parallel” of Sir Henry Wotton; two exquisite cabinet-pictures, preserved in the Reliquiæ Wottonianæ; and at least equal to the finest “Parallels” of Plutarch.

2 The singular openness of his character was not statesmanlike. He was one of those whose ungovernable sincerity “cannot put all their passions in their pockets.” He told the Count-Duke Olivarez, on quitting Spain, that “he would always cement the friendship between the two nations; but with regard to you, sir, in particular, you must not consider me as your friend, but must ever expect from me all possible enmity and opposition.” The cardinal was willing enough, says Hume, “to accept what was proffered, and on these terms the favourites parted.” Buckingham, desirous of accommodating the parties in the nation, once tried at the favour of the puritanic party, whose head was Dr. Preston, master of Emanuel College. The duke was his generous patron, and Dr. Preston his most servile adulator. The more zealous puritans were offended at this intimacy; and Dr. Preston, in a letter to some of his party, observed that it was true that the duke was a vile and profligate fellow, but that there was no other way to come at him but by the lowest flattery; that it was necessary for the glory of God that such instruments should be made use of; and more in this strain. Some officious hand conveyed this letter to the duke, who, when Dr. Preston came one morning as usual, asked him whether he had ever disobliged him, that he should describe him to his party in such black characters. The doctor, amazed, denied the fact; on which the duke instantly produced the letter, then turned from him, never to see him more. It is said that from this moment he abandoned the puritan party, and attached himself to Laud. This story was told by Thomas Baker to W. Wotton, as coming from one well versed in the secret history of that time. — Lansdowne MSS. 872, fo. 88.

3 A well-known tract against the Duke of Buckingham, by Dr. George Eglisham, physician to James the First, entitled “The Forerunner of Revenge,” may be found in many of our collections. Gerbier, in his manuscript memoirs, gives a curious account of this political libeller, the model of that class of desperate scribblers. “The falseness of his libels,” says Gerbier, “he hath since acknowledged, though too late. During my residence at Bruxelles, this Eglisham desired Sir William Chaloner, who then was at Liege, to bear a letter to me, which is still extant: he proposed, if the king would pardon and receive him into favour again, with some competent subsistence, that he would recant all that he had said or written to the disadvantage of any in the court of England, confessing that he had been urged thereunto by some combustious spirits, that for their malicious designs had set him on work.” Buckingham would never notice these and similar libels. Eglisham flew to Holland after he had deposited his political venom in his native country, and found a fate which every villanous factionist who offers to recant for “a competent subsistence” does not always; he was found dead, assassinated in his walks by a companion. Yet this political libel, with many like it, are still authorities. “George Duke of Buckingham,” says Oldys, “will not speedily outstrip Dr. Eglisham’s ‘Forerunner of Revenge.’”

4 The misery of prime ministers and favourites is a portion of their fate which has not always been noticed by their biographers; one must be conversant with secret history to discover the thorn in their pillow. Who could have imagined that Buckingham, possessing the entire affections of his sovereign, during his absence had reason to fear being supplanted? When his confidential secretary, Dr. Mason, slept in the same chamber with the duke, he would give way at night to those suppressed passions which his unaltered countenance concealed by day. In the absence of all other ears and eyes he would break out into the most querulous and impassioned language, declaring that “never his despatches to divers princes, nor the great business of a fleet, of an army, of a siege, of a treaty, of war and peace both on foot together, and all of them in his head at a time, did not so much break his repose as the idea that some at home under his majesty, of whom he had well deserved, were now content to forget him.” So short-lived is the gratitude observed to an absent favourite, who is most likely to fall by the creatures his own hands have made.

5 Sloane MSS. 4181.

6 Gerbier gives a curious specimen of Grondomar’s pleasant sort of impudence. When James expressed himself with great warmth on the Spaniards, under Spinola, taking the first town in the Palatinate, under the eyes of our ambassador, Gondomar, with Cervantic humour, attempted to give a new turn to the discussion, for he wished that Spinola had taken the whole Palatinate at once, for “then the generosity of my master would be shown in all its lustre, by restoring it all again to the English ambassador, who had witnessed the whole operations.” James, however, at this moment was no longer pleased with the inexhaustible humour of his old friend, and set about trying what could be done.

7 Hacket’s Life of Lord Keeper Williams, p. 115, pt. 1, fo.

8 The narrative furnished by Buckingham, and vouched by the prince to the parliament, agrees in the main with what the duke told Gerbier. It is curious to observe how the narrative seems to have perplexed Hume, who, from some preconceived system, condemns Buckingham “for the falsity of this long narrative, as calculated entirely to mislead the parliament.” He has, however, in the note [T] of this very volume, sufficiently marked the difficulties which hung about the opinion he has given in the text. The curious may find the narrative in Frankland’s Annals, p. 89, and in Rushworth’s Hist. Col. I. 119. It has many entertaining particulars.

9 Letter from J. Mead to Sir M. Stuteville, June 5, 1628. Harl. MSS. 7000.

10 Memoirs of James II. vol. ii. p. 163.

11 This was afterwards reduced to the sum of 1500 marks, and was collected by an assessment and fine. The old account-books of the City companies afford many items of the monies thus paid to the general fund. The Carpenters’ Company, for instance, have this entry in their books: “Paid in January, 1632, for an assessment imposed on our Companie, by reason of the death of Dr. Lambe . . . V. li.”

12 Rushworth has preserved a burthen of one of these songs:—

Let Charles and George do what they can,

The duke shall die like Doctor Lambe.

And on the assassination of the Duke, I find two lines in a MS. letter. —

The shepherd’s struck, the sheep are fled!

For want of Lambe the wolf is dead!

There is a scarce tract entitled “A brief Description of the notorious Life of John Lambe, otherwise called Dr. Lambe,” with a curious wood print of the mob pelting him in the street.

13 A series of these poems and songs, all remarkable for the strength of their expressions against Buckingham, were edited by F.W. Fairholt, F.S.A., for the Percy Society, and published by them in 1850. Here is a specimen from Sloane MS. No. 826.

Of British beasts the Buck is king,

His game and fame through Europe ring,

His home exalted keepes in awe

The lesser flocks; his will’s a law.

Our Charlemaine takes much delight

In this great beast so fair in sight,

With his whole heart affects the same,

And loves too well Buck-King of Game.

When he is chased, then ‘gins the sport;

When nigh his end, who’s sorry for’t?

And when he falls the hunter’s glad,

The hounds are flesh’d, and few are sadd!

14 In the notes to a previous article on Buckingham in Vol. I. will be found an account of his offices and emoluments. An epitaph made after his murder thus expresses the popular sense of his position:—

This little grave embraces

One Duke and twenty places.

15 There is a picture of Buckingham, mounted on a charger by the sea-shore, crowded with Tritons, &c. As it reflects none of the graces or beauty of the original, and seems the work of some wretched apprentice of Rubens (perhaps Gerbier himself), these contradictory accompaniments increased the suspicion that the picture could not be the duke’s: it was not recollected generally, that the favourite was both admiral and general; and that the duke was at once Neptune and Mars, ruling both sea and land.

16 This machine seems noticed in Le Mercure François, 2627, p. 803.

17 Gerbier, a foreigner, scarcely ever writes an English name correctly, while his orthography is not always intelligible. He means here Lady Davies, an extraordinary character and supposed prophetess. This Cassandra hit the time in her dark predictions, and was more persuaded than ever that she was a prophetess! See a remarkable anecdote of her in a preceding article, “Of Anagrams.”

18 The correct title is “The copie of his Grace’s most excellent Rotomontados, sent by his servant the Lord Grimes, in answer to the Lower House of Parliament, 1628.” It is preserved in the Sloane MS. No. 826 (British Museum), and begins thus:—

Avaunt you giddy-headed multitude

And do your worst of spite; I never sued

To gain your votes, though well I know your ends

To ruin me, my fortune, and my friends.

19 The duke was buried among the royal personages in Henry the Seventh’s chapel. His heart was placed in a monument erected in Portsmouth church, which, “greatly in contravention of religious decorum, usurped the place of the altar-piece,” until a few years since, when it was very properly removed to one of the side aisles.

20 Sloane MSS. 4178, letter 519.

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