War in the West

Prince Rupert, 1619-82

1982 marks the tercentenary of the death of Prince Rupert, the most brilliant of Charles I's generals. As Hugh Trevor-Roper here documents, he was single-minded in his chosen craft of war, but Rupert was never able to grasp the complexities of the contemporary situation.

Politically calculated marriages rarely work out according to plan. In 1612 a marriage was arranged between Frederick V, Elector Palatine, and Elizabeth, daughter of James I of England. The plans were laid by the bridegroom's uncle Henri, duc de Bouillon, the diplomatic leader of the French Huguenots. To the Duc de Bouillon, the marriage was designed to strengthen that international Calvinism on which the Huguenots depended for foreign support. King James accepted it in order to strengthen his position as the arbiter of Europe: with his daughter married to the leading Calvinist prince and his son, he hoped, to a Spanish infanta, he would hold the balance and preserve the peace of Europe. The Elector accepted it as a means to raise his status and, perhaps, increase his power. All these hopes were soon disappointed. Within a few years the peace of Europe was destroyed, King James's policy in ruins, the Elector deprived of his electorate, the Huguenots reduced to impotence; and all as the result of that marriage, and the ambitions it engendered: the Elector's fatal acceptance of the Bohemian crown.

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