Who's Who

King Charles's Nephew and the English Throne: The Elector Palatine and the Civil War

C.V. Wedgwood on the the links between the Stuart monarchy and its German relatives preceding, and throughout, the Civil War period. 

Prince Rupert, nephew of King Charles I and the most famous Royalist general in the Civil War, is a familiar and romantic figure in English history. His elder brother, Charles Louis, Elector Palatine, has attracted very little attention. As an important German prince in a strategic position on the Rhine, the part that he played in European politics during his later years scarcely brought him into contact with England, but when he was young his hopes and aspirations had been closely bound up with English politics. He spent the greater part of the Civil War living at Windsor or Whitehall in open friendship with Parliament, but, although the major historians of the epoch take passing notice of this, little attempt has been made to estimate the significance of his conduct or to relate it to the fortunes of his brother and his uncle.

Charles Louis—this French form was more usual in England than Karl Ludwig—was the second of the thirteen children and the eldest surviving son of Elizabeth, only sister of Charles I, and her husband, Frederick V, Elector Palatine. He was born in Heidelberg, the capital of the Rhenish Palatinate, in 1617, but spent most of his childhood in Holland where his father and mother were exiles living on the generous, but always inadequate, subventions paid them by the Dutch government, the Prince of Orange and their English relations. The events which had reduced the family to these straits were of importance in shaping the political attitude of the young Charles Louis and fixing his place in English politics.

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