Prince Rupert

(Count Palatine of the Rhine)


Prince Rupert was a nephew of Charles I, and one of the most predominant characters on the Royalist side during the English Civil Wars. Even after the war however, he continued to play a prominent role in English and European politics, particularly after the restoration. In addition to being soldier, he was also a scholar, a cavalry commander, a buccaneer, a naval commander, a privy counselor, founder of a trading company, an artist, a scientist and an inventor. The term "Renaissance Man", was invented to describe such characters, of varied interest and activities.

Rupert's life started off dramatically. He was born a Prince of Bohemia at a time when Bohemia was the center of conflict in the Thirty Years War. His family escaped to the Netherlands when he was an infant, but lived in relatively deprived circumstances. When only fourteen, he began to fight for the Protestant, or rather "anti-imperial", cause. At age 22 he was captured but released on parole if he swore to never take up arms against the Emperor again.

By this time, his uncle Charles II was in trouble, and Rupert joined his uncle's cause as leader of the Royalist Cavalry. Young, handsome, scholarly and dashing, with already a great deal of military experience, he was the most romantic figure on the Royalist side. He recognized the Royalist cause was lost and encouraged his uncle to surrender after Naseby, but at the same time he gained control of a Royalist fleet and continued to fight even after his uncle was executed. During the commonwealth years, he was essentially a buccaneer, and captured English vessels in the Americas as well as Europe.

After the Restoration Rupert returned to England and became a member of Charles II's privy council. He continued as a strong adherent of the Royals cause, and participated in two Anglo Dutch Wars. He took a great interest in the development of the British colonies in North America and was a founder of the Hudson Bay Company. He was also very interested in scientific discoveries that were starting to be made during this age, and was an amateur scientist and inventor. He is sometimes credited with the invention of a new form of gunpowder, and also with improvements to the latest methods of printing images. He died, unmarried at age 62 a few years before the death of Charles II.

Key events during the life of Prince Rupert:

Prince Rupert born in Bohemia to Elizabeth Stuart, sister of Charles I.
  Fled from Bohemia to the Netherlands during the Thirty Years War.
Fought in the Thirty Years War, on and off for 8 years.
Captured by Imperial forces and released on parole by the Emperor.
Joined Royalist cause in English Civil War. Led Royalist cavalry.
Urges Charles I to make peace after defeat at the Battle of Naseby.
Commanded English exiles in France.
  Commanded a Royalist naval fleet which attacked English shipping during the Commonwealth.
Returned to England. Member of Charles II's privy council.
Fought for England in Second Anglo-Dutch War.
Became first Governor of Hudson Bay Company, based in North America.
Fought for England in Third Anglo-Dutch War.
Embarked on a career of scientific investigation and invention.
Death of Prince Rupert.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
King or Parliament?  in  Stories From English History, Part Second  by  Alfred J. Church
Beginning of the Hudson Bay Company  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Edgehill  in  The Boy's Book of Battles  by  Eric Wood

Image Links

Rupert's Charge at Edgehill
 in Through Great Britain and Ireland With Cromwell

Prince Rupert at Edgehill
 in  Sir Walter Raleigh

Short Biography
Charles I Second Stuart king. His quarrels with Parliament led to civil war and his execution.
Robert Blake Military commander turned admiral who took a leading role in the Anglo-Dutch Naval Wars.
Oliver Cromwell Military leader of Parliament who headed the Commonwealth government after death of Charles I.
Thomas Fairfax Commander of the Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War. Declined to condemn Charles I to death.
George Monck Puritan general who negotiated the terms of the Restoration of Charles II.