Prince Rupert of the Rhine

Prince Rupert of the Rhine

Infobox Monarch
name = Rupert
title = Count Palatine of the Rhine

spouse =
issue =Dudley Bard (1666-86) [ Rupert von der Pfalz, Duke of Cumberland] ]
Ruperta (1671)
titles = Count Palatine of the Rhine
Duke of Cumberland
Earl of Holderness
royal house =
father =Frederick V, Elector Palatine
mother =Elizabeth Stuart
date of birth =Birth date|1619|12|7|df=yes
place of birth =Prague
date of christening =
place of christening =
date of death =Death date and age|1682|11|29|1619|12|7|df=yes
place of death = Westminster, Middlesex, England
date of burial =
place of burial = Westminster Abbey, Middlesex, England
occupation =|

Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria (German: "Ruprecht Pfalzgraf bei Rhein, Herzog von Bayern"), commonly called Prince Rupert of the Rhine, (17 December 1619 – 29 November 1682), soldier, inventor and amateur artist in mezzotint, was a younger son of Frederick V, Elector Palatine and Elizabeth Stuart, and the nephew of King Charles I of England, who created him Duke of Cumberland and Earl of Holderness.

Prince Rupert had a very varied career. He was a soldier from a young age, fighting against Spain in the Netherlands and the Holy Roman Empire in Germany. Aged 23, he was appointed commander of the Royalist cavalry during the English Civil War. He surrendered after the Battle of Naseby and was banished from the British Isles. He spent some time in Royalist forces in exile, first on land then at sea. He then became a buccaneer in the Caribbean. Following the restoration, Rupert returned to England, becoming a naval commander, inventor, artist and first Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company. Prince Rupert died in England in 1682, aged 62.

Early life

Rupert was born in Prague in 1619 at the time of the Thirty Years' War. Soon after his birth, the family fled from Bohemia to the Netherlands where Rupert spent his childhood. He was almost left behind until a court member, thinking the swaddled prince was a bundle of household goods, tossed him onto a carriage. His mother, Elizabeth Stuart, sometimes known as the "Winter Queen" (due to her reign as Queen of Bohemia lasting a single winter in 1619), was a daughter of King James I of England and sister of King Charles I of England. Consequently, Rupert and his brother Maurice supported their uncle Charles when the English Civil War began in 1642.

He took to soldiering early. At the age of fourteen he fought alongside the Protestant Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange at the siege of Rheinberg in 1633, and against Spain at Breda in 1638 in the Eighty Years' War in the Netherlands.

As a child he was at times badly behaved and earned himself the nickname "Robert The Devil". His childhood was not easy; the family had little money after leaving Prague, and he was still a teenager when his elder brother and his father died. Nevertheless Rupert was an exceptional student, becoming fluent in several European languages and excelling in art and mathematics. By the time he was 18 he stood about 6 ft 4 in tall and had become a dashing young prince.

In the Thirty Years' War, aged 19, Rupert fought for the alliance of Protestants and France at the Battle of Vlotho (17 October 1638) during the invasion of Westphalia. The forces of the Imperial General Hatzfeld captured him, imprisoning him in Linz, Austria, where he studied military textbooks. He was released on parole in 1641, on the condition that he never bear arms against the Holy Roman Emperor again.

Career during the English Civil War

In 1642, aged 23, King Charles appointed him to lead the Royalist cavalry during the English Civil War, and he largely deserves the credit for their early successes. His dashing reputation earned him the nickname of the "Mad Cavalier". He took a white standard breed poodle dog, named "Boye", into battle with him on several occasions. Throughout the Civil War the soldiers of Parliament feared this dog, claiming it had supernatural powers (see familiar). This poodle was Prince Rupert's constant companion until the dog's death at the Battle of Marston Moor (2 July 1644).

Rupert became General of the Horse, and his reputation prospered after routing a Parliamentarian force at Powick Bridge (23 September 1642); however he overextended himself at the Battle of Edgehill (23 October 1642) and left the Royalist forces unsupported by cavalry at a critical time, which perhaps cost them the victory.

After Edgehill Rupert asked Charles for a swift cavalry attack on London before the Earl of Essex's army could return. The King's senior counselors, however, urged him to advance slowly on the capital with the whole army. By the time they arrived, the city had organized defenses against them and the Royalists had perhaps lost their best chance of winning the war.

Rupert continued to impress militarily. In 1643 he captured Bristol and in 1644 led the relief of Newark, and York and its castle. He commanded much of the royalist army at its defeat at Marston Moor. In November 1644 Rupert gained appointment as General of the Royalist army, which increased already marked tensions between him and a number of the king's counselors. In May 1645 Rupert captured Leicester but a reversal at the Battle of Naseby a month later would prove politically damaging.

After Naseby, Rupert regarded the Royalist cause as lost, and urged Charles to conclude a peace with Parliament. Charles, ever the political "ingenue", still believed he could win the war. Faced with an impossible situation, Rupert surrendered Bristol in September 1645; in response, Charles dismissed him from his service. After demanding a court-martial, which acquitted him, Rupert played no further part in the Royalist army command. After the siege of Oxford in 1646, Parliament banished both him and his brother from England.

After the Civil War

For some time after this Rupert commanded the troops formed of English exiles in the French army, and received a wound at Marshal de Gassion's siege of La Bassée in 1647. Then, following a degree of reconciliation with Charles, he obtained command of a Royalist fleet. A long and unprofitable naval campaign followed, which extended from Kinsale to Lisbon and from Toulon to Cape Verde. However, following a naval defeat by Admiral Robert Blake, Rupert took refuge in the West Indies. There he followed the life of a buccaneer, preying on English shipping. It was during this time period that his beloved brother Maurice, who captained one of the ships in Rupert's small flotilla, was killed. But the prince again quarreled with the Royalist advisers, and spent six obscure years (1654 to 1660) in Germany and the Netherlands, vainly attempting (as also before and afterwards) to obtain his rightful apanage as a younger son from his brother Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine.

Career following the Restoration

Following the Restoration of the monarchy under Charles II, Rupert returned to the service of England, accepting an annuity and becoming a member of the privy council. He never again fought on land, but, turning admiral like Blake and Monk, he played a brilliant part in the Second Anglo-Dutch War as actual supreme commander of the British fleet from June 1666, gaining a victory in the St James's Day Battle. His efforts in the Third Anglo-Dutch War met with humiliating failure at the Battles of Schooneveld and the Battle of Texel.

At some point Rupert, a talented amateur artist, had learned of the printmaking process of mezzotint invented in 1642 by Ludwig von Siegen, a German Lieutenant-Colonel who was also an amateur artist. Whether the two ever met is a subject of scholarly controversy, but Siegen had worked as chamberlain, and probably part-tutor, to Rupert's young cousin William VI, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel), with whom Rupert discussed the technique in letters from 1654.

Rupert produced a few stylish prints in the technique, mostly copies of paintings, and introduced it to England after the Restoration. John Evelyn wrongly credited him as its inventor in 1662; apparently though Rupert invented, or perfected, the "rocker", a key tool in the process. It was Wallerant Vaillant, Rupert's artistic assistant or tutor, who first popularized the process and exploited it commercially.

In 1670, Rupert became the first Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, after having sponsored an expedition of Radisson and des Groseilliers into Hudson Bay. Rupert's HBC secretary was Sir James Hayes (Radisson named the Hayes River, Manitoba in his honour). The HBC was granted a trading monopoly in the whole Hudson Bay watershed area, an immense territory named Rupert's Land. In 1869, control of this territory reverted to the British and Canadian governments. [cite web | last = | first = | title = Hudson's Bay Company - Exploring Westward - 18th Century | work = Pathfinders and passageways : The exploration of Canada | publisher = Library and Archives Canada | date = 2001-12-07 | url = | access date = 2007-05-01 ] After his retirement from the active military in around 1674, he engaged in scientific research. He is usually credited with the invention of a form of gunpowder and an alloy named "Prince's metal" in his honour. He is also credited with the invention of Prince Rupert's Drops, glass teardrops which explode when the tail is cracked. He also erected a water-mill on Hackney Marshes for a revolutionary method of boring guns, however his secret died with him, and the enterprise failed [Granger's Biographical History, vol. ii. p. 407. 4to. edit. Dugdale's Baronage, vol. i. p. 559] .

In retirement, he continued to hold important governmental posts; from 1673, when he was 54, to 1679, he served as England's Lord High Admiral.

Prince Rupert died at his house in Spring Gardens, Westminster, on 19 November 1682, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Prince Rupert, British Columbia and the Rupert River in Quebec are named after him.


He did not marry but had two illegitimate children. His mistress Frances Bard (1646-1708) bore him a son, Dudley Bard (d. 13 July 1686), who died at the Siege of Budapest while in his late teens. In the 1670s Rupert lived with a Drury Lane actress named Peg Hughes and had a daughter by her, named Ruperta (b. 1671). Ruperta married Emanuel Scrope Howe, (1663-1709), {brother of 1st Viscount Howe (1648-1713) of the Earl Howe lineage} and had five children, Sophia, William, Emanuel, James and Henrietta.


In fiction

Prince Rupert is the protagonist of Poul Anderson's alternate history/fantasy book "A Midsummer Tempest", where the Prince, with the help of various Shakespearean characters who are actual persons in this timeline, eventually defeats Cromwell and wins the English Civil War.



* Ashley, Maurice. "Rupert of the Rhine". London: H. Davis, MacGibbon, 1976.

* Fergusson, Bernard. "Rupert of the Rhine". London: Collins, 1952.

* Irwin, Margaret. "The Stranger Prince: The Story of Rupert of the Rhine". New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1937.

* Kitson, Frank. "Prince Rupert: Portrait of a Soldier". London: Constable, 1994. ISBN 0094737002.

* Morrah, Patrick. "Prince Rupert of the Rhine". London: Constable, 1976.

* Petrie, Charles. "King Charles, Prince Rupert, and the Civil War: From Original Letters". London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974.

* Spencer, Charles. "Prince Rupert, The Last Cavalier". Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007. ISBN 978-0-297-84610-9

* Thomson, George Malcolm. "Warrior Prince: Prince Rupert of the Rhine". London: Secker & Warburg, 1976.

* Warburton, Eliot. "Memoirs of Prince Rupert, and the Cavaliers". London: R. Bentley, 1849; [ vol. 1] , [ vol. 2] , [ vol. 3] .

* Wilkinson, Clennell. "Prince Rupert, the Cavalier". Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1935.

ee also

*Prince Rupert's Drop - teardrop shaped glass drops which shatter into powder if the tail end is tweaked.
*Prince's metal - a brass alloy of 75% copper and 25% zinc used as a gold imitation
*Ludwig von Siegen - Soldier & Inventor of Mezzotint

External links

* [ Prince Rupert of the Rhine biography]

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