Rupert, Prince

, third son of the king of Bohemia, by the princess Elizabeth, eldest daughter of James I. of England, was born 1619, and educated, like most German princes, for the army and those who have been least inclined to favour him, admit that he was well adapted, both by natural abilities and acquired endowments, to form a great commander. On the commencement of the rebellion, which happened when he was scarcely of age, he | offered his services to Charles I. and throughout the whole war behaved with great intrepidity. But his courage was of that kind which is better calculated for attack than defence, and is less adapted to the land service than that of the sea, where precipitate valour, Granger observes, is in its element. He seldom engaged but he gained the advantage, which he generally lost by pushing it too far. He was better qualified to storm a citadel, or even mount a breach, than patiently to sustain a siege, and would have been an excellent assistant to a general of a cooler head. In consideration of his services, for which we refer to the general histories of the times, and on account of his affinity to him, king Charles made him a knight of the garter, and a free denizen, and advanced him to the dignity of a peer of England, by the title of earl of Holdernesse and duke of Cumberland.

When the civil war was over, he went abroad with a pass from the parliament; but when the fleet revolted to the prince of Wales, he readily went on board, and distinguished himself by the vigour of his counsels. His advice, however, was not followed, but on the return of the fleet to Holland, as the command of it was left to him, he sailed to Ireland, where he endeavoured to support the declining royal cause. He was quickly pursued by the superior fleet of the parliament, under Popham and Blake, who, in the winter of 1649, blocked him up in the haven of Kinsale, whence he escaped, by making a bold effort, and pushing through their fleet.

After the Restoration, he was invited to return to England, and had several offices conferred upon him. In April 1662, he was sworn a member of the privy-council; and in December following, was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1666, the king appointed him, in conjunction with the duke of Albemarle, to command the fleet, and he now exhibited all the qualities that are necessary to constitute a great admiral. By his return to the fleet on June 3d, he wrested from the Dutch the only victory they had the appearance of gaining; and on the 24th of the same month, he beat them effectually, pursued them to their own coast, and blocked up their harbour. The great intrepidity which he displayed, in this naval war, was highly and justly celebrated; and in the last Dutch war of that reign he seemed to retain all the activity and fire of his youtb, and defeated the enemy in several engagements. | From this time prince Rupert led a retired life, mostly at Windsor-castle, of which he was governor, and spent a great part of his time in the prosecution of chemical and philosophical experiments, as well as the practice of mechanic arts. He delighted in making locks for fire-arms, and was the inventor of a composition called, from him, Prince’s metal. He communicated to the Royal Society his improvements upon gunpowder, by refining the several ingredients, and making it more carefully, which augmented its force, in comparison of ordinary powder, in the proportion often to one. He also acquainted them with an engine he had contrived for raising water, and sent them an instrument for casting any platform into perspective, and for which they deputed a select committee of their members to return him their thanks. He was the inventor of a gun for discharging several bullets with the utmost speed, facility, and safety; and the Royal Society received from his highness the intimation of a certain method of blowing up rocks in mines, and other subterraneous places. Dr. Hooke has preserved another invention of his for making hail-shot of all sizes. He devised a particular kind of screw, by the means of which, observations taken by a quadrant at sea were secured from receiving any alteration by the unsteadiness of the observer’s hand, or through the motion of the ship. It was said that he had also, among other secrets, that of melting or running black lead, like a metal, into a mould, and reducing it again into its original form.

But there is one invention of which he has the credit, which requires more particular notice. Besides being mentioned by foreign authors with applause for his skill in painting, he was considered as the inventor of mezzotinto, owing, as it is said, to the following casual occurrence. Going out early one morning during his retirement at Brussels, he observed the centinel at some distance from his post, very busy doing something to his piece. The prince asked the soldier what he was about? he replied, the dew had fallen in the night, and made his fusil rusty, and that he was scraping and cleaning it. The prince looking at it, was struck with something like a figure eaten into the barrel, with innumerable little holes closed together like friezed work on gold or silver, part of which the fellow had scraped away. The prince immediately conceived that some contrivance might be found to cover a brass plate with such a grained ground of fine pressed holes, which | would undoubtedly give an impression all black; and that by scraping away proper parts, the smooth superficies would leave the rest of the paper white. Communicating his idea to Wallerant Vaillant, a reputable painter then in the neighbourhood of Brussels, they made several experiments, and at last invented a steel roller with projecting points or teeth like a file, which effectually produced the black ground, and which being scraped away, or diminished at pleasure, left the gradations of light.

Such was the invention of mezzotinto, according to lord Orford, Mr. Evelyn, and Mr. Vertue; but the baron Heinnekin affirms that “it was not prince Rupert who invented the art of engraving in mezzotinto, as Vertue and several other authors pretend to say; but it was the lieutenant colonel de Siegen, an officer in the service of the landgrave of Hesse, who first engraved in this manner; and the print which he produced was a portrait of the princess Amelia Elizabeth of Hesse, engraved as early as the year 1643. Prince Rupert, he adds, learned the secret from this gentleman, and brought it into England when he came over the second time with Charles II.” Mr. Strutt, who makes this quotation, says, that he has not seen the print thus spoken of by the baron: and the precise date of prince Rupert’s discovery is no where mentioned. But if a mezzotinto engraving dated seventeen years before the restoration can be produced, and the date be genuine, it certainly goes far toward proving Heinnekin’s assertion. Vertue acknowledges to have seen an oval head of Leopold William, archduke of Austria, in mezzotinto, that was dated in 1656, which he esteems the earliest. It is inscribed “Theodorus Casparus a Furstenburgh canonicus ad vivum pinxit et fecit” but this argues little against prince Rupert’s discovery, since it is quite within probability that Casparus might have learned the art from the prince or Vaillant during their residence in the Low Countries.

The earliest of Rupert’s engravings in mezzotinto, that is now extant, is dated in 1658. It is an half length figure from Spagnoletto: the subject, an executioner holding a sword in one hand, and in the other a head, which is probably intended for that of John the Baptist, and upon the sword are the initials R. P. F. surmounted with a coronet. It is further distinguished by the following inscription on a tablet beneath, “Sp in Rvp. P. fecit. Francofurti. anno 1658 M. A. P. M.| Prince Rupert died at his house in Spring Gardens, Nov, 29, 1682, and was interred in Henry the Vllth’s chapel, regretted as one whose aim in all his actions and all his accomplishments was the public good. He was a great promoter of the trade to Africa, and a principal protector of the Royal African Company; as a proof of which, before the first Dutch war in this reign, he offered his majesty to sail with a squadron to the coast of Guinea, in order to vindicate the honour of the crown, assert the just rights of the company, and redress the injuries done to the nation; but the king, unwilling to hazard his person at such a distance, and in so sickly a climate, though he received the motion kindly, would not consent to it, but contented himself with taking an officer of his recommendation (captain Holmes), under whom the squadron was sent. He was an active member of the council of trade. It was owing to his solicitations, after being at great expence, not only in the inquiry into the value, but in sending ships thither, that the Hudson’s Bay Company was erected, of which he was the first governor appointed by the charter. In memory of him, a considerable opening on the east side of that bay, in Terra de Labrador, is called Rupert’s river. In general, his highness was a great friend to seamen, and to all learned, ingenious, and public-spirited persons, and assisted them with his purse, as well as afforded them his countenance. He was concerned in the patent for annealed cannon, in a glass-house, and other undertakings for acquiring or improving manufactures. Strict justice has been done to his highness’s many virtues, and amiable qualities, in that excellent character of him by bishop Sprat. In respect to his private life, he was so just, so beneficent, so courteous, that his memory remained dear to all who knew him. “This,” observes Campbell, “I say of my own knowledge; having often heard old people in Berkshire speak in raptures of prince Rupert.

After his death his collection of pictures was sold by auction; but his jewels, which were appraised by three jewellers at 20,000l. were disposed of by way of lottery, as appears by the Gazette 1683, Nos. 1864, 1873, &c. The tickets were 5l. each, and the largest prize a great pearl necklace valued at 8000l. The lowest prizes were valued at IQQl. The advertisement states that this lottery was to be “drawn in his majesty’s presence, who is pleased to declare that he himself will see all the prizes put in among | the blanks, and that the whole shall be managed with all equity and fairness, nothing being intended but the sale of the jewels at a moderate value.

Prince Rupert, who never was married, left a natural son, usually called Dudley Rupert, by a daughter of Henry Bard viscount Beilemont, though styled in his father’s last will and testament Dudley Bard. He was educated at Eton school, and afterwards placed under the care of that celebrated mathematician sir Jonas Moore at the Tower. Here he continued till the demise of the prince, when he made a tour into Germany to take possession of a considerable fortune which had been bequeathed to him. He was very kindly received by the Palatine family, to whom he had the honour of being so nearly allied. In 1686 he made a campaign in Hungary, and distinguished himself at the siege of Buda, where he had the misfortune to lose his life, in the month of July or August, in a desperate attempt made by some English gentlemen upon the fortifications of that city, in the twentieth year of his age; and, though so young, he had signalized his courage in such an extraordinary manner, that his death was exceedingly regretted. 1


Sir George Bromley’s “Collection of Original Royal Letters,1787, 8vo. Campbell’s Lives of the Admirals. Walpole’s Anecdotes. —Strutt’s Dict. fcees’s Cyclopædia.