**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Minister–Duke Of Buckingham, Lord Admiral, Lord General
by [?]

“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.[226]

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;[227] too careless of calumny,[228] 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,[229] “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!