Ruprecht von der Pfalz, Duke of Cumberland

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Ruprecht of the Palatinate, Duke of Cumberland
Ruprecht of the Palatinate

Ruprecht von der Pfalz (* December 17 July / December 27,  1619 greg. In Prague ; † November 29, 1682 in London ), called "the Cavalier" (English Rupert the Cavalier ), was Prince of the Palatinate from the House of the Wittelsbach family and, since 1644, the Duke of Cumberland and Earl of Holderness . He was generalissimo of all English armies and later headed the royal fleet as Lord High Admiral .

Early years

Anthonis van Dyck : Double portrait of Rupert and his brother Prince Elector Karl Ludwig

Ruprecht was the third son of Frederick V , the Elector Palatinate and so-called "Winter King" of Bohemia , and Elisabeth Stuarts , the daughter of King Jacob I of England, Scotland and Ireland . Ruprecht was born in Prague a few weeks after Frederick V's coronation as King of Bohemia and was thus the third in line to the throne of Bohemia and the Electoral Palatinate after his brothers, Prince Elector Heinrich Friedrich and Karl Ludwig . After the political overthrow and the early death of his father in 1632, he grew up with his mother in exile in the Netherlands at the court of his great-uncle Friedrich Heinrich von Oranien . He studied in Leiden and then joined Friedrich Heinrich's bodyguard. He took part in the campaign against the Spaniards of 1635 and in the same year accompanied his brother Karl Ludwig to her uncle Karl I in England. Both were warmly welcomed there and, as nephews of the king, received an excellent education and high signs of grace. The Oxford University doctorate Ruprecht for Artium Magister , the Archbishop Laud wanted to give him an English bishopric and the Earl of Arundel attribute to him an expedition to Madagascar. Returning from England in 1637, Ruprecht took part in the siege of Breda and, after taking it, went to his brother Karl Ludwig, who had recruited his own corps and gave Ruprecht the command of a cavalry regiment.

The cavalry general

Ruprecht von der Pfalz, 1642, painting by Gerrit van Honthorst

Ruprecht von der Pfalz was a brilliant cavalry officer. In the Thirty Years' War he fought on different sides. He was caught near Vlotho in 1638 and spent three years in imperial captivity. He fought for his uncle Karl I in the English Civil War , who accepted him as a knight in the Order of the Garter in 1642 . He took Bristol in 1643 and Lancashire the following year , but lost at Marston Moor . In 1645 he took Leicester and was badly beaten back at Naseby the following month . When the military situation in Bristol became hopeless, he handed the city over to Lord Fairfax in September 1645 , whereupon he was removed from his command by his angry uncle.

The general was deeply disgraced by the dismissal. He got through to his royal uncle and asked to be court-martialed to restore his honor. Although he was acquitted, he had lost the favor of the king and was no longer to play a significant role in the military undertakings that followed. After the fall of Oxford in June 1646 and the defeat of the royal troops, he and his brother Moritz were banished from Parliament in England.

In exile

Two years later Ruprecht fought on the French side against Cromwell's England. From his base in Kinsale (Ireland) he supplied the royalist garrison on the Isles of Scilly with supplies and hunted down English ships in the Channel. Since he was pursued by Admiral Robert Blake as far as the Mediterranean Sea, he retired to the West Indies , where he undertook further pirate voyages against English ships.

After the end of the Thirty Years War he returned to Germany in 1652. He settled in Mainz and devoted himself to his scientific research and art for a few years.

Return to England

After the restoration of the Stuart kingdom in 1660, Ruprecht returned to the English service. He became the private secretary of King Charles II and took special care of naval matters. He held various naval commands, fought a. a. also against the Dutch, was appointed admiral in 1672 and was Lord High Admiral from 1673 to 1679 as successor to the king . Ruprecht was also the first governor of the Hudson's Bay Company , founded in 1670 , which became so successful that it would soon have a monopoly on the entire fur trade in Canada. The approximately 3.9 million km² territory was named Rupert's Land in his honor .

Ruprecht died unmarried in 1682, but left two children, a daughter and a son. He was buried in Westminster Abbey in London.


Frances Bard, Ruprecht's mistress ( Peter Lely )

With his lover Frances Bard (1646–1708), a daughter of Henry Bard, Viscount Bellomont, Ruprecht had a son: Dudley Rupert Bard (also called Robert Dudley; * around 1666; † July 13, 1686, at the siege of Ofen ) . Around 1670 he had a new lover, the actress Margaret Hughes (1630-1719). Their daughter Ruperta (1671-1740) married the English general and ambassador in Hanover Emanuel Scrope Howe († September 26, 1709) in 1695 .

When it became clear that Ruprecht's brother, Elector Karl Ludwig, could remain without a male heir, since the marriage of his only legitimate son, Karl II , had remained childless for seven years and Karl Ludwig's outcast wife refused to consent to an official divorce, He feared that the Palatinate could fall from the Palatinate-Simmern to the Palatinate-Neuburg . Therefore, in 1678 Karl Ludwig tried to persuade his brother to marry in accordance with his status; But because of his always strained relationship with his older brother, he refused to give up his comfortable, wild marriage to the actress.

Interest in research and art

Ruprecht was not only a talented military leader, he also made a name for himself as a natural scientist, artist and inventor. Since 1670 and also during the years in Mainz, he devoted himself intensively to his research and experiments. He made the mezzotint popular in England, developed various types of gunpowder and a brass alloy for cannon casting, which became known as "Prinzmetall" (a similar alloy is chrysorin ). He was one of the founding members of the Royal Society . Prince Ruprecht was portrayed several times by Anthony van Dyck , one of the greatest Flemish painters of the Baroque, during his stay in the Netherlands, where he grew up after his family was expelled from Bohemia . The paintings are now hanging in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and in the National Gallery in London.

See also: Bolognese tear ( called Prince Rupert's Drop in English )

Worth knowing

The city of Prince Rupert , in the western Canadian province of British Columbia, is named after him.


Web links

Commons : Prince Rupert of the Rhine  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  2. Memoirs of the court of England, Volume 3, p. 424
  3. Dirk Van der Cruysse: Being a Madame is a great craft. Liselotte of the Palatinate. A German princess at the court of the Sun King. From the French by Inge Leipold. 14th edition, Piper, Munich 2015, ISBN 3-492-22141-6 , p. 260.