In late 1614 and early 1615 it was clear to most observers that Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, the favourite of James since 1612, would henceforth no longer enjoy the favours of the King. A victim of the intense factional rivalry that was a feature of all early modern Courts, he was replaced by a young man of twenty-two years whom one contemporary described as having ‘delicate and handsome features [and whose] hands and face seemed to me especially effeminate and curious’ and whom James came to refer to as his ‘Sweet Steenie gossip’ and ‘Sweet child and wife’. 1 Yet George Villiers proved to be far more than either a plaything of King James or a conduit of a Court faction. By about 1619 he had emerged as what was effectively first minister. Showered with honours, he was ultimately created Duke of Buckingham in 1623 – the first duke for nearly a century to have no trace of royal blood in his veins. It was at this time that Buckingham ingratiated himself with Prince Charles, not least by accompanying the heir to the throne on an expedition to Spain in a failed attempt to win the hand of a Catholic Spanish princess, the Infanta.