The rise of George Villiers seemed to defy gravity: becoming gentleman of the royal bedchamber
in 1615 the young gallant enraptured James, Britains first Stuart king, to such intensity that
the king declared he wanted the courtier to become his wife. For a decade Villiers was at the kings side at court, on state occasions and in bed, right up to Jamess death in March 1625.
Almost immediately, Villiers enemies accused him of poisoning the king. A parliamentary investigation was launched and scurrilous pamphlets and ballads circulated Londons streets. But the charges came to nothing, and were relegated to a historical footnote.
Now, new historical scholarship suggests that a deadly combination of hubris and vulnerability did indeed drive Villiers to kill the man who made him. It may have been by accident, but there is compelling evidence that Villiers, overcome by ambition and frustrated by Jamess passive approach to government, poisoned him.
This afternoon acclaimed author Benjamin Woolley examines this remarkable, even tragic story, recounting King Jamess death and the captivating figure at its centre.