Tuesday, 23 February 2016

A Stuart Prince - Rupert of the Rhine II

Siege of Breda
Fortune’s Son

During Charles Louis and Rupert’s visit to England their uncle sponsored a fundraising drive to equip an army to assist Charles Louis to regain his Electorate. Both Charles and Lord Craven pledged £10,000[i].

On their return home the two boys were to see action at the siege of Breda; one night Charles Louis and Rupert slipped up to the city walls and overheard talk of a surprise attack on the besiegers. When the Spanish launched their attack they were met by ordered ranks of musketeers. On another occasion when the Dutch army was attacking the fort Rupert, despite orders to the contrary, was one of the first to breach the walls. The successful assault returned Breda back to Dutch control[ii] .

General von Konigsmark
While his younger brother Maurice was sent to finish his education in France, Rupert, now 17, joined Charles Louis in Westphalia. Charles Louis had gathered together around 4,000 men, including Swedish and English contingents, insufficient for the task in hand. Rupert was in charge of one of the three Palatine cavalry regiments.

Rupert’s men were involved in a skirmish near Rheine, being attacked by a force twice the size. Rupert ordered a charge and the enemy were routed;

‘[The charge] was so exemplary to all about him, that notwithstanding their odds of number, they beat them into their garrison, and followed them so close that they wanted very little of entering the town with the enemy.’[iii]

But the position of Charles Louis’s army was now known to an Imperial force under General Hartzfeldt who forced a battle at Vlotho on 17th October 1638. Rupert was taken prisoner as the bulk of Charles Louis’s troops fled with their general von Königsmark.

Prisoner of War

En route to captivity Rupert made an unsuccessful attempt to escape but he did manage to get word to his uncle Charles that he was a prisoner. Rupert was held in the castle at Linz where Jesuit priests attempted to convert Rupert to Catholicism, holding out the possibility of a military career with the Imperial army and a principality of his own. Rupert’s gaoler was Count von Kuffstein, a military veteran and himself a convert. The castle had a garrison of 1,200 men deputed to guard this vip prisoner.

Henry Howard, Earl of Arundel
Rupert spent his time on studying art and science, adapting an instrument devised by Dürer to assist in drawing perspectives. Occasionally Rupert joined Kuffstein for dinner and at some point during his confinement met the count’s daughter Susanne Marie; the two fell in love, Rupert later recalling her as;

‘One of the brightest beauties of her age, no less excelling in the charms of her mind than of her fair body.’[iv]

Rupert received a visit from the emperor’s brother Archduke Leopold who recommended that Rupert’s confinement be relaxed. Rupert was allowed to play tennis and shoot. The English ambassador at Vienna, Henry Howard the Earl of Arundel, sent Rupert a white poodle Rupert named Boy. He also made a pet of a young hare that followed him everywhere. Eventually Rupert was allowed out of the castle grounds to hunt. Further visits from Leopold resulted in the two becoming friends.

Return to England

Charles sent Sir Thomas Roe, a devotee of his sister’s, to plead for Rupert’s freedom. Charles increased the pressure to release his nephew who was wanted to fight in the conflict now looming in England. Ferdinand’s wife Maria Anna pleaded Rupert’s case. Rupert was eventually released in the autumn of 1641 after promising never to fight against the emperor again.

Gustavus Adolphus with his sister Elizabeth 
Rupert took the long way back to England via Vienna where he visited the imperial court; Rupert met Ferdinand who played tennis and hunted with his guest. Rupert then visited Dresden to meet the Elector John George of Saxony, then on to Cologne before arriving at his birthplace in Prague.

Rupert arrived in the Hague, joining his family not long before his youngest brother Gustavus Adolphus died on 9th January 1642 close to his ninth birthday. His sister Sophie[v] later recalled that at the autopsy that;

‘On opening him stones were found in his bladder, one of which was the size of a pigeon’s egg surrounded by four others that were pointed, and one in his kidneys in the shape of a large tooth.’[vi]

Gustavus had been in pain for most of his life. Rupert stayed in the Hague with his family for two months; he spent his time assisting his sister Elizabeth[vii] with her scientific experiments and supporting his mother through her grief.

The Winds of War

Princess Mary and Prince William
While Rupert was in Prague Charles Louis accompanied Uncle Charles to the House of Commons where he had attempted to arrest five of his most prominent critics. The abortive arrest had been the brainchild of Lord Digby[viii], one of Charles’ courtiers. Charles had already fostered much resentment among his subjects and now the pot was about to boil over.

Rupert sailed to England in February, meeting Uncle Charles at Dover. Charles was bidding au revoir to Henrietta Maria who was accompanying their daughter Mary[ix] to marry William, the second son of the Prince of Orange. The queen was planning to hock the crown jewels to raise money for the upcoming fight with parliament and purchase arms; Charles had already sold the silver plate from Windsor Castle.

Charles was pleased to see Rupert but explained that the presence of an experienced military man like his nephew increased the likelihood of war and asked Rupert to return to Holland. Rupert did as he was asked and accompanied his aunt and cousin back home where he assisted Henrietta Maria with her military shopping list.

But Rupert’s services were called upon in August when Henrietta Maria asked him to return to be Charles’ general of horse. Rupert accepted with alacrity, arriving with his brother Maurice at Tynemouth on a Dutch warship.

‘The seas contributed to the designes of the prince, yet his mind went faster than his vessel. And the Zeale hee had speedily to serve the King, made him think dilligence was lazy.’[x]

Maurice and Rupert made haste to Nottingham. Rupert was present when Charles raised his standard on 22nd August 1642, signifying his declaration of war upon parliament. He also made Rupert a Knight of the Garter.

A Coveted Role

Robert Bertie, Earl of Lindsey
Rupert had extracted a promise from his uncle that Rupert would receive his orders as general of the horse from Charles direct, bypassing the aged Robert Bertie[xi], Earl of Lindsey who was general-in-chief and Patrick Ruthven, Lord Forth, also in his seventies, who was Marshal of the Field.

Neither of these two elderly gentlemen can have been impressed by the self-confident twenty-two year old accompanied by his younger brother as well as his own military engineer Bernard de Gomme among other military advisers including the ‘fireworker’ Bartholomew la Roche and Daniel O’Neill.

Rupert took over command of the cavalry, a much coveted post, from Lord Wilmot who became Rupert’s second in command. His lack of experience gave rise to resentment from career soldiers lacking Rupert’s family connections. Rupert needed to mould his uncle’s ragbag collection of mounted soldiers into a disciplined force.

Rupert now began fundraising; he wrote to wrote to the mayor of Leicester demanding £2,000[xii];

‘I shall tomorrow appear before your town, in such a posture, with horse, foot and cannon, to make you know it is more safe than to resist His Majesty’s command.’[xiii]

Wounded sensibilities had to be smoothed over and the king had to write to the City of Leicester apologising for his nephew’s misstep. Rupert’s gaffe played into the hands of the Parliamentarians who condemned Rupert and his family for being ungrateful for the assistance rendered them by England’s Protestants. The Parliamentarian propagandists presented Rupert to the public as the epitome of an immoral soldier. And it was now that the term cavalier became used to demonise the royalist forces.


Prince Rupert of the Rhine – Maurice Ashley, Purnell Book Services Ltd 1976

The English Civil War – Robert Ashton, Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1989

The Memoirs of Elizabeth Stuart Vol 1-2 – Elizabeth Benger, General Books LLC 2012

Charles the First – John Bowles, Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1975

Charles I – Christopher Hibbert, Penguin Books 2001

The Civil Wars of England – John Kenyon, George Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1989

Prince Rupert of the Rhine – Patrick Morrah, Constable & Company 1976

The English Civil War – Diane Purkiss, Harper Perennial 2007

Prince Rupert – Charles Spencer, Phoenix Paperback 2008

The Thirty Years War – CV Wedgewood, Folio Society 1999

[i] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £1,449,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £50,470,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £300,800,000.00 www.measuringworth.com
[ii] Originally taken by Spinola in 1625
[iii] Prince Rupert of the Rhine - Morrah
[iv] Prince Rupert - Spencer
[vi] Prince Rupert - Spencer
[vii] Later known for her correspondence with Descartes
[viii] To become an inveterate enemy of Rupert’s
[ix] Mother of William III
[x] Prince Rupert of the Rhine - Morrah
[xi] A godson of Elizabeth I
[xii] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £302,800.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £10,540,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £62,880,000.00 www.measuringworth.com
[xiii] Rupert of the Rhine - Ashley

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

A Stuart Prince - Rupert of the Rhine

Frederick of Bohemia, Elector Palatine
Birth of a Prince

Prince Rupert was the third son of Elizabeth of Bohemia and her husband Frederick the Elector Palantine and King of Bohemia at the time of his son’s birth. Rupert was born in Prague on 17th December 1619 and was placed in an ebony cradle inlaid with gold and precious stones, a gift from the burghers of Prague along with swaddling clothes of cambric . His mother had arrived in Prague in November after an arduous journey while heavily pregnant.

Rupert’s mother was one of two surviving children of one of Protestant Europe’s most important monarchs, James I, king of Scotland and of England. When the news of the birth reached his grandfather in England James;

‘Joyfully asked for a large beaker of wine and drank to the health of the new born prince in Bohemia.’[i]

Bethlen Gabor
Rupert was christened on 31st March 1620, probably in what is now known as the Church of our Lady Victorious. His godfather was Bethlen Gabor, Prince of Transylvania.

Rupert lived through an era of turbulence that commenced in 1618 with the start of the Thirty Years’ War. Frederick, as one of the Protestant Electors of the Holy Roman Empire, saw himself as head of the Protestant Union, a grouping of the German Protestant states. Frederick was invited by rebels to take the crown of Protestant Bohemia to keep it out the hands of the Roman Catholic emperor Ferdinand II’s choice of monarch.

Flight into Exile

Battle of White Mountain
On 8th November 1620 the Battle of White Mountain[ii] signalled the end of Frederick’s tenuous hold on Bohemia when the royal forces led by Christian of Anhalt, Frederick’s general and chief adviser, fell before the might of the imperial armies. The Impreial forces were led by Frederick’s Catholic cousin Maximilian of Bavaria, and Anhalt was taken prisoner.

The royal family beat a hasty retreat from Prague[iii]; Elizabeth was placed in a private carriage by Bernard, the son of Count Thurn. Rupert nearly got left behind in the desperate scramble. The baby was left on a sofa and the screaming child, who had rolled onto the floor, was discovered by Christopher, Baron Dhona.

Dhona picked Rupert up and threw the baby into one of the carriages where he fell in the boot. Once again it was only the baby’s lusty yelling that drew attention to his predicament. The journey to Breslau[iv] was complicated by a heavy fall of snow.

George William Elector of Brandenburg
On the 14th December the family arrived at Custrin, part of the domains of George William, Elector of Brandenburg and Frederick’s brother-in-law. George William gave grudging permission for Elizabeth, once again heavily pregnant, to shelter at Custrin. On the 17th December Elizabeth gave birth to Maurice.  

On 21st January the Emperor made Frederick an outlaw; many of Frederick’s allies threw themselves on the Emperor’s mercy. Frederick’s cousin Maximilian was given the Palatine Electorate. The young Henry Frederick wrote to his grandfather in England;

‘Sir, we are come from Sewnden to see the King and Queen and my little brother Rupert who is now sick. But my brother Charles is now, God be thanked, very well, and my sister Elizabeth, and she is a little bigger and stronger than he.’[v]

Rupert, along with his older brother Henry then travelled on with their mother to the Netherlands to the court of Prince Maurice while the baby Maurice was taken into the care of his grandmother Juliana[vi] in Brandenburg. Prince Maurice gave the exiled family a house, the Hof te Wassenaer and a monthly pension of 10,000 guilders. In the summer Frederick was given 150,000 guilders to raise an army.

A Childhood in Exile

Elizabeth of Bohemia
Elizabeth was a distant mother, always keeping her numerous children at a distance[vii], preferring to play with her monkey and dogs. Elizabeth’s main focus was her husband with whom she was very much in love. But of her children Rupert was to become her favourite. Frederick was proud of his third son’s precocious abilities; when Rupert was three his father wrote;

‘The little Rupert is very learned to understand so many languages.’[viii]

Rupert was to become fluent in High and Low Dutch as well as German and some Czech. He also read English, French, Italian and Latin. Frederick appointed a Monsieur and Madame de Plessen to act as governors to his children, with instructions to bring them up as strict Calvinists.

The young Rupert was fiery and often misbehaved and was called Rupert le diable. His mother decided that Rupert and Maurice were to be trained as soldiers so that they could espouse their father’s cause once grown.

Prince Rupert
upert enjoyed horse riding, the use of weaponry and the study of fortifications; his studies at the
University of Leiden included painting and drawing; his art teacher was Gerard van Honthorst. With the death of Henry Frederick in a tragic accident on 7th January 1629, Rupert’s second brother Charles Louis became heir to his father’s responsibilities.

Frederick died, still in exile, on 29th November 1632; Rupert was not yet 13. The following year Rupert joined his great uncle Frederick Henry, now Stadtholder[ix] and Captain General of the Dutch army, at the siege of Rheinberg. Elizabeth said of Rupert;

‘He cannot be too soon a soldier in these active times.’[x]

She was keen for her boys to learn the skills that would allow them to regain the Palatine. After the success of the siege Rupert returned to his studies and to the court where he attracted much attention from the ladies. Two years later Rupert was back at the front, fighting in Brabant as part of the Prince of Orange’s lifeguard.


Rupert and Charles Louis
When he attained the age of eighteen the young Charles Louis was invited to the court of his uncle Charles, who had ascended to the thrones of Scotland and England following the death of his father James in 1625. Three months later Rupert joined his brother; both Charles Louis and Rupert were shy and ill at ease in society. Their mother wrote to Sir Henry Vane the Elder asking him to advise Rupert, writing of her son;

‘He is good-natured enough, but does not always think of what he should do…..he will not trouble your ladies with courting them.’[xi]

Sir Thomas Roe described Rupert;

‘His Majesty takes great pleasure in his [Rupert’s] unrestfulness, for he is never idle; in his sport serious, in his conversation retired, but sharp and witty when occasion provokes him.’[xii]

Sir Thomas Roe
Rupert’s love of the arts drew him to his uncle Charles, who collected old masters. He also enjoyed the masques, the plays and music at court. While the queen, Henrietta Maria, believed she could convert this ardent Calvinist into a Roman Catholic.

The teenage Rupert was highly eligible and his mother and uncle set about finding him a bride. Only a Protestant was considered acceptable and the front runner was Marguerite de Rohan[xiii]. The marriage failed to come about, in part due to the death of the Duc de Rohan before negotiations could be completed. Charles continued to push for the marriage even during the war that was to tear England apart.

Charles Louis and Rupert accompanied their aunt and uncle on a visit to the University of Oxford whose Chancellor was Archbishop Laud. On 30th August 1636 Rupert was awarded an honorary arts degree and his name, along with his brother, was entered in the register of St John’s College.

Religious Fervour

Endymion Porter
One of the people Rupert met on his visit to England was the courtier Endymion Porter who introduced Rupert to the literary circle that included John Donne and Ben Jonson. Porter was full of get rich quick schemes and he wanted Rupert to head up an expedition to Madagascar. Rupert’s mother refused to allow her son to be involved; in one of her more sensible decisions, Elizabeth doubted the project’s feasibility, thinking that it would compromise Rupert’s honour and safety.

Porter continued to worry Rupert’s relatives; they feared that he would be persuaded to change religion. Charles Louis wrote to his mother of his concerns about Rupert;

‘I find him very shy to tell me his opinion. I bid him take heed that he do not meddle with points of religion amongst them [the Porters], for fear some priest or other….may form an ill opinion in him. Besides…..Mrs Porter is a professed Roman Catholic.’[xiv]

Rupert was brought home on the excuse that he needed more experience fighting for his family’s rights. The morning of his departure Rupert went hunting with Charles and expressed his desire to stay in England. Charles awarded Rupert a monthly pension of 800 crowns[xv]; uncle and nephew had become close and Henrietta Maria was convinced that Rupert’s religious conversion was imminent.


Prince Rupert of the Rhine – Maurice Ashley, Purnell Book Services Ltd 1976

The Memoirs of Elizabeth Stuart Vol 1-2 – Elizabeth Benger, General Books LLC 2012

Charles the First – John Bowles, Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1975

Charles I – Christopher Hibbert, Penguin Books 2001

Prince Rupert of the Rhine – Patrick Morrah, Constable & Company 1976

Prince Rupert – Charles Spencer, Phoenix Paperback 2008

The Thirty Years War – CV Wedgewood, Folio Society 1999

[i] Prince Rupert of the Rhine - Morrah
[ii] Jointly led by Tilly
[iii] Maximilian gave the family eight hours to leave
[iv] Now Wroclaw
[v] Prince Rupert - Spencer
[vi] Eldest daughter of William the Silent and Prince Maurice’s sister
[vii] She and Frederick had 13 children, the youngest of whom was ten months old when Frederick died
[viii] Rupert of the Rhine - Ashley
[ix] Maurice died in 1625 leaving his brother to inherit his positions
[x] Prince Rupert - Spencer
[xi] Rupert of the Rhine - Ashley
[xii] Prince Rupert - Spencer
[xiii] Daughter of the premier Protestant noble in the French court, the Duc de Rohan
[xiv] Prince Rupert - Spencer
[xv] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £28,360.00  economic status value of that income or wealth is £1,080,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £6,574,000.00 www.measuringworth.com