The rise of George Villiers seemed to defy gravity: becoming gentleman of the royal bedchamber
in 1615 the young gallant enraptured James, Britain’s 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 king’s side - at court, on state occasions and in bed, right up to James’s 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 London’s 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 James’s passive approach to government, poisoned him.
This afternoon acclaimed author Benjamin Woolley examines this remarkable, even tragic story, recounting King James’s death and the captivating figure at its centre.