The tale of ‘The Mad Cavalier’ Prince Rupert – another Stuart dynasty story

Prince Rupert

This week, before I progress to some more stories of women with disreputable reputations in the rest of November, and then some stories about 18th/19th Century balls in December, I thought I would share another tale I heard when we visited Ripley Castle in September.

Staying with my King Charles theme of the last couple of weeks, I thought I would tell you about ‘The Mad Cavalier’ a character straight from the pages of a novel but the wonderful thing is this story is all true.

Prince Rupert ‘The Mad Cavalier’ was the grandson of King James I of England (James VI of Scotland) therefore nephew to King Charles I and first cousin of King Charles II. He was the 3rd son of the ‘Winter King and Queen’ of Bohemia – the 3rd son of Elizabeth Stuart whose love story I told in a blog a couple of weeks ago.

A Young Prince Rupert visiting King Charles I’s court

Prince Rupert was raised in exile with his parents in The Hague, his father died when he was 13 years old, and by the age of 14 Rupert was already fighting in battles in the 80 years war over Dutch Independence and in the 30 years war against the Holy Roman Emperor in Germany making his living as a soldier and by visiting the Courts of his English Uncle and his Continental alliances. But he was captured in October 1638 at the end of a battle in which he’d fought alongside Lord Craven (the man his mother had a long-standing love affair with). Lord Craven tried to negotiate Rupert’s freedom and then begged to remain with him but failed. Rupert tried to bribe himself free but again failed and was imprisoned in Linz until the end of 1641. In the years of Rupert’s imprisonment the Holy Roman Emperor tried to convert him to Catholicism even seeking to bribe him with the offer of a small principality and the position of general in his own army. Rupert held firm and refused but his imprisonment was then relaxed and he was treated more as guest, being allowed to do such things as play tennis and hunt. During his captivity he was given a rare dog, a giant poodle who he named Boye.

He was finally released after much negotiation on the grounds that he would promise to never again take up arms against the Emperor.

Prince Rupert

After his release Prince Rupert came to England with his brother, slipping through the Parliamentary defences in August 1642 to find his Uncle King Charles I at Leicester Abbey and offer his support on the Royalists side in the Civil War. He was still only 23 but he was appointed Generalissimo, General of the Horse, and immediately set about raising 3,000 cavalry in the first month of his return. He fought valiantly with great skill both in physical combat and as a tactician. His manoeuvres, determination and tactics won many battles. As a good-looking young man with a reputation for fearless fighting and charismatic energy he became highly respected and admired within the Royalist Army, however he was not so skilled at court. He did not use flowery words and subtle manipulations as others did but was very prepared to argue if he disagreed and tell a man he did not like him straight to his face no matter his status and influence.

He must have been quite a sight in battle with his fearless assaults charging forwards and racing too and fro across field while beside him, his giant poodle, Boye, whom he been given when in captivity in Linz, fought equally as hard, biting and clawing horses and men. Apparently Rupert was so energetic and enthusiastic in battle he sometimes confused his own men by his rashly cast orders to charge here and then there. He was key to many Royalist victories during the Civil War. It was his lack of skill in influencing other advisers in King Charles I court which ended his success.

Parliament propaganda – Boye was often portrayed as a witch’s familiar

He urged the King to return to London when they won a battle and take the city immediately before the Parliamentary army could regroup but the King ignored Rupert’s advice and took that of others, waited on a larger force and returned more slowly. By the time they reached London, London’s defences were prepared. Some say the Royalists may have won the war if the army had followed Rupert’s advice.

Rupert’s dog, Boye, was slain in the battle of Marston Moor while in the act of pulling a Cromwellian soldier from his horse, causing Rupert significant grief. The Royalists lost that battle and it was one of the turning points of the war.

Eve of the Battle of Edgehill – Prince Rupert seated at the table

In 1645, after numerous victories, Rupert was now general of the entire Royalist army but despite the respect he’d earned on the battlefield his advice in preparation for battle was still being ignored. He counselled against accepting battle at Naseby which resulted in another defeat, and Rupert’s enemies then turned the blame for the defeat upon Rupert. Rupert by this point had lost heart in the war, he no longer believed they would win, but again the King chose to not listen to Rupert’s warning and seek a peace agreement. When Rupert gave up Bristol after a siege in September 1645 he was dismissed from his post but Rupert proved his fighting skills again and rejoined his Uncle requesting a Court-martial hearing. He was exonerated for his submission of Bristol and reappointed, but his reappointment did not last long. In 1646 he gave up Oxford following a siege and then resigned his post taking many of the best Royalist cavalry officers with him. They knew Rupert was the wiser and more skilled.

Rupert and his officers then instead offered their military services to Louis XIV of France and fought against the Holy Roman Emperor once more until 1648 when the Parliamentary Navy mutinied and sailed to Holland. With opportunity to support his Uncle once more Rupert took a commission in the Navy but it was a poorly disciplined fleet and Rupert was known on one occasion to dangle the ringleader of a rebellion over the edge of a ship and threaten to drop him in the sea. When this shambolic navy collapsed and half the fleet returned to the Parliamentary side in 1650, Rupert took it into his head to raise funds for the Royalist cause through piracy.

He led the six remaining ships to the Caribbean capturing vessels whenever possible and did not return until March 1653, but in the process of this campaign he lost two ships and on one of them his brother Maurice who had remained with Rupert since his escape from captivity in Linz in 1641.

Pepy’s, a diarist of the time, records Rupert’s own account of his Civil War experiences

In France Rupert joined his cousin’s exiled court but again struggled with the personalities there and suffering with lack of money he sought out his eldest brother who had now taken up his throne in the Palatine and owed Rupert an income from the crown. It was here there was a laughable courtly intrigue, Rupert fell for his brother’s mistress – without realising she was his brother’s mistress – and sent her a love letter which was read by his brother’s wife. His brother’s wife, thinking the letter addressed to herself, was inclined to accept the offer of an affair and approached Rupert to agree only to be told, no, that the letter was addressed to her Lady’s maid. This shambles ended in Rupert’s brother’s wife insisting upon an annulment of her marriage as when Rupert then corrected his approach to the right woman, his brother warned him off and the whole affair eventually became public. Rupert left Palatine and never returned.

Princes of Palatins – Prince Rupert on the right with his brother Charles Louis

Following the reformation when King Charles II returned to be crowned in England, Prince Rupert came to live in England in 1660, and Pepy’s diary of the time records his return. ‘This day or yesterday, I hear, Prince Rupert is come to Court, but welcome to nobody.’ He became a prominent figure in the Charles II courtly set, including Lord Craven and the Countess of Castlemaine who I have written blogs about in the last couple of weeks. I would guess Rupert was one of those who visited Lord Craven’s property for hunting at Ashdown House and enjoyed draining the huge cellar of its wine. Rupert’s brother tried to persuade Rupert to return to the Palatine and marry to establish an heir as his brother’s own son was not healthy but Rupert never married, possibly deliberately.

Perhaps Rupert brought one of his known mistresses with him for rakish episodes of carousing at Ashdown House though.

He had his two known mistresses painted by Sir Peter Lely in true Charles II court’s style.

First there was Frances Bard, daughter of a Civil War veteran and explorer. Frances claimed Rupert had married her in 1664 but he denied it, although he recognised their son.

Frances Bard

His later mistress who usurped Frances in the late 1660s was a Drury Lane actress, Peg Hughes, (quite possibly a friend of the Kings Mistress Nell Gwynn). With a penchant for gambling she enjoyed spending the money he lavished on her and he gave her copious amounts of jewellery during their affair including pieces from the Royal collection he’d inherited from his mother the ‘Winter Queen’. Once she had borne him a daughter he purchased a house for her and lived there with her on occasions. He was noted to comment on his daughter and family life, saying she ‘already rules the whole house and sometimes argues with her mother, which makes us all laugh.’

Margret Hughes

In the years after the reformation Prince Rupert took office in the Navy once more, sat on the Privy Council, and also progressed to work on inventions and fund explorations. These years of his life are recorded at times in Pepy’s diary and we can see within the diaries he continued to have frequent disagreements at court and express a countenance that lacked discretion notably laughing and cursing with regularity and flying into a temper at times.

Prince Rupert painted by Sir Peter Lely 1670

All of Pepy’s diary entries incorporating Prince Rupert comments about Prince Rupert

Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional love stories.

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The story of Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine – Mistress of King Charles II

Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine

This week I thought I’d tell another story from the era of King Charles II and reveal some more of the scandalous behaviour which went on at court.

King Charles II was known for his insatiable appetite with women. He had many mistresses and rarely one at a time but the lady whom I am going to speak of today was one who kept his interest for several years. She was Born Barbara Villiers she was the only child of the 2nd Viscount Grandison who died during in the Civil. His death left Barbara and her mother penniless as his lands were confiscated and all his money had been invested in supporting King Charles I. Her mother remarried, taking her father’s cousin as a husband, but they still had very little money. Yet they stayed loyal to the Royals and when King Charles was executed turned their allegiance to his son who was at the time in hiding in The Hague where the Stuart’s had retreated for safety, as I mentioned in my last blog.

There is a tale told about Barbara’s family that each year on Charles II’s birthday they crept down into their dark unlit cellar and toasted his health in secret. If this is true it would seem that his image was romanticised in Barbara’s eyes from an early age.

Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine

Barbara was described by diarists of the time as tall and voluptuous, with thick auburn hair and blue/violet eyes, her beauty was said to be striking. It was no wonder then that she traded on her looks from a young age when she had no dowry to commend her. The first man she is known to be romantically linked to is Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield but he wanted a wealthy wife and would not marry her. Barbara married Roger Palmer on 14th April 1659, before Philip Stanhope wed, and one rumour which abounds about her is that her first child was Chesterfield’s but this child was born during her affair with Charles II and Charles did acknowledge the child as his. It was only a year after her marriage that she became mistress to Charles II in 1660. He was still in exile in The Hague at the time. Barbara had sailed there with her husband who was a Catholic, to join the out-placed court of supplicants who still sought Royal favour.

It sounded as though Roger Palmer’s father had the measure of Barbara because he’d told Roger not to marry her and claimed she would make him one of the most miserable men in the world. They were living separately by 1662, despite Charles II favouring Roger for his wife’s generosity with two titles, Baron Limerick and Earl of Castlemaine.

Barbara bore Charles five children which he acknowledged.

  • Lady Anne Palmer (who was later renamed Fitzroy) born 1661
  • Charles Palmer (who was later renamed Fitzroy) born 1662
  • Henry Fitzroy born 1663
  • Charlotte Fitzroy born 1664
  • George Fitzroy born 1665
  • Barbara Fitzroy, the sixth child, was born in 1672 but Charles’s never actually acknowledged her

(The surname Fitzroy comes from the meaning son of the King)

Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine, with her son Charles Fitzroy

Her period of greatest favour with the King was in 1662 when she gave birth to his son at Hampton Court, showing no desire to hide her child’s parentage, while the King was on his honeymoon. On his return he appointed her Lady of the Bedchamber to his wife, Catherine of Braganza. For obvious reasons his wife complained about it. She had fallen in love with Charles on honeymoon and was destroyed when she returned to find his lover encamped at Hampton Court. Why would she wish her husband’s mistress attending to her in her bedroom? It is well recorded that Charles frequently favoured Barbara over his wife, making a fool of Catherine and even arguing with her and tricking her into acknowledging his mistress while Barbara gloated over her influence. Charles’s interest in Barbara soon slackened after 1662 although clearly their affair continued as they had more children, and diarists of the time record the on off affair. But Charles’s favourite of 1663 was Frances Stuart, whom Barbara had on one occasion mockingly married for a joke. In this year Barbara converted to Catholicism. We can only guess at her reasons, but perhaps it was to try and regain the king’s favour.

In 1670, with Barbara’s affair with Charles drawing to a final close, as Barbara grew older and the king turned to younger lovers, Charles made her Baroness Nonsuch as she was the owner of Henry VIII’s Nonsuch Palace, he also named her Countess of Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland, unusually declaring her Dukedom of Cleveland would pass to her first son, Charles Fitzroy, on her death.  All honours for favours served of course and perhaps parting gifts. This was the rumour running through the court at the time.

Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine

Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine

While King Charles II took lower status lovers, particularly thinking of the actress Nell Gwynne who is commonly romanticised as an orange seller. So did Barbara, building up a reputation for promiscuity. One of her lovers was an acrobat, Jacob Hall, and it was well known that her lovers benefited financial from her arrangements with them. Equally as Charles’s lovers got younger so did Barbara’s and she became quite the Cougar. Barbara Fitzroy, Barbara Palmers daughter, born in 1672, is believed to have been fathered by Barbara’s second cousin John Churchill who built Blenheim Palace when he was much older.

John Churchill’s, Blenheim Palace

There is a mock-up of the court intrigues scenario in the upstairs rooms of Blenheim Palace if you visit there, with Barbara in the bed, the sheets covering her naked body, while John Churchill is hidden in the wardrobe as the King knocks on the bedroom door coming to his mistress. It is a true scenario although I think by this time the King probably cared very little what Barbara did and merely used her bed when he wished to. Barbara was also a lot older at the time than she is portrayed in this scene. The story at Blenheim indicates John seduced her and my guess would be it was the other way about. She may well have even deliberately timed the liaison to try and make the king Jealous. I think that would have been pointless too when Charles had his pick of beautiful woman at court and beyond. My assumption that Barbara seduced John is supported by the fact he benefited handsomely from the liaison, by the sum of £5,000 no less, which was a fortune at that time.

Blenheim Palace, called a palace as the land it’s built on was donated by the crown and is still owned by the Queen

What I find quite amusing though is that John must have favoured Barbara’s style of personality, it is said she was bad-tempered and dominant, but equally in her own brash way, the life of the party. John later married a woman of a very similar temper who most men could not get on with but he seemed to adore her. Again if you visit Blenheim they have a display about John’s wife and the sharp way with which she managed the architect and builders of Blenheim Palace while he made his name fighting wars abroad communicating regularly with her and they wrote to each other in very honest appraisal.

Certainly Barbara’s affair with the King was long over by 1676 when she went to Paris and lived there for four years with four of her children.

Like many women of history who spend their younger days living on their beauty through promiscuity the story of Barbara’s latter years grow much sadder as her looks fade.

Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine

After Charles’s death in 1685 Barbara had an affair with an actor who had a notorious reputation for using women. Barbara even bore him a child in 1686. In 1705 Barbara’s husband Roger Palmer died and then Barbara fell pray to a fortune hunter. By records of her later divorce this relationship was extremely tawdry and Barbara had tumbled to the lowest point of her life. The stories recorded at the time describe Barbara as lustful with a strong sexual appetite, and so when this young man paid her court she was very willing to take up with him and then marry him, believing him devoted. The only thing he was devoted to was her money. The man she married was Major General Robert “Beau” Fielding. He was known as “Beau” in recognition of his good looks and he was unscrupulous.

While Beau was married to Barbara he had two actresses as mistresses and not only them, when one of Barbara’s granddaughters fled to her dissipated grandmother for protection after her marriage failed due to an affair, Beau set up a relationship with the Barbara’s granddaughter too, in Barbara’s own home. Once this granddaughter left the house the affair continued for a few more months unknown to Barbara and the granddaughter bore Beau a child, although the affair had already ended by the time it was born.

This all came out in the end and was recorded in divorce records of the time and detailed in scandal columns as finally it came to light that not only did Beau have mistresses but he also already had a wife. He had bigamously married Barbara only to obtain access to her wealth. Barbara died at the age of 68 on 9th October 1709. What a sad bitter ending to her life when she had known so much earlier acclaim as King Charles II’s mistress. Barbara’s portrait still hangs in Hampton Court among the group of Ladies in Waiting King Charles II had painted by Sir Peter Lely. The pictures were known for being particularly risqué with a strong sexual indication and the image of Barbara has her bodice slack, so you might almost see her nipple, while her eyes are heavy-lidded in a come hither look and her left hand grips a sword.

To learn more of Barbara you can read Pepys diaries on the intranet. This link leads to the tale of the war between Barbara and Charles II’s wife recording how Barbara manipulates Charles into not only disgracing his wife but treating her with appalling cruelty.

The Marlow Intrigues

Discover hours of period drama (2)


The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel

The Illicit Love of a Courtesan  

The Passionate Love of a Rake

The Scandalous Love of a Duke

The Dangerous Love of a Rogue 

The Secret Love of a Gentleman  

The Reckless Love of an Heir 

The Tainted Love of a Captain 

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