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Click here to view our privacy policy. By requesting a publishing guide, you acknowledge your call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance and training purposes. Publish Now. Size: 6x9. Other Books By This Author. It came for no obvious reason from the Lord Deputy of Ireland rather than the king, making it somewhat dubious, but that would have been of little concern to the former waiting woman who, now in her early twenties, could call herself Lady Mary.

In , the ascent continued with Sir George being selected as one of Leicestershire's two Members of Parliament alongside Mary's former benefactor, Henry Beaumont also now a knight, though receiving the honour nearly a decade later than her husband. Commensurate with this rising status, Mary cultivated an atmosphere of metropolitan sophistication at the Villiers residence that must have amused her more down-to-earth neighbours.

For example, she decided to hire a personal musician, who lived with the Villiers some time in the mids, while George the younger was still in his cradle. Thomas Vautor would go on to write exquisite madrigals dedicated to his patroness and her son, songs celebrating the courtly arts of seduction and deceit. To prepare George the younger for a place on the family's upward trajectory, Mary arranged for him to be tutored by Anthony Cade, the Cambridge-educated vicar of nearby Billesdon, who advertised himself as teaching 'some nobles and many other young gentlemen of the best sort'.

All of this progress came to a shocking halt with Sir George's sudden death in He may have been a victim of the plague, struck down in the latter stages of a dreadful epidemic that had already killed tens of thousands.


The death transformed Mary from lady of the manor into a 'relict', the genteel term for a widow that cruelly captured her ruined status. Her children too were suddenly at risk. Her teenage daughter Susan was unmarried, and it would now be all the harder to find a suitable husband. None of her boys, not even George, had the education or intellect for a life in the Church, university or law; they apparently faced the alternative John Earle had so vividly described: the king's road to Tyburn's tree.

And so, in , came Shakespeare's acting company, the King's Men.

Thanks to the wealth generated by the wool its increasingly enclosed pastures produced, the city of Leicester had become a centre of culture as well as trade in the English midlands, and a regular stopping-off place for London's acting troupes as they toured the country. The King's Men were booked to appear at Leicester's Guildhall, and among their repertoire of productions was a play especially commissioned for that year's season called The Malcontent by John Marston, which had been revised in collaboration with John Webster.

Drama was now firmly established as a semi-official medium for airing public anxieties too sensitive to discuss directly, and the King's Men's version of The Malcontent touched upon the most sensitive and current matter of all: the xenophobic fear that England was being taken over by a Scottish elite of corrupt deviants. In March , Queen Elizabeth had died without heir, ending the Tudor era and throwing England into a state of anxious uncertainty about the future. Under a secret deal hatched by the government's chief minister Robert Cecil, James VI of Scotland, Elizabeth's cousin and a member of the Stuart dynasty, was proclaimed her successor.

Within weeks of Elizabeth's death, the new king had arrived in London with a large retinue of Scottish courtiers, becoming James VI of Scotland and I of England being the first monarch south of the border to bear that name.

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The change of regime produced a deep cultural as well as political shock at the very highest levels. James's entourage appeared to behave in a manner at odds with the more reserved English courtiers, particularly in their taste for flamboyant displays of public emotion and raucous feasts and entertainments — a habit apparently learned from the royal courts of France, making it all the more distasteful.

The vulgar masculinity of their behaviour was hard to reconcile with the more restrained practices and habits that had evolved over the four decades of Elizabeth's reign. A major concern was the new king's weakness for 'favourites' — male acolytes chosen for their good looks and charming manners rather than noble birth or financial wealth.

To the horror of James's English nobles, advisors and ministers, he relied on them not only for emotional and, it was suspected, sexual succour, but political and diplomatic advice. James made little effort to disguise his feelings for these men. In a narrative poem called 'A Metaphorical Invention of a Tragedy called Phoenix' was published in Edinburgh as part of an anonymous poetry collection.

It told the story of an exotic bird that landed in Scotland, attracting a great deal of admiration. Other birds became envious of the attention the phoenix was getting, and attacked it, forcing it to find refuge between the narrator's legs.

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Eventually, it took flight, and was consumed by the flames from which it had emerged. James, who was seventeen when he wrote the poem, was widely known to be the author of this strange 'Metaphorical Invention', and he did not make it difficult to identify the subject. The king had exuberantly celebrated Stuart's 'eminent ornaments of body and mind', his 'comely proportions' and 'civil behaviour', and had been seen at public events to embrace him in a 'most amorous manner'.

The play also referred to the king's weakness for 'minions' and 'ganymedes', words that carried strong associations with homoeroticism and pederasty. Since James's arrival in England, it was noted how such minions and ganymedes had been congregating in the royal bedchamber, sleeping with him, pandering to him, and, to the even greater shock of government ministers forced to wait at the door, deciding who should have access to him. The new version of The Malcontent commissioned by the King's Men in had played on these anxieties, and as such would have found a receptive audience among the burghers and gentry of Leicester, worried about the gossip reaching them from London.

The play began with a warning against taking offence at what was to follow, as the 'old freedom of the pen' must be allowed to 'write of fools, while it writes of men'. And offence duly followed. Like the best satires, what was most deplorable the play brought most luridly and vividly to life — in this case, London's courtly corruption thinly disguised by being relocated to Genoa in Italy. The first stage directions for the first act literally set the tone, by calling for the sound of 'the vilest out-of- tune music'.

The music, it turned out, was coming from the chamber of the malcontent of the title, Malvole, the deposed and exiled Duke of Genoa who has returned to his court in disguise to try to settle scores and recover his title. As the dreadful din sent winces through the auditorium, Pietro, who had usurped the dukedom, entered with his entourage, including Ferrardo, described as Pietro's 'minion'.

Ferrardo called to Malvole, provoking a tirade: 'Yaugh! God-a'-man, what dost thou there? Duke's Ganymede, Juno's jealous of thy long stockings. Shadow of a woman, what woulds't, weasel? Thou lamb o'court, what dost thou bleat for? Ah, you smooth-chinned catamite. Plenty there to shock a provincial audience: the reference to Ganymede; to Juno, the Roman name for Zeus's wife, supposedly jealous of her husband's lustful infatuation with his cupbearer; to effeminacy 'shadow of a woman' , and to prepubescent boys used by older men for sexual entertainment 'smooth-chinned catamite'.

Also, the littering of references to 'bawbees', Scottish pennies, 'Scotch barnacles' and a 'Scotch boot' made contemporary parallels all the more obvious. For an ambitious gentlewoman, though, a recent widow facing obscurity and penury, it was perhaps not these scandalous pronouncements that would stick in the mind, nor Malvole's relentless diatribes against a duplicitous and deviant elite that had usurped his position. It would have been a soliloquy given by Malvole's antagonist Mendoza, a powerful speech delivered direct to the audience describing what it was like to be a royal favourite:.

What a delicious heaven it is for a man to be in a prince's favour! O sweet god! O Pleasure! O Fortune!

O all thou best of life! To be a favourite! Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The King's Assassin , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters.

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Having read several books on the Stuarts, I thought I should read more about George Villiers whose name was familiar to me and yet his life was rather obscure. The book did not disappoint me regarding the rise and deeds of Buckingham. The title is suggestive as to the role of Villiers in James I's demise, however, the question whether he did poison the king is still open in my view, and it may remain so. The book is informative and easy to follow, and I honestly recommend it to anyone interested Having read several books on the Stuarts, I thought I should read more about George Villiers whose name was familiar to me and yet his life was rather obscure.

The book is informative and easy to follow, and I honestly recommend it to anyone interested in the period. View all 13 comments. Jul 17, Jenny rated it it was ok. James I, King of England, Ireland and Scotland died on March 27, after an intense and painful bout of gout, malaria, and arthritis. He was attended by the most important physicians of the land and his adviser, friend and lover, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.

The examination of the circumstances of the Kings death comes mid way through the book. The treatment of the King's James I, King of England, Ireland and Scotland died on March 27, after an intense and painful bout of gout, malaria, and arthritis.

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The treatment of the King's maladies was overseen by the most prominent physicians available and were standard for the time. Villiers, with assistance of his mother, offered a remedy he himself had taken the year before and led to his recovery. The King agreed and received the potion and plasters.

His health improved for a few days. A dramatic decline followed and James I died. The new King, Charles I, continued his close relationship with Villiers. Some rumors circulated that Villiers might have been responsible for James I death. There were never charges issued and Villiers continued assisting the new king.

Physicians in attendance to the king claimed to use their best techniques. These facts illustrate the weakness of the book. There was no motive for Villiers to poison the King, The King loved him, pampered him and promoted him to high honors. Neither Charles nor Villiers spoke out against the King or his rule. The assassination issue encompased about a third of the book.

If Woolley's goal was to highlight the cause of James death, he could have examined it in more detail and depth. This was more an examination of the life and times of George Villiers, than an exploration of the death of James I. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley. May 10, Roman Clodia rated it liked it. The blurb hooks us with the idea of assassination and conspiracy as if it's new - but gossip and rumours about Buckingham's possible involvement in the poisoning of James I were rife as soon as the king died.

Buckingham was even impeached before the House of Lords in , the year following James' death, though parliament was dissolved before a verdict was reached, adding to the suspicions. What Woolley brings to the party is an assertion that Buckingham did indeed poison the king with aconite, a verdict delivered by a modern doctor based on Woolley's "dossier of evidence". Unfortunately, he doesn't tell us of what this dossier consists and it's hard to imagine, almost years later, that it's anything more than documentary reports of the king's deathbed - hardly stringent or reliable.

Woolley writes vividly though the central section gets a bit bogged down in Anglo-Spanish politics but there are places where his lack of historical judgement shows through. For example, he dismisses the King James Bible as a 'pet project' of the king, rather than understanding it to be a cornerstone of Reformed Protestantism, allowing anyone to read the Bible, rather than having it only in Latin mediated by a priest. Disturbingly, there's a subliminal sense throughout that men as 'depraved' as James and Buckingham were almost bound to end up poisoned and poisoner - even if unintentional, there's a whiff of covert homophobia somewhere in the text's arguments.

But if you're simply interested in a lively biography of Buckingham and his relationship with James I, this is quite a page-turner. View all 6 comments. May 13, Christine rated it liked it Shelves: history-english , netgalley-and-arcs. The real Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers, is paradoxically more and less interesting. Despite its title, this work of popular history is more of a straight biography then a presentation of what or who could have killed James I of England.

That is part of the problem. This placement makes the title a bit misleading. As a popular biography of George Villiers, the history works. Woolley writes with energy and vigor, if at times a gossipy tone. He plays attention to the influence of the women in Villers life, but does not do the blame everything on wives and mothers route that some biographers do. Yet, the fact that you are waiting for an assassination to raise its head does occur. Three stars because of the detail about Villiers, but if you want to read a historic mystery involving James I try Bellany or Somerset.

View 1 comment. Netgalley 50 Many thanks go to Benjamin Woolley, MacMillan, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. James became King of England after Elizabeth I's death. He was partial to attractive young men. His wife, Anne of Denmark, lived apart from him after having three children. Villiers was pampered and spoiled.

The king was wrapped around his Netgalley 50 Many thanks go to Benjamin Woolley, MacMillan, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. The king was wrapped around his little finger. But the biggest question surrounding this relationship which is not even mentioned until the very end of the book is whether George had any hand in King James' death.

I realize that may be the most dramatic event to possibly occur between these two men, so that's probably why it was picked as the title, but this book is such a fitting tribute to their lives and times.

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Very detailed, it leaves nothing and no one of any significance out. I was impressed with the time it must have taken to fully research. I wonder if there perhaps have been a more fitting title? Sep 10, Leanda Lisle rated it it was ok. The method they chose was a Jacobean favourite - poison. The fifty-eight year old James had a tertian ague, but had survived such fevers many times before.

The next night James had asked what the cordial was. Embarrassed, the doctors had re-assured James that it was only his fever that had made him burn. Would he like more syrup, they asked? Buckingham not only had means and opportunity to kill his master: he also had motive. An army was already raised and paid for, but James had now sent orders for a stay of action.

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He had also arranged for the Conde de Gondomar, a former Spanish ambassador, to return to England so they could work together to preserve the peace James had signed with Spain in Prince Charles might also turn against him and so blast his prospects in the next reign. James was already old and his time was running out. It was, however, arguably, more convenient for Buckingham if James were to snuff it before the war effort was ruined. On 27 March, James died, trying and failing to speak to Charles, and with Buckingham holding his hand. MPs were looking for the means to impeach Buckingham for corruption.

The difficulty lay in finding anyone prepared to give evidence against the still powerful favourite. Then, in April, a pamphlet appeared accusing Buckingham of having murdered James with the plaster and syrup that he had supplied for the king. The contents of this pamphlet were soon repeated in the London press. Thirteen offenses were listed.