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

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