Part four of Nothing
Rupert learned his lesson from the death of Boye, and never took a domesticated animal on campaign again, but once he moved back to England after the Restoration of the monarchy, there was always a dog waiting for him at home.
Like many of his family he genuinely loved animals – his mother, Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, was said by her youngest daughter to prefer her dogs and monkeys to her children. His cousin, Charles II, was hardly ever seen without his troop of pretty, spoilt spaniels, the only breed of dogs to have been royal permission to go to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, and that, along with Nell Gwynn and her oranges, is still the popular image of the king we have today.
In late middle-age, even Prince Rupert was disarmed by an actress, the glamorous, dark-haired Margaret Hughes. They met in Tunbridge Wells, where fashionable society avoided smelly, plaguey London during the summer, which was more of a hot dating spot then than now.
Margaret Hughes (c 1630 – 1719), one of the first, if not the first, woman to appear professionally on the English stage after the Restoration, as Desdemona in the King’s Company production of Othello in December, 1660, in a portrait by Lely, c. 1670, with fashionable accessory of adoring spaniel. She became Rupert’s mistress after 1668, and continued her acting career spasmodically, in the lucky position of being able to choose her parts.
Peg Hughes was very extravagant, and in later life had a gambling addiction; she cost Rupert a lot of money to keep in a grand house bought specially for her. She insisted on her right to continue acting, and he let her – after all, he knew what being driven by professional commitment was like, and he had more in common with a self-made woman than the pampered women of his own class.
She was affectionate and faithful to her now elderly prince in return. The relationship lasted until his death, and he doted on their daughter. The hard man turned soft over those two. He made sure they would be looked after financially, bequeathing his estate to them and his son by a previous mistress.
Peg Hughes went through her share very quickly, to pay off her gambling debts, and had to sell all the fine things Rupert had given her; the Queen of Bohemia’s pearl earrings and necklace, the grand house – they all went. All is vanity.
Gijsbrechts, Trompe l’oeil. An Open Cabinet of Curiosities with a Hercules Group, 1670.
Image: Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.
There are many more tales to tell, but I see the words being counted down below.
Pause for a moment to think of those of us alive today who fell in love with a dead man’s shadow when we were very young, and still don’t know better. I didn’t even mean to blog about him, but that damned monkey led me here.
I don’t trust it; they can be murderous little things, not funny at all. I lived in the same road as a monkey a long time ago, who was left home alone one day with the other house pets, ate the parrot, and escaped on to the rooftops of East Sheen.
Four years after Rupert died, his only son, Dudley Bard, was killed in action fighting as a volunteer against the Islamic Ottoman Empire’s occupation of Hungary. He was twenty. All is vanity, vanity of vanities.
To be continued