|54775. Thu Feb 23, 2006 8:26 am
|Q: What would Prince Rupert never go into battle without?
A: Why, an enormous poodle, of course.
Prince Rupert of the Rhine (1619-1682), young son of the Elector Palatine, was one of Charles Stuart’s better generals during the civil war. He had gained valuable experience as a teenage cavalry commander during the Thirty Years War. He was Charles’s nephew.
His aunt, Henrietta Maria, sent his CV to Charles, commending his many virtues - his courage, his dashing, the fact that this tall, handsome, elegantly-dressed gent was a charismatic and popular commander, the quintessential “cavalier” - but warning also of his great failing: his tendency to quarrel. He was, she said, “not to be trusted to take a single step of his own head.”
In fact, he turned out much better than that - an inventive as well as daring employer of cavalry as a shock force. (He did have his faults, though; it’s said he turned up late for the battle of Naseby because he stopped along the way for an ice cream).
Always at his side was Boy, “a loyal and constant companion,” a white poodle described as “enormous.” Boy was carried in a gun holster or on Rupert’s saddle.
Hunt (see sources below) says that Rupert was “almost as famous” as Boy. He’d been given to Rupert by Lord Arundel, English ambassador to Vienna, while Rupert was a prisoner of war.
Boy was rumoured by parliamentarian soldiers to be Rupert’s familiar, and to have almost unrivalled supernatural powers, including “subjugation” of Hell itself, and the ability to conjure “the spirits up from below.” Boy was said to be one of the Royalists’ leading spies, due to his handy ability to go invisible.
It was a well-known fact that the dog’s mother was a witch. As one contemporary ballad put it:
“No sooner had she spake, but a blacke clowde
With elastic curtains did them both enshrowde,
Where was begotten this malignant Curr,
Who in this llande hath made all this stirre.
Women stand off and come not near it,
The Devill, if he saw it, sure would fear it.”
Boy was also said to have more haircuts than his master. Amongst the Roundhead pamphlets about the legendary dog were:
Observations vpon Prince Ruperts White Dog, called Boy.
A Dialogue or, Rather a Parley betweene Prince Ruperts Dogge whose name is Pvddle, and Tobies Dog whose name is Pepper.
The Parliaments vnspotted-bitch: In Answer to Prince Roberts Dog called Boy, And his Malignant She-Monkey.
A Dogs Elegy, or Rvpert's Tears, for the late Defeat...at Marston Moore...Where his beloved Dog, named Boy, was killed by a Valiant Souldier.
The defeat of the Royalists at Marston Moor was a turning point; for Rupert it was a terrible day in more than one way. Amongst the dead found upon the field of battle was Boy. A contemporary woodcutting shows Rupert hiding in a beanfield after the battle, and Boy lying dead and mutilated on the battleground. The devil-dog’s death was widely celebrated; it was one of the biggest news stories of the war.
It’s said that Parliament put a price on Boy’s head, but that the prize went unclaimed since no-one actually saw the dog fall. Some claimed that the only way Boy could be killed was by magic - and that’s why the solider who killed him did not dare come forward.
Sources: ‘Civil War’ by Trevor Royle (Little Brown, 2004)
‘The English Civil war’ by Tristram Hunt (Weidenfeld, 2002)
|54807. Thu Feb 23, 2006 9:09 am
|Curious use of the word 'elastic' in the ballad.
1653, coined in Fr. (1651) as a scientific term to describe gases, from Gk. elastos "ductile, flexible," related to elaunein "to strike, beat out," of uncertain origin. Applied to solids from 1674. The noun, "cord or string woven with rubber," is 1847, Amer.Eng.