Posts Tagged ‘George Villiers’

History, Rumors and Hollywood

Posted in On This Day on August 23rd, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

James I of England loved the company of attractive younger men. He elevated one, George Villiers, to Duke of Buckingham and let him run the country. This was the same Duke of Buckingham who was rumored to be a lover of Anne of Austria, Queen of France. Think about it: one man having simultaneous affairs with the King of England and the Queen of France.

Unfortunately, Villiers’ talents were limited to the royal bed chambers. As a soldier and government minster, he was a disaster. The King’s Chief Minister lost armies and provoked international crises. He so offended Parliament by both his presumptuous demands and extravagant appearance as to turn the once compliant assembly into an unyielding foe.

When James I died, you would imagine that Buckingham’s future would have shared the grave. However, the Duke remained a platonic favorite of Charles I. Buckingham continued to misrule the realm. His arrogance, corruption and ineptitude so outraged Parliament that a protective Charles I felt obliged to dismiss the legislature. An officer and Puritan named Fenton expressed his opinion of the Duke with a knife…on this day in 1628.

Of course, novelists like to complicate matters and Hollywood takes them literally.  So, if you have read or seen “The Three Musketeers” (and if you haven’t, you obviously skipped high school)  you are convinced that France’s Cardinal Richelieu was behind the assassination of Buckingham.  According to Alexander Dumas and at least 15 films, Richelieu finds Buckingham’s policies (amatory and political) are a threat to France, and the Cardinal decides to be rid of him.  Naturellement, the French have aesthetic standards even in their assassination plots, so the Cardinal assigns  the task to the lovely but evil Milady DeWinter.  (Depending on your generation that would be either Lana Turner, Faye Dunaway or Rebecca DeMornay.)  The temptress applies her wiles to Fenton and he becomes an impuritan;  the seduced fool is manipulated into killing Buckingham.  That is a great script but implausible history.

Buckingham was a nuisance to Richelieu, leading failing invasions of France and lending inadequate support to Huguenot rebellions.  But would the wily Richelieu want to be rid of such an incompetent opponent?  On the contrary, the Cardinal would have cherished Buckingham’s ineptitude.  Pursuing his policies of strengthening the monarchy and breaking the Hapsburg’s power in Europe, Richelieu would have been grateful to the gorgeous buffoon who made Britain a joke rather than a threat.  The Cardinal would never have dispensed with Buckingham unless he could be sure of someone even worse replacing him.

Of course, Richelieu did know Henrietta Marie, the blundering battleaxe who married Charles I.