Tuesday, 5 April 2016

A Stuart Prince - Rupert of the Rhine VIII

Rupert's Atlantic trip

A Heart Rending  Trip

Rupert and Maurice waited for the remainder of the fleet at Formentera but eventually left, leaving behind a message ordering them to meet up at Toulon. It was to be a long time before Rupert returned to France. His small fleet travelled to Madeira and the Azores, before visiting Cape Blanco, Cape Verde and Gambia where Rupert suffered a deep chest wound. It then crossed the Atlantic to the West Indies where disaster awaited.

En route a number of prizes had been taken and the treasures stored in the Constant Reformation which went down with 333 men on board, holed in a storm. The Loyal Subject was also wrecked. Rupert was forced to sail across the Atlantic as he received news that the Parliamentarian fleet was sailing to hunt him and his men down.

Sir George Ayscue
he fleet anchored in
St Lucia, having missed Barbados which had been taken for the Commonwealth by Sir George Ayscue. There they traded for provisions and patched up the damage caused by Atlantic storms. On 5th June Rupert was in Montserrat where the fleet took two small English ships.

Rupert then decided to make for the Virgin Islands as the French governor of Guadeloupe, where they were currently anchored, was not interested in attacking English shipping. On 13th September disaster struck while the fleet was cruising offshore. They were caught in a hurricane. The Swallow was the only ship to come through unscathed and the Defiance, on which Maurice was captain, was never seen again[i].

‘Upon the Southward side of the Island[ii] they found a shipp cast away and several pieces of the wreck came ashore; and amongst the rest a Golden Lyon wch some of them saw and a great quantitie of pipestaves[iii] markt MP as all prince Maurice his cask were.’[iv]

Rupert was devastated by the loss of his brother, who was also his closest friend. He ordered a search which found nothing; Rupert was to mourn Maurice for the rest of his life.

The Return

Fayal Island
On 12th December 1652 Rupert and his men turned their faces eastwards for Europe. Four years after his little fleet set sail Rupert returned with four ships and a hold full of tobacco. The ships were warned off the Azores by artillery fire at Fayal and then St Michael’s. Rupert was suffering from dysentery and was desperate for medical attention by the time they landed in France to a heroes’ welcome at Saint-Nazaire on 3rd March1653

Rupert’s cousin Charles wrote;

‘I am so surprised with joy at your safe arrival in these parts, that I cannot tell you how great it is, nor can I consider any misfortunes or accidents which have happened now I know your person is in safety.’[v]

Royalists flocked to meet with the hero of the hour, thinking that Rupert would restore their financial situation. They were to be disabused when some of Rupert’s seamen deserted to return to England where they released the information that Rupert’s hold contained just £10,000 worth of tobacco[vi][vii].

On 29th March Rupert left for Paris to meet with King Louis XIV who received him warmly. This was in contrast to the disappointed Royalists who declaimed the poor return on, to what was for Rupert, a costly voyage.

Discord Among Princes

The ill feeling towards Rupert peaked when he refused to hand over all the proceeds of the voyage to Charles. Rupert was determined that his cousin should pay for the costs of the fleet. He was not a rich man and he wanted his men paid off first and then the merchants of Toulon who had underwritten the voyage. Clarendon jealously wrote;

‘The Prince....no doubt will occasion to use all and more than he can have brought home, to repair and fit out his ships.’[viii]

Prince Rupert
upert also believed that he should receive some of the prize money personally as he wished to live in accordance with his rank. Charles was uninterested in what he saw as lesser concerns
[ix]. The two cousins bargained their way to a compromise, but not without bad feelings on both sides. The men and merchants were paid and Rupert was made Master of the Horse; both he and his cousin had new liveries.

But Rupert’s health was compromised by his voyage; going for a swim in the Seine in July, he nearly drowned. His return to Europe and the death of Maurice saw the loss of his youthful exuberance and at the age of 33 Rupert entered middle age prematurely, grimmer and sombre.

Rupert wanted to marry, but his personal fortune meant that he was unable to provide his spouse with the appurtenances of his rank. Unlike his sisters who made good, but not brilliant marriages, the landless Rupert was unable to find a woman of rank and fortune to match his high rank.

Fraternal Discord

Princess Charlotte
With the ending of the Thirty Years’ War Charles Louis was given back part of the Palatinate; the new Electorate of the Lower Palatinate[x]. Under the Treaty of Münster the Holy Roman Emperor also agreed to provide for the Elector’s siblings. Rupert determined to travel to Heidelberg to secure his patrimony.

Throwing over his Master of the Horse role after a run-in with Clarendon, Rupert left Paris in June 1654. Rupert arrived to a warm welcome for his three black servants as well as a young Moorish boy he’d found in Africa[xi] and collection of parrots and monkeys.

Rupert’s meeting with his brother was a disaster. Charles Louis had inherited a ruined Electorate that needed careful managing to make up the ravages of thirty years of war. Rupert asked for the county of Simmern[xii]; Charles Louis refused but offered Rupert other lands. He was never going to be able to meet Rupert’s expectations and when he tried to explain his position Rupert fell into a sulk.

Louise von Degensfeld
Rupert rejected first the offer of Laubach, claiming the lands there were wet and unhealthy and then Umstadt[xiii]. He accompanied Charles Louis on a tour of the Electorate. Rupert’s stay was complicated by his sister-in-law who saw Rupert as a potential lover. Charlotte and Charles Louis were perpetually at odds. But Elizabeth and Sophie, living with Charles Louis, were overjoyed to see their brother;

‘I have had the joy of seeing a long-lost brother’[xiv]

Elizabeth wrote; she had not seen him since before the beginning of the Civil War.

Rupert was interested in one of Charlotte’s ladies-in-waiting as was his brother who, having had his advances spurned, was intent on making Louise von Degenfeld his wife. Charlotte was not prepared to be divorced and was most wrathful when she found Charles Louis attempting to bed Louise[xv]. The ensuing brangle was interrupted by the Elector’s sisters.

Meeting an Old Friend

Frederick III
Charles Louis could have used Rupert’s military skills to defend his Electorate, but the relationship between the two brothers was now too soured to allow them to work together. Rupert decided to retire to immerse himself with scientific experiments. But before he did so he needed to meet with the emperor.

Once in Vienna Rupert received a warm welcome from Ferdinand III[xvi], who retained warm memories of his meetings with the imprisoned Rupert. Rupert found himself in conflict with the Imperial Treasury which claimed that it could not pay Rupert the 100,000 thalers promised by the Treaty of Münster. He was offered an instalment plan, but he must renounce all claims to the Upper Palatinate.

Rupert refused to prejudice his claims and was surprised to gain the support of the Spanish ambassador. He wrote to Charles Louis;

‘You will be glad to learn that the Spanish ambassador has worked extremely hard in my interests.....I beg you to thank the said ambassador for the care he has of me in everything, having not only lent me his carriage but even offered me one of his houses and, in fine, acted as if for himself.’[xvii]

Once Ferdinand had explained the depredations made by the war on his treasury, Rupert and Ferdinand came to an agreement whereby Rupert would receive his money by instalments.


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

The Later Stuarts – George Clark, Oxford University Press 1985

Charles II – Christopher Falkus, Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1972

Cromwell – Antonia Fraser, Phoenix Paperback, 2001

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

Man of War – Richard Ollard, Phoenix Press 2001

Prince Rupert – Charles Spencer, Phoenix Paperback 2008


[i] Rumours of Maurice and his fellow castaways being taken prisoner by the Spaniards were finally proved to be false by Robert Holmes in 1662-3
[iii] The metal bands around water or wine barrels
[iv] Man of War - Ollard
[v] Prince Rupert - Spencer
[vi] In reality the goods were sold for £14,000; a small return for such an arduous voyage.
[vii] In 2014 the relative: real price of that commodity is £2,029,000.00 income value of that commodity is £64,420,000.00 www.measuringworth.com
[viii] Prince Rupert - Spencer
[ix] The wars beggared many on the Royalist side; Charles and his father felt that this was their due
[x] From his family being one of the senior Electors, Charles Louis was now the most junior
[xi] The lad was part of a Moorish nomad tribe that Rupert and his men had come across in the Cape Blanca hinterland. He’d been left behind when his family fled
[xii] Simmern had been under his uncle’s governance. It was the area from which the family of Palatinate Simmern (a branch of the Wittelsbach family) took their name, so it was never likely that Charles Louis would surrender it to his younger brother
[xiii] On the borders of the Palatinate and its ownership was frequently in dispute. Rupert did not want to spend his days as his brother’s border guard
[xiv] Prince Rupert of the Rhine – Morrah
[xv] Charles Louis eventually married Louise morganatically and bigamously; she had 13 children by him
[xvi] Ferdinand had recently lost his son Ferdinand to smallpox
[xvii] Prince Rupert of the Rhine – Morrah

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