chapter  6
53 Pages

1624: ‘St George on Horseback’

The return of the Prince was, in Sir Benjamin Rudyerd’s striking phrase, ‘the turn of Christendom’, for it was to lead to English commitment to the great war against the Habsburgs. This was not immediately apparent, however, and the last three months of 1623 were taken up by complicated manoeuvres in which Buckingham played a difficult and dangerous part with great skill. His own attitude was quite clear. The journey to Madrid had given him the opportunity to study at first hand the men who moulded Spanish policy, and he had been made forcibly aware of the very real dangers that the expansion of Habsburg power offered to the western world. He was now in favour of war — not a holy crusade against the catholic enemy but concerted operations by all those states which were threatened by Habsburg ambitions, with the aim of forcing Spain and the Emperor to the negotiating table. James had made the mistake of treating with an olive branch in his hand. Buckingham now realised that the best way in which to win concessions from a powerful, unscrupulous and arrogant enemy was by the sword.1