English School , Seventeenth Century
This portrait miniature is comparable to portraits of the Duke by the likes of Mytens, Miereveld and Rubens...
Although the artist of this vibrant portrait miniature is currently unknown, it is traditionally thought to depict George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, royal favourite of James I.
There are several conflicting likenesses of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham which makes the positive identification of this sitter difficult. This portrait miniature is, however, not dissimilar to the head-types used by Daniel Mytens (c.1590-1647) and Michiel Jansz. van Miereveld (1567-1641) in their portraits of the Duke. The lace collar depicted here is also similar in style and detail to the half-length portrait of George Villiers by Rubens dating to 1625 and part of the Palatina Gallery collection in Florence. Considering these comparable likenesses, this portrait miniature can be dated to circa 1625, the year of James I’s death.
Villiers was the second son of Sir George Villiers, High Sheriff of Leicestershire, but after his father’s death in 1606 he was brought up by his mother, Mary Beaumont. Mary had no connections to courtly circles until she married her third husband Sir Thomas Compton, who secured Privy Council passes for both George and his brother John Villiers in 1609. This allowed them to travel abroad and gain the vital experience needed to be presented at court. Villiers was already sufficient at dancing, fencing and riding and this combined with his exceedingly good looks and charm made him the perfect candidate for a court favourite. The brothers travelled for three years and spent the last portion of their trip at a finishing school for young gentleman at Angers.
On his return to England, Villiers made sure that he was at Apethorpe, the Northamptonshire seat of Sir Anthony Mildmay, in August 1614, when James I came to stay. The King was renowned for being easily won over by the charms of handsome young men and although James I already had a favourite, Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, Villiers made an alarmingly good impression on the King. Carr made sure that Villiers did not become a gentleman of the King’s bedchamber but was powerless to stop James bestowing the title of cupbearer on the young man. James I was said to have been enamoured with Villiers’ conversation and inherent knowledge of public affairs and when Carr fell out of favour in April 1615, Villiers was appointed gentleman of the bedchamber and was knighted with an annual pension of £1000.
 Full-length portraits of the Duke of Buckingham by Daniel Mytens are in the National Maritime Museum, accession numbers: [BHC2583] and [BHC2582]. A half-length portrait of the Duke of Buckingham is in the Cambridge University Library collection, accession number: .