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Dukes of Great Britain

George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham,

the unworthy favourite of James I. and Charles I., was a native of Leicestershire, and was born in 1592. After completing his education in France he was introduced at the court of James I., who took a liking to him immediately. He was knighted, pensioned, made K.G., viscount, earl, and marquis, and was rapidly raised to the highest offices in the state, became the dispenser of all favours and honours, and conducted himself with so much pride and insolence as to excite popular hatred and disgust. In 1623, he accompanied Prince Charles on his romantic journey to Spain, undertaken for the purpose of courting the Infanta. It was Buckingham's influence which led to the war with Spain, and for the failure of the expedition to Cadiz, he was impeached. He continued to be the favourite minister of Charles I., and the ready instrument of his tyranny. Selfish and revengeful, his intrigues brought on the war with France. Being intrusted with the command of an army, he lost the flower of it in an ill-conducted attack on the Isle of Rhé, and returned to refit his shattered armament. When he was again about to sail, he was assassinated at Portsmouth, by a lieutenant of the name of Felton, August 23, 1628.

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George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham,

son of the preceding, was born in 1627; studied at Cambridge; served the king in the civil wars; was present at the battle of Worcester; had his estates seized by the parliament which, however, were afterwards restored to him; married the daughter of Fairfax, and was imprisoned by Cromwell; and he eventually became minister to Charles II., and was one of his most profligate courtiers. His political conduct was, like his general behaviour, characterized by unprincipled levity and imprudence; and though his literary and conversational powers were far above mediocrity, yet he was an object of deserved contempt, and died unregretted, at Kirby Moorside, Yorkshire, in 1688.

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John, Duke of Bedford,

regent of France, was third son of Henry IV. and his first wife, Mary de Bohun, and was born in 1390. He was knighted on his father's coronation, named constable of England in 1403, created duke of Bedford in 1415, and was sent to succour Harfleur the following year. Henry V. desired that Bedford should be regent of France, and the duke of Gloucester regent of England, during the minority of his son; but by act of parliament Bedford was appointed protector of the kingdom, and Gloucester his substitute in case of absence. In 1422 Charles VI. of France died, and long years of war followed between the rival claimants of the kingdom, Charles VII. and Henry VI. Bedford secured the alliance of the dukes of Burgundy and Brittany, and had a long series of military successes. The tide turned at the siege of Orleans, which was raised by Joan of Arc. The duke of Brittany had previously abandoned the English; the duke of Burgundy did the same in 1435; and the death of Bedford, hastened by disappointment, followed immediately. Died at Rouen, Sept. 1435.

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Charles the Bold,

or the rash, last duke of Burgundy, was son of Philip the Good and Isabella of Portugal. He was born at Dijon, in 1433, bore at first the title of Count of Charolais, under which he distinguished himself on several occasions and especially at the battle of Montlhéri in 1465. He succeeded his father in 1467, and was immediately at war with the people of Liége, whom he subdued and treated with savage cruelty. In the next year he received an immense bribe from Louis XI. not to invade France, and soon after had a memorable interview with him at Peronne. A fresh rising took place in Liége during the conference, at the instigation of Louis, whom Charles, disposed to the most violent course, shut up for several days, and then compelled to accompany and aid him in suppressing the insurrection. Liége was taken and sacked, not even the churches being spared.

In 1470 Charles received Edward IV. of England, whose sister, Margaret of York, he had married two years before, and aided him with money and ships to return to England. The same year he renewed the war with Louis XI. In 1473 he went to meet the Emperor Frederick III. at Treves, hoping to get from him the titles of king and vicar-general of the empire, but the terms could not be settled. He afterwards allied himself with Edward IV. against the King of France, but more pressing affairs prevented his fulfilment of the bargain. He conquered Lorraine and took Nancy in 1475, and then marched against the Swiss, who won two memorable victories over him at Granson and Morat. Chagrin and hopeless melancholy seized and, for a time, paralysed him. He was roused by the tidings of the loss of Nancy, and set out to retake it. During the siege one of his officers deserted with his troops to the enemy, and in the battle which was fought on the following day, January 5, 1477, Charles was defeated and killed. His body was found two days after in a ditch, and was only recognisable by the long beard and nails, never cut after the defeat at Morat.

His remains, at first buried at Nancy, were removed by Charles V. to Bruges. Frederick II., Emperor of the West, son of Henry VI. and Constance of Sicily, was born in December 1194, elected King of the Romans in 1196, again after his father's death, and a third time, on the excommunication of Otto IV., in 1211. He was already King of Sicily, under the regency of his mother, till her death, and then of Innocent III.; and also Duke of Suabia. He made a league with Philip Augustus, King of France, and after the defeat of Otto by the latter at the battle of Bouvines, was crowned at Aix-la- Chapelle (now Aachen -1996) in 1215. Five years still elapsed before he received the imperial crown at Rome; on which occasion he had to renew a vow previously extorted from him to take the cross.

In 1225 he married Yolande, daughter of John of Brienne, King of Jerusalem, and two years later, after several delays, he embarked for the Holy Land. Illness compelled him in a few days to land again, and for this he was excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX., the first of ten 'thunders of the Vatican' against him. He set out again in 1228, and the Pope exciting opposition to him, and invading hereditary states, he at once concluded a truce with Kameel, the Sultan of Egypt, by which he became master of Jerusalem. He entered the city, crowned himself; no priest daring to do it, and returned to Europe. He recovered his states, made peace with the Pope, and suppressed the revolt of his son Henry, who was then imprisoned for life. In 1235 Frederick married the Princess Isabella, daughter of King John of England. Soon after, he began the war with the cities of Lombardy, having for his ally Eccelino, tyrant of Verona. After his victory of Cortenuova, most of the cities submitted to him, and he approached Rome, but did not attack it. He took Ravenna, Faenza, and Benevento; and in 1241 his fleet, commanded by Enzio, his natural son, whom he had made King of Sardinia, defeated that of the Genoese, and captured the cardinals and bishops who were on their way to a Council against him. Frederick promoted the election of Innocent IV., who had been his friend, and made a treaty with him; but he soon found in Innocent a most determined enemy.

New anathema and sentence of deposition, and release of his subjects from their allegiance to him, was published in 1245. The mediation of St. Louis utterly failed to bend the Pope to reconciliation. Rival Emperors were set up, the war in Italy continued, Parma was lost in 1248, Enzio was defeated and made prisoner in the following year, and Frederick himself died at Fiorenzuola, in December 1250. Frederick II. was the greatest sovereign, probably the greatest man, of the 13th century. Of noble person, intellectual physiognomy, master of the best knowledge of his age, brave, energetic, and generous-hearted, he maintained undaunted the tremendous contest of Ghibelline with Guelf; aiming to reduce the papacy to a spiritual rule, and the Pope to the ecclesiastical dignity of first of bishops. Notwithstanding the arduous struggle in which he was engaged throughout his reign, he zealously promoted learning, science, and art; founded the universities of Vienna and Naples, had the works of Aristotle translated into Latin, and was the patron of several great artists. His character is of course painted in very different colours by writers of the Guelf and the Ghibelline parties.

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The above information was gleaned from various sources and then put together by Colin Hinson ©1996.

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