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The Scapegoat: The Brilliant Brief Life of the Duke of Buckingham

By Lucy Hughes-Hallett

From the winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize, a stunning biography of one of the most flamboyant and enigmatic seventeenth-century Englishmen at the heart of political and royal life.

George Villiers, the first Duke of Buckingham, was loved by three monarchs.

King James I of England called him Steenie, after the angelic face of St Stephen, and was no stranger to his bed. James’s son, later King Charles I, equally enthralled by Buckingham’s glamour, made him his best friend and mentor. Anne of Austria, the Queen of France, confessed that ‘if an honest woman might love someone other than her husband’ then Buckingham would have been her choice.

Buckingham was a dazzling figure. On horse-back, or cutting capers, he displayed a figure whose grace bewitched even his worst enemies. A skilful player of the political game, he rapidly transformed the influence his beauty gave him into immense wealth and power. When he travelled to Paris to fetch home Charles’s bride, he wore a pearl-encrusted suit worth enough to pay and equip a sizable army. By the age of thirty-three he had been first minister to two successive kings.

But he lived in dangerous and complicated times, an era where witch hunts coexisted with Descartian rationality, and Buckingham stood at its cultural and political centre. To the House of Commons Buckingham was responsible for and representative of all the country’s wrongdoings. In a spectacular fall from grace Buckingham was assassinated in 1628 at the age of thirty-six, having greatly damaged the reputation of the monarchy.

Lucy Hughes-Hallett masterfully explores the interface between actual events in the world of politics, war and international relations, and the operations of imagination and desire. The Scapegoat is a richly compelling and deeply immersive chronicle that holds significant resonance for today.

Format: Hardback
Release Date: 10 Oct 2024
Pages: 640
ISBN: 978-0-00-812655-1
Price: £30.00 (Export Price) , £30.00, €None
Lucy Hughes-Hallett is the author of the novel Peculiar Ground. It has been shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize. Her previous book The Pike: Gabriele D\'Annunzio, Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Duff Cooper Prize, the Political Book Awards Political Biography of the Year and the Costa Biography Award. Before that, she wrote Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions which was published in 1990 to wide acclaim, and Heroes: Saviours, Traitors and Supermen, published in 2004, which garnered similar praise. Cleopatra won the Fawcett Prize and the Emily Toth Award. Lucy lives in London.

'Lord Buckingham rockets off the page of this gloriously epic, seductively detailed biography: a man of impossible contradictions, at once hubristic warmonger, tender lover and brilliant power-broker to two kings. Lucy Hughes-Hallett opens a spyhole into the dark, strange world of the Stuart kings, with its masques and superstitions, where a beautiful boy could rise to become the most powerful man in Britain' Olivia Laing -

Praise for The Pike: Gabriele d’Annunzio, Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War -

”'Hard to beat … a biographical tour de force … a rich, voluptuous treat … a triumph, the biography of the year” - Robert McCrum, Observer, 'Books of the Year’

”'[The Pike] dramatically extends biography’s formal range to encompass a daunting theme” - TLS, 'Books of the Year’

”'This is a magnificent portrait of a preposterous character … deplorable, brilliant, ludicrous, tragic but above all irresistible, as hundreds of women could testify. His biographer has done him full justice” - Francis Wheen, Daily Mail

”'A cracker of a biography, an extraordinary story of literary accomplishment, passionate war-mongering and sexual incorrigibility… In less skilled hands this could have been a disaster; in fact it works wonderfully well” - Spectator, 'Books of the Year’

”'Beautiful, strange and original … an extraordinarily intimate portrait” - New Statesman

”'Hugely enjoyable … Hughes-Hallett has a great talent for encapsulating an era or an attitude …That almost 700 pages flew by bears testimony to how pleasurable and readable those pages were” - Sunday Times