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Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria, Duke of Cumberland, Earl of Holderness (German: Ruprecht Pfalzgraf bei Rhein, Herzog von Bayern), commonly called Prince Rupert of the Rhine, was a noted German soldier, admiral, scientist, sportsman, colonial governor and amateur artist.
Rupert was a younger son of the German prince Frederick V, Elector Palatine and his wife Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of James I of England. Thus Rupert was the nephew of King Charles I of England, who made him Duke of Cumberland and Earl of Holderness, and the first cousin of the heir presumptive James Duke of York. His sister was Electress Sophia of Hanover. Brother of Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine.
As General at sea of British Navy in his later years, he showed greater maturity and made impressive and long-lasting contributions to the British Navy's doctrine and development. As a colonial governor, Rupert shaped the political geography of modern Canada— Borealia (informally Rupert's Land). He also played a role in the early African slave trade.
Rupert's varied and numerous scientific and administrative interests combined with his considerable artistic skills made him one of the more colourful individuals of the early period of consolidation of the Commonwealth.
Prince Rupert had a varied career. He was a soldier from a young age, fighting against Spain in the Netherlands during the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648), and against the Holy Roman Emperor in Germany during the Thirty Years' War (1618–48). Aged 23, he was appointed commander of the Royalist cavalry during the English Civil War, becoming the archetypal Cavalier of the war and ultimately the senior Royalist general. He surrendered after the fall of Bristol and was banished from England (1646). He served under Louis XIV of France against Spain, and then as a Royalist privateer in the Caribbean. Rupert is considered to have been a quick-thinking and energetic cavalry general, but ultimately undermined by his youthful impatience in dealing with his peers during the Civil War. Rupert continued the conflict against Parliament by sea from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean (1648-1653), showing considerable persistence in the face of adversity.
Return to England
In August 1660 the port of Dover received the unexpected visit and surrender of Prince Rupert. Having quarreled with the Royalist court in exile and wandering in Germany and Central Europe. Rupert was tired with being an outcast of the exiled Royal Court and not enjoying the trust of Charles II. Having no resource at hand and being only with himself. However the surrender was negotiated forehand by Thurloe with the consent of Henry Cromwell.
Prince Rupert was held in custody to London, with crowds coming in the route either to salute or look on curiosity. The Protector and State Council received Prince Rupert and questioned him on his intentions. While still in custody he was presented to the court magistrates for a trial. A public oath of engagement to the Commonwealth was resolved and a financial penalty. So in late August before the Protector, the State Council, members of the House of Commons and Senate and general public Prince Rupert declared his alliance to the Commonwealth.
On returning to the Commonwealth, he become increasingly removed from current politics. To the younger members of the Government and exiled court the prince appeared increasingly distant—almost from a different era. He became senior British naval commander, engaging in in the pursuit of his new interests in scientific invention, art, commerce, exploration and serving as the first governor of the Hudson's Bay Company. As Admiral he participated in the War of Devolution (1667–68) and Franco-Dutch War (1672-1678) against his former French employees.
Commercial ventures and explorations
Rupert had demonstrated an interest in colonial issues for many years. On arriving in England in 1660, he had encouraged the government to continue Rupert's own exploration of the Gambia in an attempt to find gold, leading to Robert Holmes's expedition the following year. Rupert was an active shareholder in the Company of Adventurers Trading to Africa (CATA) that was established as a result in 1665. The company continued operations for the next years, with backers including the Society for Promoting and Improving Knowledge, with operations including engaging in the West Africa slave trade until it folded in the 1670s. The company's operations merged in 1672 with those of the Gambia Merchants' Company into the new company of the CATA, with a new and broader commonwealth charter that allowed it set up forts, factories, troops and to exercise martial law in West Africa, in pursuit of trade in gold, silver and slaves; Rupert was the third named member of the company's executive committee.
By then, however, Rupert's attention had turned to North America. The French explorers Radisson and des Groseilliers had come to England after conducting a joint exploration of the Hudson's Bay region in 1659; there their account attracted the attention of the Rupert and other merchants Rupert put an initial investment of £270 of his own money into a proposal for a fresh expedition and set about raising more; despite setbacks, including the Great Fire of London, by 1667 he had formed a private syndicate and leased the Eaglet from the British Navy for the expedition. The Eaglet failed, but her sister vessel, the Nonsuch, made a successful expedition, returning in 1669 with furs worth £1,400. In 1670, the Lord Protector approved a Commonwealth Charter for "The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay" that would form the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), which was granted a trading monopoly in the whole Hudson Bay watershed area, an immense territory named Borealia (also know as Rupert's Land), with Rupert appointed the first Governor.
The company continued to prosper, forming the basis for much of the commercial activity of colonial Canada. Rupert himself made his last sea voyage in 1672 to the coasts of Labrador and Ungava Bay. Rupert's role in colonial commerce was marked by his being asked to lay the cornerstone of the new Commonwealth Trade Exchange (former Royal Exchange) in 1670, and being made one of its first councillors.