1902 Encyclopedia > Prince Rupert of the Rhine

Prince Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria
(commonly called: Prince Rupert of the Rhine)

RUPERT (1619-1682), prince of Bavaria, the third son of Frederick V., elector palatine and king of Bohemia, and of Elizabeth, sister of Charles I. of England, was born at Prague on December 18, 1619. In 1630 he was placed at the university of Leyden, where he showed particular readiness in languages and in military discipline. In 1633 he was with the prince of Orange at the siege of Bhyn-berg, and served against the Spaniards as a volunteer in the prince's life-guard. In December 1635 he was at the English court, and was named as leader of the proposed expedition to Madagascar. In 1636 he visited Oxford, when he was made master of arts. Beturning to The Hague in 1638, he made the first display of his reckless bravery at the siege of Breda, and shortly afterwards was taken prisoner by the Austrians in the battle before Lemgo. For three years he was confined at Linz, where he withstood the endeavours made to induce him to change his religion and to take service with the emperor. Upon his release in 1642 he returned to The Hague, and from thence went to Dover, but, the Civil War not having yet begun, he returned immediately to Holland. Charles now named Rupert general of the horse, and he joined the king at Leicester in August 1642, being present at the raising of the standard at Nottingham. He was also made a knight of the Garter. It is particularly to be noticed that he brought with him several military inven-tions, and, especially, introduced the "German discipline" in his cavalry operations. He at once displayed the most astonishing activity, fought his first action with success at Worcester in September, and was at Edgehill on October 23. At Aylesbury and Windsor, on the march to London, he received severe checks, but after desperate fighting took Brentford. In 1643 he captured Ciren-cester, but failed before Gloucester, and in February issued his declaration denying the various charges of inhumanity which had been brought against him. At the end of March he set out from Oxford to join the queen at York, took Birmingham, and, after a desperate resistance, Lichfield, but was there suddenly recalled to the court at Oxford to meet Essex's expected attack. Chalgrove fight, at which during one of his incessant raids he met Hampden, was fought on June 18. On July 11 he joined the queen at Stratford-on-Avon, and escorted her to the king at Edgehill. He then began the siege of Bristol, which he took on July 26, and he took part in the futile attempt on Gloucester, where he failed to repulse Essex's relieving force. In the skirmish previous to the first battle of Newbury he checked the enemy's advance, and in the battle itself displayed desperate courage, following up the day's work by a night attack on the retiring army. In the beginning of 1644 he was rewarded by being made earl of Holderness, duke of Cumberland, and president of Wales. In February he was at Shrewsbury, from whence he administered the affairs of Wales; in March he went to relieve Newark, and was back at Shrewsbury by the end of the month. He then marched north, relieving Lathom and taking Bolton, and finally relieving York in July. At Marston Moor he charged and routed the Scots, but was in turn completely beaten by Crom-well's Ironsides. He escaped to York, and thence to Bichmond, and finally by great skill reached Shrewsbury on July 20. On November 21 he was repulsed at Abing-don, and on 23d he entered Oxford with Charles. He had meanwhile been made generalissimo of the armies and master of the horse. Against him, however, was a large party of courtiers, with Digby at their head. The in-fluence of the queen, too, was uniformly exerted against him. In May 1645 he took Newark by storm. His advice to march northwards was overruled, and on June 14 the experiences of Marston Moor were repeated at Naseby. Rupert fled to Bristol, whence he counselled the i king to come to terms with the parliament. In his con-duct of the defence of the town, this " boldest attaquer in the world for personal courage" showed how much he " wanted the patience and seasoned head to consult and advise for defence " (Pepys). His surrender of the town after only a three weeks' siege, though he had promised Charles to keep it four months, caused his disgrace with the king, who revoked all his commissions by an order dated September 14, and in a cold letter ordered him to seek his subsistence beyond seas, for which purpose a pass was sent him. Rupert, however, broke through the enemy, reached the king at Oxford, and was there reconciled to him. He challenged an investigation of his conduct, and was triumphantly acquitted by the council of war. He appears, too, to have remonstrated personally with Charles in terms of indecent violence. He then applied to the parliament for a pass. This, however, was offered only on unacceptable conditions. On June 24 Rupert was taken prisoner by Fairfax at Oxford, and on July 5, at the demand of the parliament, sailed from Dover for France. He was immediately made a marshal in the French service, with the command of the English there. He received a wound in the head at Armentieres during 1647. The greater part of the English fleet having adhered to Charles, and having sailed to Holland, Rupert went with the prince of Wales to The Hague, where the charge of it | was put into his hand. He immediately set out in January 1649 upon an expedition of organized piracy. In February, after passing without molestation through the Parliamentary ships, he was at Kinsale, of which he took the fort. He relieved John Grenville at the Sciily Isles, and practically crippled the English trade. Attacked by Blake, he sailed to Portugal, and was received with kindness by the king; Blake, however, blockaded him in the Tagus, and demanded his surrender. Rupert broke through the blockade and sailed to the Mediter-ranean, landing at Barbary, and refitting at Toulon; thence he proceeded to Madeira, the Canaries (in 1652), the Azores, Cape de Verd, and the West Indies, sweeping the ocean between the latter places for a considerable time. Finding it impossible, however, to escape the indefatigable pursuit of Blake, he returned to France in 1653. He was now invited to Paris by Louis XIV., who made him master of the horse; he had also an offer from the emperor to command his forces. He travelled for some while, and was again in Paris in 1655. His movements, however, at this time are very uncertain, but he appears to have devoted his enforced leisure to engraving, chemistry, the perfection of gunpowder, and other arts, especially those of military science. Whether he was the actual discoverer of mezzotinto engraving, in which he was skilful, is un-certain, but this seems probable.

At the end of September 1660 Rupert returned to England; he was abroad during 1661, was placed on the privy council in April 1662, and in October was one of the commissioners for Tangiers; in December he became a member of the Boyal Society. In August 1664 he was appointed to command the Guinea fleet against the Dutch, and set sail in October. On June 5, 1665, he gained with Monk a great victory over the Dutch, and on his return had his portrait painted by Lely along with the other admirals present at the battle. He again put to sea in May 1666, to hinder the junction of the Dutch and French, and returned in the beginning of June after a heavy defeat, his ship having stuck on the Galloper Sands during the fight. He was obliged to justify himself before the council. In January 1667 he was very ill, but recovered after the operation of trepanning. At this time he is mentioned as one of the best tennis players in the nation. On October 22, 1667, he received with Monk the thanks of the House of Commons for his exertions against the Dutch at Chatham, and he was again at sea in April 1668. He was always staunch in his Pro- testant principles, and was carefully kept in ignorance of Charles's Catholic plot in 1670. In August of that year he was constable of Windsor, and busied himself with the fitting up of the Bound Tower, a turret of which he converted into a workshop. He shared in the prevail- ing immorality of the time, his favourite mistress being the celebrated actress, Mrs Hughes. In 1673 he was appointed lord high admiral, and fought two battles with the Dutch Fleet on May 28 and August 11, but could do little through the backwardness of the French in coming to his assistance. This appears to have so annoyed him that he henceforward eagerly helped the anti-French party. He was an active member of the Board of Trade, and governor of the Hudson's Bay Company. Till his death, on November 29, 1682, he lived in complete retirement at Windsor. (O. A.)

The above article was written by: Osmund Airy, Editor of The Lauderdale Papers.

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