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Prince Rupert of the Rhine 1619 - 1682

Updated Sunday, 7th January 2001

A royal nephew who swapped sides.

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Prince Rupert of the Rhine

The son of the Elector Palatine and Charles I's sister Elizabeth, Rupert emerged as the leading Royalist general during the Civil War before being unfairly dismissed by his uncle.

For one who would prove to be such a scourge of the Puritan cause during the Civil War, Rupert initially saw action on the Protestant side during the Thirty Years War. Captured by Imperial forces in 1638, he spent his years in captivity in close study of military texts. When the English Civil War commenced in 1642, Rupert rallied to his uncle's cause and was appointed General of Horse, answerable only to the King himself.

Rupert's achievements during the War were mixed but, on the whole, he must be regarded as the most dynamic and effective Royalist general. He captured Bristol in 1643 and was primarily responsible for the major Royalist advances during 1643, and in the spring and summer of 1644.

He also offered his uncle tactical advice which Charles would have done well to heed. After the inconclusive battle of Edgehill, Rupert urged a quick attack on London which might have regained the capital for the Cavaliers.

Instead, Charles opted for a slow, cautious attack which resulted in the inconclusive stand-off at Turnham Green, followed by withdrawal to Oxford. Rupert also argued against engaging superior Roundhead forces at the battle of Naseby, and the Parliamentary victory here broke the Royalists as a military force.

To balance this, Rupert evinced a certain arrogance and self-confidence which tended to alienate other Royalist generals and weakened the cavalier cause. Friction with the Earl of Newcastle prior to Marston Moor fatally weakened the Cavalier position and sacrificed the advantage of surprise.

After surrendering Bristol to Fairfax in 1645, Rupert was dismissed from Charles' service and departed from England in June 1646. He led a small naval fleet against the Parliamentarians during the Second Civil War and won some notable successes before being chased into the Mediterranean.

Rupert spent the 1650s in exile on the Continent and returned to England with Charles II in 1660, serving on his Privy Council. He held naval commands during the Anglo-Dutch Wars of 1665-7 and 1672-74 and died in 1682.

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