VILLIERS, Sir George (c.1544-1606), of Goadby Marwood, Leics.
Available from Cambridge University Press
Family and Education
b. c.1544, 1st s. of William Villiers of Brooksby, Leics. and Colett, da. and h. of Richard Clarke of Willoughby, Warws., wid. of Richard Beaumont of Coleorton, Leics.1 educ. Pembroke, Camb. 1565; G. Inn 1566. m. (1) Audrey (d. 1 May 1587), da. and h. of William Saunders of Harrington, Northants., 2s. 4da.; (2) c.1590, Mary (d. 19 Apr. 1632), da. of Anthony Beaumont of Glenfield, Leics., 3s. 1da.2 suc. fa. 1558, aged 14;3 kntd. 17 June 1593.4 d. 4 Jan. 1606.5
Villiers’ ancestors were holding considerable property in the East Midlands by the reign of Henry II.9 They produced a knight of the shire for Nottinghamshire in 1307, by which date they had acquired the manor of Brooksby, nine miles north-east of Leicester, which became their principal seat. A member of the family represented Leicestershire in 1352. Thereafter, as Sir Henry Wotton* wrote, the family ‘chiefly continued ... without obscurity, than with any great lustre’. However, during the sixteenth century its estates were greatly improved by enclosure and by the converting of arable land to pasture.10
In 1588 Villiers was entrusted with the command of the Leicestershire levies during the Armada campaign.11 His first wife having died in 1587, he subsequently married Mary Beaumont. Although the enemies of her second son, George Villiers, 1st duke of Buckingham, would later assert that she had originally been a kitchen-maid, Mary was, in fact, ‘a waiting gentlewoman’ to the wife of her wealthier kinsman, Sir Henry Beaumont I*, Villiers’ nephew by the half blood.12 Another kinsman, Sir William Fitzwilliam†, lord deputy of Ireland, knighted Villiers a few years after the marriage, although it is not recorded that Villiers ever did any service in that country. In 1595 the Leicester corporation, in a letter to the 3rd earl of Huntingdon, accused Villiers of retaining money that had been raised to pay for the 1588 levies. This perhaps explains why, by 1596, Villiers had been removed from the Leicestershire bench.13
Villiers was returned for Leicestershire in 1604 alongside Sir Henry Beaumont’s brother, Sir Thomas Beaumont I, perhaps with the support of Roger, 5th earl of Rutland, to whom he presented a fighting cock in March 1605.14 He made no recorded speeches but was appointed to six or seven committees in the 1604 session. In one version of the Journal he was named, on 14 Apr., to attend the conference with the Lords about the Union, although his name is omitted in the other text.15 Five days later he was among those appointed to prepare for another conference with the Lords, this time about religion, and on 4 June he was named to a committee to consider two bills against pluralism.16 He was also named to committees on bills to prevent the destruction of woodland (28 Apr.) and the depopulation of agricultural settlements (25 May), a practice of which himself was a notable exponent.17 His only other committee appointments concerned a bill to repeal of an Elizabethan private act (24 Apr.) and the bill to confirm the charter of Bridewell hospital (9 June).18 While he was in London, Villiers commenced a Chancery suit against a London merchant over a bond for £200, which Villiers claimed had already been paid off.19
It is not known whether Villiers was in the House at the time of the Gunpowder Plot, but he had returned to London by the time of his death in January 1606. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. Having left no will, administration was granted to his widow. Villiers was the father of Sir Edward Villiers*, and the great-grandfather of Sir William Villiers, 3rd bt., who sat for Leicester in two parliaments between 1698 and 1701. But the best-known member of the family is his fourth son, George, duke of Buckingham, the favourite of James I and Charles I.20
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Paula Watson
- 1. Nichols, County of Leicester, iii. 198; Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvii), 50.
- 2. Nichols, iii. 193-4, 198; R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 8.
- 3. C142/118/74.
- 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 90.
- 5. Nichols, 193.
- 6. SP12/145, f. 26; Hatfield House, ms 278.
- 7. APC, 1588, p. 221.
- 8. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 75.
- 9. Thoroton, Notts. (1790), i. 154.
- 10. OR; Lockyer, 3-5; H. Wotton, Short View of the Life and Death of George Villers, Duke of Buckingham, (1642), p. 2.
- 11. APC, 1588, p. 221,
- 12. S.R. Gardiner, ‘Facts and Fictions about the Duke of Buckingham’s Mother’, N and Q (ser. 4), vii. 469-70.
- 13. Recs. of Bor. of Leicester ed. M. Bateson, iii. 321.
- 14. HMC Rutland, iv. 455.
- 15. CJ, i. 946b.
- 16. Ibid. 184a, 232a.
- 17. Ibid. 189b, 225b; ‘Depopulation returns for Leics. in 1607’ ed. L.A. Parker, Trans. Leics. Arch. Soc. xxiii. 250, 262; VCH Leics. ii. 203.
- 18. CJ, i. 184a, 235b.
- 19. C2/Jas.I/U3/55.
- 20. A.P. Stanley, Hist. Mems. of Westminster Abbey, 213-14; PROB 6/7, f. 26.