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Sir George Villiers' Ghost






The variations in the narratives of Sir George Villiers' appearance to
an old servant of his, or old protege, and the warning communicated by
this man to Villiers' son, the famous Duke of Buckingham, are curious
and instructive. The tale is first told in print by William Lilly,
the astrologer, in the second part of a large tract called Monarchy or
No Monarchy in England (London, 1651), twenty-three years after
Buckingham's murder. But while prior in publication, Lilly's story
was probably written after, though independent of Lord Clarendon's, in
the first book of his History of the Rebellion, begun on 18th March,
1646, that is within eighteen years of the events. Clarendon, of
course, was in a position to know what was talked of at the time.
Next, we have a letter of Mr. Douch to Glanvil, undated, but written
after the Restoration, and, finally, an original manuscript of 1652.

Douch makes the warning arrive "some few days" before the murder of
Buckingham, and says that the ghost of Sir George, "in his morning
gown," bade one Parker tell Buckingham to abandon the expedition to La
Rochelle or expect to be murdered. On the third time of appearing the
vision pulled a long knife from under his gown, as a sign of the death
awaiting Buckingham. He also communicated a "private token" to
Parker, the "percipient," Sir George's old servant. On each occasion
of the appearance, Parker was reading at midnight. Parker, _after_
the murder, told one Ceeley, who told it to a clergyman, who told
Douch, who told Glanvil.

In Lilly's version the ghost had a habit of walking in Parker's room,
and finally bade him tell Buckingham to abstain from certain company,
"or else he will come to destruction, and that suddenly". Parker,
thinking he had dreamed, did nothing; the ghost reappeared, and
communicated a secret "which he (Buckingham) knows that none in the
world ever knew but myself and he". The duke, on hearing the story
from Parker, backed by the secret, was amazed, but did not alter his
conduct. On the third time the spectre produced the knife, but at
_this_ information the duke only laughed. Six weeks later he was
stabbed. Douch makes the whole affair pass immediately before the
assassination. "And Mr. Parker died soon after," as the ghost had
foretold to him.

Finally, Clarendon makes the appearances set in six months before
Felton slew the duke. The percipient, unnamed, was in bed. The
narrative now develops new features; the token given on the ghost's
third coming obviously concerns Buckingham's mother, the Countess, the
"one person more" who knew the secret communicated. The ghost
produces no knife from under his gown; no warning of Buckingham's
death by violence is mentioned. A note in the MS. avers that
Clarendon himself had papers bearing on the subject, and that he got
his information from Sir Ralph Freeman (who introduced the unnamed
percipient to the duke), and from some of Buckingham's servants, "who
were informed of much of it before the murder of the duke". Clarendon
adds that, in general, "no man looked on relations of that sort with
less reverence and consideration" than he did. This anecdote he
selects out of "many stories scattered abroad at the time" as "upon a
better foundation of credit". The percipient was an officer in the
king's wardrobe at Windsor, "of a good reputation for honesty and
discretion," and aged about fifty. He was bred at a school in Sir
George's parish, and as a boy was kindly treated by Sir George, "whom
afterwards he never saw". On first beholding the spectre in his room,
the seer recognised Sir George's costume, then antiquated. At last
the seer went to Sir Ralph Freeman, who introduced him to the duke on
a hunting morning at Lambeth Bridge. They talked earnestly apart,
observed by Sir Ralph, Clarendon's informant. The duke seemed
abstracted all day; left the field early, sought his mother, and after
a heated conference of which the sounds reached the ante-room, went
forth in visible trouble and anger, a thing never before seen in him
after talk with his mother. She was found "overwhelmed with tears and
in the highest agony imaginable". "It is a notorious truth" that,
when told of his murder, "she seemed not in the least degree
surprised."

The following curious manuscript account of the affair is, after the
prefatory matter, the copy of a letter dated 1652. There is nothing
said of a ghostly knife, the name of the seer is not Parker, and in
its whole effect the story tallies with Clarendon's version, though
the narrator knows nothing of the scene with the Countess of
Buckingham.





Next: Cavalier Version {121}

Previous: The Daemon Of Spraiton In Devon {111} Anno 1682



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