George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, (1628-1687), English statesman, son of the 1st duke, was born on the 30th of January 1628. He was brought up, together with his younger brother Francis, by King Charles I. with his own children, and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained the degree of M.A. in 1642. He fought for the king in the Civil War, and took part in the attack on Lichfield Close in April 1643. Subsequently, under the care of the earl of Northumberland, the two brothers travelled abroad and lived at Florence and Rome. When the Second Civil War broke out they joined the earl of Holland in Surrey, in July 1648. Lord Francis was killed near Kingston, and Buckingham and Holland were surprised at St Neots on the 10th, the duke succeeding in escaping to Holland. In consequence of his participation in the rebellion, his lands, which had been restored to him in 1647 on account of his youth, were now again confiscated, a considerable portion passing into the possession of Fairfax; and he refused to compound.
Charles II. conferred on him the Garter on the 19th of September 1649, and admitted him to the privy council on the 6th of April 1650. In opposition to Hyde he supported the alliance with the Scottish presbyterians, accompanied Charles to Scotland in June, and allied himself with Argyll, dissuading Charles from joining the royalist plot of October 1650, and being suspected of betraying the plan to the convenanting leaders. In May he had been appointed general of the eastern association in England, and was commissioned to raise forces abroad; and in the following year he was chosen to lead the projected movement in Lancashire and to command the Scottish royalists. He was present with Charles at the battle of Worcester on the 3rd of September 1651, and escaped safely alone to Rotterdam in October. His subsequent negotiations with Cromwell's government, and his readiness to sacrifice the interests of the church, separated him from the rest of Charles's advisers and diminished his influence; while his estrangement from the royal family was completed by his audacious courtship of the king's sister, the widowed princess of Orange, and by a money dispute with Charles. In 1657 he returned to England, and on the 15th of September married Mary, daughter of Lord Fairfax, who had fallen in love with him although the banns of her intended marriage with the earl of Chesterfield had been twice called in church.
Buckingham was soon suspected of organizing a presbyterian plot against the government, and in spite of Fairfax's interest with Cromwell an order was issued for his arrest on the 9th of October. He was confined at York House about April 1658, and having broken bounds was rearrested on the 18th of August and imprisoned in the Tower, where he remained till the 23rd of February 1659, being then liberated on his promise not to abet the enemies of the government, and on Fairfax's security of £20,000. He joined the latter in his march against Lambert in January 1660, and afterwards claimed to have gained Fairfax to the cause of the Restoration.
On the king's return Buckingham, who met him at his landing at Dover, was at first received coldly; but he was soon again in favour, was appointed a gentleman of the bedchamber, carried the orb at the coronation on the 23rd of April 1661, and was made lord-lieutenant of the West Riding of Yorkshire on the 21st of September. The same year he accompanied the princess Henrietta to Paris on her marriage with the duke of Orleans, but made love to her himself with such imprudence that he was recalled. On the 28th of April 1662 he was admitted to the privy council. His confiscated estates amounting to £26,000 a year were restored to him, and he was reputed the king's richest subject. He took part in the suppression of the projected insurrection in Yorkshire in 1663, went to sea in the first Dutch war in 1665, and was employed in taking measures to resist the Dutch or French invasion in June 1666.
He was, however, debarred from high office by Clarendon's influence. Accordingly Buckingham's intrigues were now directed to effect the chancellor's ruin. He organized parties in both houses of parliament in support of the bill of 1666 prohibiting the import of Irish cattle, partly to oppose Clarendon and partly to thwart the duke of Ormonde. Having asserted during the debates that "whoever was against the bill had either an Irish interest or an Irish understanding," he was challenged by Lord Ossory. Buckingham avoided the encounter, and Ossory was sent to the Tower. A short time afterwards, during a conference between the two houses on the 19th of December, he came to blows with the marquess of Dorchester, pulling off the latter's periwig, while Dorchester at the close of the scuffle "had much of the duke's hair in his hand." According to Clarendon no misdemeanour so flagrant had ever before offended the dignity of the House of Lords. The offending peers were both sent to the Tower, but were released after apologizing; and Buckingham vented his spite by raising a claim to the title of Lord Roos held by Dorchester's son-in-law. His opposition to the government had forfeited the king's favour, and he was now accused of treasonable intrigues, and of having cast the king's horoscope.
His arrest was ordered on the 25th of February 1667, and he was dismissed from all his offices. He avoided capture till the 27th of June, when he gave himself up and was imprisoned in the Tower. He was released, however, by July 17th, was restored to favour and to his appointments on the 15 of September, and took an active part in the prosecution of Clarendon. On the latter's fall he became the chief minister, though holding no high office except that of master of the horse, bought from the duke of Albermarle in 1668. In 1671 he was elected chancellor of Cambridge, and in 1672 high steward of Oxford university. He favoured religious toleration, and earned the praise of Richard Baxter; he supported a scheme of comprehension in 1668, and advised the declaration of indulgence in 1672. He upheld the original jurisdiction of the Lords in Skinner's case. With these exceptions Buckingham's tenure of office was chiefly marked by scandals and intrigues. His illicit connexion with the countess of Shrewsbury led to a duel with her husband at Barn Elms on the 16th of January 1668, in which Shrewsbury was fatally wounded.