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DUKE OF BUCKINGHAMSHIRE.
OHN SHEFFIELD, descended from a long series
of illustrious ancestors, was born in 1649, the son of Edmund earl of Mulgrave, who died in 1658. The young Lord was put into the hands of a tutor, with whom he was so little satisfied, that he got rid of him in a short time, and at an age not exceeding twelve years resolved to educate himself. Such a purpose, formed at such an age, and successfully prosecuted, delights, as it is strange, and instructs, as it is real.
His literary acquisitions are more wonderful, as those years in which they are commonly made were spent by him in the tumult of a military life or the gaiety of a court. When war was declared against the Dutch, he went, at seventeen, on board the ship in which Prince Rupert and the Duke of Albemarle sailed, with the command of the fleet: but by contrariety of winds they were restrained from action. His zeal for the King's service was recompensed by the command of one of the independent troops of horse, then raised to protect the coast.
Next year he received a summons to parliament, which, as he was then but eighteen years old, the Earl of Northumberland censured as at least indecent, and his objection was allowed. He had a quarrel with the Earl of Rochester, which he has perhaps too ostentatiously related, as Roches. ter's surviving sister, the Lady Sandwich, is said to have told him with very sharp reproaches.
When another Dutch war (1672) broke out, he went again a volunteer in the ship which the celebrated Lord Ossory commanded; and there mado, as he relates, two curious remarks:
“I have observed two things, which I dare affirm, though not generally believed. One was, that the wind of a cannon bullet, though fying never so near, is incapable of doing the least harm; and, indeed, were it otherwise, no man above deck would escape. The other was, that a great shot may be sometimes avoided, even as it flies, by changing one's ground a little; for, when the wind sometimes blew away the smoke, it was so clear a sun-shiny day, that we could easily perceive the bullets (that were half spent) fall into the water, and from thence bound up again among us, which gives sufficient time for making a step or two on any side: though, in so swift a motion, it is hard to judge well in what line the bullet comes, which, if mistaken, may by removing cost a man his life, instead of saving it.”
His behaviour was so favourably represented by Lord Ossory, that he was advanced to the command of the Catherine, the best second-rate ship
in the nary.
He afterwards raised a regiment of foot, and commanded it as colonel. The land-forces were sent ashore by Prince Rupert; and he lived in the camp very familiarly with Schomberg. He was then appointed colonel of the old Holland regiment, together with his own, and had the promise of a garter, which he obtained in his twenty-fifth year. He was likewise made gentleman of the bed. chamber. He afterwards went into the French service, to learn the art of war under Turenne, but stayed only a short time. Being by the Duke of Monmouth opposed in his pretensions to the first troop of horse-guards, he, in return, made Monmouth suspected by the Duke of York. He was not long after, when the unlucky Monmouth fell into disgrace, recompensed with the lieutenancy of Yorkshire and the government of Hull. Thus rapidly did he make his way both to mili.
and civil honours and employments ; yet, busy as he was, he did not neglect his studies, but at
least cultivated poetry; in which he must have been early considered as uncommonly skilful, if it be true which is reported, that, when he was yet not twenty years old, his recommendation advanced Dryden to the laurel.
The Moors having besieged Tangier, he was sent (1680) with two thousand men to its relief. A strange story is told of the danger to which he was intentionally exposed in a leaky ship, to gratify some resentful jealousy of the King, whose health he therefore would never permit at his table till he saw himself in a safer place. His voyage was prosperously performed in three weeks; and the Moors without a contest retired before him.
In this voyage he composed “The Vision;" a licentious poem; sucla as was fashionable in those times, with little power of invention or propriety of sentiment.
At his return he found the King kind, who perhaps had never been angry; and he continued a wit and a courtier as before.
At the succession of King James, to whom he was intimately known, and by whom he thought himself beloved, he naturally expected still brighter sunshine ; but all know how soon that reign began to gather clouds. His expectations were not disappointed; he was immediately admitted into the privy-council, and made lord-chamberlain. He accepted a place in the high commission, without knowledge, as he declared after the Revolution, of its illegality. Having few religious scruples, he attended the King to mass, and kneeled with the rest, but had no disposition to receive the Romish faith or to force it upon others; for when the priests, encouraged by his appearances of compli. ance, attempted to convert him, he told them, as Burnet has recorded, that he was willing to receive instruction, and that he had taken much pains to believe in God who had made the world and all men in it; but that he should not be easily persuaded that man was quits, and made God again.
A pointed sentence is bestowed by successive transmission to the last whom it will fit: this cen. sure of transubstantiation, wliatever be its value, was uttered long ago by Anne Askew, one of the first sufferers for the protestant religion, who, in the time of Henry VIII. was tortured in the Tower; concerning which there is reason to wonder that it was not known to the historian of the Reformation.
In the Revolution he acquiesced, though he did not promote it. There was once a design of associating him in the invitation of the Prince of Orange; but the Earl of Shrewsbury discouraged the attempt, by declaring that Mulgrave would never concur. This King William afterwards told him; and asked him what he would have done if the proposal had been made : “Sir," said he, “I would have discovered it to the King whom I then served.” To which King William replied, “I cannot blame you."
Finding King James irremediably excluded, he voted for the conjunctive sovereignty, upon this principle, that be thought the title of the Prince and his Consort equal, and it would please the Prince, their protector, to have a share in the sovereignty. This vote gratified King William : yet, either by the King's distrust, or his own discontent, he lived some years without employment. He looked on the King with malevolence, and if his verses or his prose may be credited, with contempt. He was, notwithstanding this aversion or indiffer. ence, made marquis of Normanby (1694), but still opposed the court on some important questions ; yet at last he was received into the cabinet council, with a pension of three thousand pounds.
At the accession of Queen Anne, whom he is said to have courted when they were both young, he was highly favoured. Before her coronation (1702) she made him lord-privy-seal, and soon after lord-lieu. tenant of the North riding of Yorkshire. He was then named commissioner for treating with the Scots about the Union; and was made next year,
first, duke of Normanby, and then of Buckingham. shire, there being suspected to be somewhere a latent claim to the title of Buckingham.
Soon after, becoming jealous of the Duke of Marlborough, he resigned the privy-seal, and joined the discontented tories in a motion, extremely offensive to the Queen, for inviting the Princess Sophia to England. The Queen courted him back with an offer no less than that of the chancellorship;
which he refused. He now retired from busi. ness, and built that house in the Park which is now the Queen's, upon ground granted by the crown.
When the ministry was changed (1710), he was made lord-chamberlain of the household, and con. curred in all transactions of that time, except that he endeavoured to protect the Catalans. After the Queen's death, he became a constant opponent of the court; and, having no public business, is supposed to have amused himself by writing his two tragedies. He died February 24, 1720-21.
He was thrice married; by his two first wives he had no children; by his third, who was the daughter of King James by the Countess of Dorchester, and the widow of the Earl of Anglesy, he had, besides other children that died early, a son, born in
1716, who died in 1735, and put an end to the line * of Sheffield. It is observable, that the Duke's three wives were all widows. The duchess died in 1742.
His character is not to be proposed as worthy of imitation. His religion he may be supposed to have learned from Hobbes; and his morality was such as naturally proceeds from loose opinions. His sentiments with respect to women he picked up in the court of Charles ; and his principles concerning property were such as a gaming-table supplies. He was censured as covetous, and has been de. fended by an instance of inattention to his affairs, as if a man might not at once be corrupted by ava. rice and idleness. He is said, however, to have had much tenderness, and to have been very ready to apologize for his violences of passion.