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The Duke of Buckingham and Normanby
Portrait by Godfrey Kneller
Lord President of the Council
In office
13 June 1711 – 23 September 1714
George I
Preceded byThe Earl of Rochester
Succeeded byThe Earl of Nottingham
In office
13 June 1711 – 1721
6th Duke of Buckingham
Personal details
Born8 September 1647
Died24 February 1721 (aged 73)
Parent(s)Edmund Sheffield, 2nd Earl of Mulgrave
Elizabeth Cranfield
Occupationpoet, politician

John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Normanby, KG, PC (7 April 1648 – 24 February 1721)[1] was an English poet and Tory politician of the late Stuart period who served as Lord Privy Seal and Lord President of the Council. He was also known by his original title, Lord Mulgrave.


John Sheffield was the only son of Edmund Sheffield, 2nd Earl of Mulgrave, and succeeded his father as 3rd Earl and 5th Baron Sheffield in 1658.[2]

At the age of eighteen he joined the fleet, to serve in the Second Anglo-Dutch War; on the renewal of hostilities in 1672 he was present at the Battle of Sole Bay, and in the next year received the command of a ship. He was also made a colonel of infantry, and served for some time under Turenne. He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1674. In 1680 he was put in charge of an expedition sent to relieve the Garrison of the town of Tangier, which was then under siege by Moulay Ismail ibn Sharif. It was said that he was provided with a rotten ship in the hope that he would not return, but the reason of this abortive plot, if plot there was, is not exactly ascertained. At court he took the side of the Duke of York and helped to bring about Monmouth's disgrace.[3]

In 1682 he was dismissed from the court, apparently for putting himself forward as a suitor for the Princess Anne (who that year was aged 17 while Sheffield was 35 and himself not yet married), but on the accession of King James II, he received a seat in the Privy Council, and was made Lord Chamberlain. (He later married Catherine, the daughter of the king's mistress, Catherine Sedley). He supported James in his most unpopular measures, and stayed with him in London during the time of his flight. He also protected the Spanish ambassador from the dangerous anger of the mob. He acquiesced, however, in the "Glorious Revolution", and in 1694 was made Marquess of Normanby. In 1696 he refused in company with other Tory peers to sign an agreement to support William as their "rightful and lawful king" against Jacobite attempts, and was consequently dismissed from the privy council. On the accession of Queen Anne, of whom he was a personal favourite, he was appointed Lord Privy Seal and Lord Lieutenant of the North Riding of Yorkshire, and in 1703 was created Duke of Buckingham and Normanby.[3]

During the predominance of the Whigs between 1705 and 1710, Buckingham was deprived of his office as Lord Privy Seal, but in 1710 he was made Lord Steward, and in 1711 Lord President of the Council. After Queen Anne's death he was not reappointed. He died on 24 February 1721 at his house in St. James's Park, on the site of the present Buckingham Palace. Buckingham was succeeded by his son, Edmund (1716–1735), on whose death the titles became extinct.[3]


Buckingham was the author of An Account of the Revolution and some other essays, and of numerous poems, among them the Essay on Poetry and the Essay on Satire. It is probable that the Essay on Satire, which attacked many notable persons, "sauntering Charles" amongst others, was circulated in MS. It was often attributed at the time to Dryden, who accordingly suffered a thrashing at the hands of Rochester's bravoes for the reflections it contained upon the earl. Mulgrave was a patron of Dryden, who may possibly have revised it, but was certainly not responsible, although it is commonly printed with his works. Mulgrave adapted Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, breaking it up into two plays, Julius Caesar and Marcus Brutus. He introduced choruses between the acts, two of these being written by Alexander Pope, and an incongruous love scene between Brutus and Portia. He was a constant friend and patron of Pope, who expressed a flattering opinion of his Essay on Poetry. This, although smoothly enough written, deals chiefly with commonplaces.[3]

In 1721 Edmund Curl published a pirated edition of his works, and was brought before the bar of the House of Lords for breach of privilege accordingly. An authorized edition under the superintendence of Pope appeared in 1723, but the authorities cut out the Account of the Revolution and The Feast of the Gods on account of their alleged Jacobite tendencies. These were printed at the Hague in 1727. Pope disingenuously repudiated any knowledge of the contents. Other editions reappeared in 1723, 1726, 1729, 1740 and 1753. His Poems were included in Johnson's and other editions of the British poets.[3]


On 18 March 1685, in the chapel of Littlecote House, Ramsbury, Wiltshire, Buckingham married as his first wife Ursula Stawell, a daughter of George Stawell by his marriage to Ursula Austen. She died on 13 August 1697.[4]

He married secondly Catherine Greville, a daughter of Fulke Greville, 5th Baron Brooke, and Sarah (née Dashwood), on 12 March 1698 in St Clement Danes, Westminster. She also died young, on 7 February 1703.[5]

Buckingham married, thirdly, Lady Catherine Darnley (1680 – 13 March 1743), an illegitimate daughter of King James II and Catherine Sedley, on 16 March 1705 in St Martin-in-the-Fields, Covent Garden, London. They had three sons of whom Edmund survived, and succeeded him as 2nd Duke of Buckingham (he died unmarried on 30 October 1735, when all his titles became extinct).[5]

Around 1706, Buckingham sired an illegitimate son, Charles with Frances Stewart,[6] and, then or afterwards, wife of The Hon. Oliver Lambart, younger son of Charles Lambart, 3rd Earl of Cavan. Upon the death of his half-brother Edmund, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, Charles inherited the family estates and was the first of the Sheffield baronets.[7]


  1. ^ Carlyle 1897, p. 13.
  2. ^ Chisholm 1911, pp. 727–728.
  3. ^ a b c d e Chisholm 1911, p. 728.
  4. ^ Carlyle 1897, pp. 14–15.
  5. ^ a b Carlyle 1897, p. 15.
  6. ^ She is called in Playfair's Baronetage (1811), "S, C, Stewart, afterwards Mrs. Lambert." Her forename, however, was presumably Frances (Cokayne 1906, p. 102).
  7. ^ Cokayne 1906, p. 102.



Further reading

  • Baynes, T. S., ed. (1878), "John Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire" , Encyclopædia Britannica, vol. 4 (9th ed.), New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, pp. 419–420
  • John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar and the Tragedy of Marcus Brutus, introduction by Michael Wilding, (Shakespeare Adaptations, second series) Cornmarket Press, London, 1970

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.