Another hero – and not out of the pages of a novel this time!

rupert1

Hands up, anyone know who this is? Well done, you at the back, it’s a young portrait of Prince Rupert of the Rhine (1619-1682), who, in spite of his title, was a star of the English Civil war.  Nephew to King Charles I, cousin to King Charles II, son of the former Princess Elizabeth of England and Scotland, otherwise known as the Winter Queen. Son also of Frederick V, the Elector Palatine and brother of the Electress Sophia, who was the mother of King George I of England.

 So, an all-round suitable chap? Wee-ell, yes and no. Back in the dark ages when I was a secretive and bookish child and teenager I was scared stiff of real, live boys and preferred to find romance in the pages of books. This is why my first completely unsuitable crush was fairly harmless really, as I fell in love with Bonnie Prince Charlie. (I blush to think of it now – to be honest, he was a pretty useless bloke in the end, but bearing in mind the way he was brought up and the impossible expectations laid on him, I’m more sympathetic nowadays.)

 Now, the Stuarts have tended to have a good press among the readers of romantic, historical novels  so that the words ‘dashing’, ‘doomed’, ‘romantic’ and ‘tragic’ are bandied about when anyone thinks of the dynasty. And so they were, in many ways – but I’m a practical woman and in spite of the dreamy dopeyness of my teenage years, I somehow knew that a Stuart man (or Princeling) was never going to be the kind of man a sensible woman would want to get tangled up with.

 Until, that is, I read ‘The Stranger Prince’ by Margaret Irwin. Oh dear, that was love at first encounter and it set me back a few years but mercifully I met the Resident Engineer when I was only twenty-two and that pretty much cured me of yearning after long-lost princes. Could Prince Rupert have installed new wiring and electrical sockets into my mother’s house which the Engineer did in very short order after encountering my mother and me living in a techno-freak-horror’s jumble of tangled wires and a woman (Mum) who plugged the iron into the light fitting and ignored the ensuing sparks as ‘nonsense and nothing to worry about’.

 Actually, now I come to think of it, Prince Rupert probably could have done. He was an amazing man and among his more unexpected talents was a serious interest in science and experimentation. (I reckon he was an Engineer which might explain the attraction!)

According to the invaluable Wikipaedia (note how snobbily I include the ae in the spelling!) ‘Rupert converted some of the apartments at Windsor Castle to a luxury laboratory, complete with forges, instruments and raw materials, from where he conducted a range of experiments.[119] Rupert converted some of the apartments at Windsor Castle to a luxury laboratory, complete with forges, instruments and raw materials, from where he conducted a range of experiments.[119] He had already become the third founding member of the scientific Royal Society, being referred to by contemporaries as a “philosophic warrior”,[163] and guided the Society as a Councillor during its early years.[164] Very early on in the Society’s history, Rupert demonstrated Prince Rupert’s Drop to King Charles II and the Society, glass teardrops which explode when the tail is cracked; although credited with their invention at the time, later interpretations suggest that he was instead responsible for the introduction of an existing European discovery into England.[165] He demonstrated a new device for lifting water at the Royal Society, and received attention for his process for “painting colours on marble, which, when polished, became permanent”.[166] During this time, Rupert also formulated a mathematical question concerning the paradox that a cube can pass through a slightly smaller cube; Rupert questioned how large a cube had to be in order to fit.[167] The question of Prince Rupert’s cube was first solved by the Dutch mathematician Pieter Nieuwland.[167] Rupert was also known for his success in breaking cypher codes.[168] Rupert converted some of the apartments at Windsor Castle to a luxury laboratory, complete with forges, instruments and raw materials, from where he conducted a range of experiments.[119]

Rupert had already become the third founding member of the scientific Royal Society, being referred to by contemporaries as a “philosophic warrior”,[163] and guided the Society as a Councillor during its early years.[164] Very early on in the Society’s history, Rupert demonstrated Prince Rupert’s Drop to King Charles II and the Society, glass teardrops which explode when the tail is cracked; although credited with their invention at the time, later interpretations suggest that he was instead responsible for the introduction of an existing European discovery into England.[165] He demonstrated a new device for lifting water at the Royal Society, and received attention for his process for “painting colours on marble, which, when polished, became permanent”.[166] During this time, Rupert also formulated a mathematical question concerning the paradox that a cube can pass through a slightly smaller cube; Rupert questioned how large a cube had to be in order to fit.[167] The question of Prince Rupert’s cube was first solved by the Dutch mathematician Pieter Nieuwland.[167] Rupert was also known for his success in breaking cypher codes.

So, the Stuarts, eh? The more I look into history the more I worry that as having (as a young woman) assumed I’d be entirely Royalist in sympathy during the English Civil War (Part Deux, ie not the first one), I would in fact have been rather puritanical. Oh dear, bang goes another self-delusion, though on balance I think I’d probably still have had romantic royalist leanings. Seriously though, the Stuarts were really not good for England. If only Prince Henry, the elder son of James I had lived and not died of typhoid at the age of 18. Here he is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Frederick,_Prince_of_Wales and a jolly sensible kind of chap he sounds too. None of this falling in love with a dangerously Catholic French Princess, oh no, and – how tempting to fantasise – none of this divine right of kings stuff. I wonder if Henry would have seen how the wind was blowing about that and come up with some sensible compromises. Tempting to think so, anyway, and another of those fascinating what-ifs that history is made of.

Still, this is a divagation away from our hero, Prince Rupert.  Brave soldier, inspirational cavalry leader, owner of a very large dog who went into battle with him and was portrayed in the popular press as his familiar (Come on, Prince Harry, where’s yer witchy dog, then?), he was definitely hero material. Sadly, his personal life was a different matter and it wasn’t until late in life that he found happiness. According to Wiki: ‘Towards the end of his life Rupert fell in love with an attractive Drury Lane actress named Peg Hughes. Rupert became involved with her during the late 1660s, leaving his previous mistress, Frances Bard, although Hughes appears to have held out from reciprocating his attentions with the aim of negotiating a suitable settlement.[179] Hughes rapidly received advancement through his patronage; she became a member of the King’s Company by 1669, giving her status and immunity from arrest for debt, and was painted four times by Sir Peter Lely, the foremost court artist of the day.

Despite being encouraged to do so, Rupert did not marry Hughes, but acknowledged their daughter, Ruperta (later Howe), born in 1673] Hughes lived an expensive lifestyle during the 1670s, enjoying gambling and jewels; Rupert gave her at least £20,000 worth of jewellery during their relationship, including several items from the Palatinate royal collection.[182] Margaret continued to act even after Ruperta’s birth, returning to the stage in 1676 with the prestigious Duke’s Company at the Dorset Garden Theatre, near the Strand in London. The next year Rupert established Hughes with a “grand building” worth £25,000 that he bought in Hammersmith from Sir Nicholas Crispe.Rupert seems rather to have enjoyed the family lifestyle, commenting that his young daughter “already rules the whole house and sometimes argues with her mother, which makes us all laugh.”

So there we have him: Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Handsome, dashing, brave, fabulously-well-connected, definitely not husband material and – from contemporary evidence – as sexy as hell!   

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6 thoughts on “Another hero – and not out of the pages of a novel this time!

  1. Great stuff! Thanks to your enthusiasm at Havant, I now have The Stranger Prince waiting for collection at Portsmouth Library (as if I didn’t already have enough books on the boy borrowed from the Hampshire county library system). Sadly, while my 17th Century Lord (later Duke) Rupert gets to keep his name, at least as far as the history books are concerned (I half suspect he started out as a Robert and changed his name prior to Edgehill in a fit of teenage enthusiasm), his Puritan alterego, Mr Steyne, is going to have to be a Robert throughout the stories.

    On a happier note again, I found a 1940s map that includes placenames missing from my modern ones, so the 1970s Rupert can definitely have lots of happy adventures on horseback retracing his ancestor’s journeys from the old banks of the River Ashop up to Derwent moor.

    • That’s a book I’m going to want to read! It was lovely to meet you, Stevie, and to find yet another Rupert fan. We’re definitely not alone, his charisma is still pretty potent, centuries on!

      • Thanks for the encouragement. I loved ‘The Stranger Prince’ but now I’m even more keen to read all the other library books I borrowed about him so I can find out what happened next.

  2. Thanks, Jane. I don’t actually know a lot about the Civil War period, or at least, what little I do know is pretty much based on historical novels I’ve devoured. Typically English though, to end the revolution by asking the king to come back!

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