Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Maurice (1620-1652)
MAURICE, Prince (1620–1652), the third son of Frederick V, elector palatine of the Rhine, and Elizabeth, daughter of James I, was born on 25 Dec. 1620 (or on 6 Jan.), at the castle of Custrin during Elizabeth's flight from Prague after the battle of the White Mountain (19 Nov. 1620) (Warburton, Prince Rupert, i. 40; Mrs. Green, Lives of the Princesses of England, v. 353). At first Maurice was placed under the care of the electress of Brandenburg, his mother's sister-in-law, but soon removing to Holland, he and his elder brother Rupert were in 1637 sent to learn the art of war in the army of the Prince of Orange (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1637, pp. 128, 201, 206, 235). They showed considerable bravery at the siege of Breda in 1638 (Warburton, i. 80). In the same year Maurice, with his brother Edward, was sent to a French university, and he remained there till the end of 1639 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1639, p. 39). He then returned to Holland, and possibly studied at Leyden (see satire on Maurice in Webb, Civil War in Herefordshire, i. 286). In December 1640 he served in Banier's army till June 1641, being present at the siege of Amberg in January 1641 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1640, pp. 294, 430, 469). Maurice soon afterwards joined Rupert at the Hague, and the brothers crossed over to England. They landed at Tynemouth in August 1642 (ib. 1642, p. 11; Warburton, i. 109, 110), and they remained in England till July 1646.
During the early days of the civil war Rupert and Maurice were together. They were present at the raising of the standard at Nottingham (22 Aug. 1642), and were zealous in raising troops for the king. They were consequently declared traitors by the parliament (May, Breviary, ed. Maseres, i. 53). Marching west with the main army, Maurice was present at the skirmish at Powick Bridge, being ‘slightly wounded on the head’ (23 Sept. 1642) (Pyne's ‘Narrative’ in Warburton, i. 465; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1642, p. 395); and still following the fortunes of his brother, he took part in the capture of Cirencester, 2 Feb. 1643 (Washbourn, Bibliotheca Gloucestrensis, p. 171). A month later Maurice separated from Rupert, and was given independent command, being on 2 March commissioned to protect Gloucestershire, and to levy money for that purpose (Black, Oxford Docquets, p. 13). The chief part of his work was to check the victorious progress of William Waller in those parts (Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion, ed. 1888, bk. vii. §§ 29, 30). On 11 April 1643 Waller was beaten in a skirmish at Little Dean; and on the next day Maurice succeeded in crossing the Severn, and defeated Waller and Massey at Ripple Field, on their return from the capture of Tewkesbury (Webb, i. 252; Washbourn, p. 33). Maurice was now called away to help the king to raise the siege of Reading, but shortly returned to the west as lieutenant-general under the Marquis of Hertford. In the skirmish with some of Waller's troops at Chewton Mendip (10 June 1643) he received ‘two shrewd hurts in his head’ (Clarendon, Hist. bk. vii. §§ 101, 102). He was also present at the battle of Lansdowne (5 July), after which he retired towards Devizes, and, with the Marquis of Hertford, made his way through the enemy's line to Oxford to obtain reinforcements and ammunition, with the help of which Waller was beaten at Roundway Down (13 July) (ib. bk. vii. §§ 104–10; Warburton, ii. 227, 233). Maurice joined Rupert in the siege of Bristol, and after its fall sided with his brother in the quarrel with the Marquis of Hertford about the appointment of governor of the city (ib. ii. 236 sqq., 269; Clarendon, Hist. bk. vii. §§ 124–55).
Maurice, with the Earl of Carnarvon, was now sent back to the south-west, where he remained in command till December 1644. During August 1643 nearly all Dorset was won, Dorchester (4 Aug.) and other places being gradually reduced; but owing to the license of Maurice's troops, and a dispute about the appointment of a governor of Weymouth, a quarrel broke out between him and Carnarvon, which led to the prince being sent into Devonshire (ib. bk. vii. §§ 192, 199; Gardiner, Hist. of the Great Civil War, i. 231), where he at once set about the reduction of the parliamentary garrisons. Exeter surrendered to him on 4 Sept. 1643 and Dartmouth on 6 Oct., and even Plymouth seemed likely to be won (Dugdale, Diary; Clarendon, Hist. bk. vii. §§ 296, 297; Rushworth, Historical Collections, v. 273). The siege of this town was, however, delayed by Maurice's illness, of the nature of ‘a slow fever with great dejection of strength,’ which kept him inactive at Milton from the middle of October for about one month (Warburton, ii. 307, 326). On his recovery Maurice continued his attack on Plymouth, but without real success, and the design was abandoned. He was directed to march through the southern counties on London, and in February 1644 was commissioned to act as lieutenant-general in all the counties south of the Thames except Hampshire (Black, Oxford Docquets, p. 140). In March he was ordered to advance eastwards (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1644, pp. 57, 75). Accordingly, in the same month he laid siege to Lyme without success, and withdrew on the approach of the Earl of Essex (15 June 1644). This failure and waste of time after his ill-success at Plymouth did much to lessen Maurice's reputation (Clarendon, Hist. bk. viii. § 92). He now retired west before Essex, and on 26 July his troops were reviewed by the king at Crediton, after which he joined Charles at Exeter, and with the main army followed Essex into Cornwall, his troops forming the advanced guard (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1644, pp. 304, 407). Maurice was present at Lostwithiel with five thousand foot and two thousand five hundred horse, and signed the letter for a treaty sent by the Earl of Brentford and Forth and other officers to the Earl of Essex (Symonds, Diary, pp. 45, 53, 56–8; Clarendon, Hist. bk. viii. § 105). After the surrender of Essex's army, Maurice's Cornish troops refused to march east with the king, and were sent home, the prince accompanying Charles to meet Waller. Maurice failed to take Taunton and Bridgewater, and was responsible for the failure of the attempt to surprise Waller on 18 Oct. (Gardiner, i. 497). He was present at the second battle of Newbury, 27 Oct., and took up his position on Speen Hill, which was stormed by Skippon and Balfour (Clarendon, Hist. bk. viii. §§ 154, 159). After the battle he retired to Oxford, and on 7 Nov. returned to relieve Donnington Castle (Symonds, Diary, pp. 147, 148).
Maurice was now appointed to fill Prince Rupert's place in Wales, but without the title of president. In December 1644 he accordingly resigned his command in the west, and was made major-general of Worcestershire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, and Monmouthshire (Webb, ii. 126). Leaving Oxford on 14 Jan. 1645 he took up his position at Worcester, and set about the task of reducing these counties to order. The plundering of Maurice's troops, an increase in taxation, and the rise of the Clubmen aggravated the prevailing discontent and rendered organisation impossible. He himself complained of want of power and (29 Jan.) asked for the enlargement of his commission. His soldiers also were deserting (Arch. Cambrensis, ‘Maurice's Diary,’ i. 39; Webb, ii. 129; Warburton, iii. 53, 60).
As both Shrewsbury and Chester were in danger, Maurice left Worcester, and on 5 Feb. reached the former town. On the 14th he marched towards Chester; Shrewsbury was lost on the 22nd. The parliamentary troops were now gathering round Maurice in Chester, but he was relieved by the arrival of Prince Rupert (17 March) (WEBB, ii. 141), and the siege of Beeston Castle was raised. On the approach of the Scottish army Rupert and Maurice retreated towards Hereford (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1645, pp. 375, 402), and the latter, probably after returning to Worcester, marched again towards Chester (ib. p. 404), whence he proceeded to Oxford to escort the king's train of artillery to Rupert at Hereford. Oliver Cromwell was sent against him and delayed his arrival at Oxford (ib. p. 419; Gardiner, ii. 157). But, joined by Rupert, he entered the city on 4 May, and on the 7th marched west with the king (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1645, p. 458; Webb, ii. 185; Symonds, Diary, p. 164). For some time Maurice seems to have remained with the king; he was present at the storming of Leicester (30 May), and at Naseby (14 June) he fought with Rupert on the right wing (Clarendon, Hist. bk. ix. § 39). He then returned to Worcester, awaiting the attack of the Scottish army, which was expected to lay siege to the city (7 July) (Warburton, iii. 133). On 15 Sept. Maurice joined the king at Bromyard and marched with him to raise the siege of Hereford (Symonds, Diary, p. 239; Webb, ii. 223); and again joined Charles at Chirk on 28 Sept. (ib. p. 244), but four days later he marched towards Worcester (ib. p. 245), and on 13 Oct. was joined by Rupert. Maurice remained faithful to his brother during his disgrace, without losing favour with the king (ib. p. 271; Warburton, iii. 189). He went with him to Belvoir Castle and to Newark, after which he returned to the west, and on 13 Nov. was with Rupert in Worcester (Symonds, Diary, p. 263). A little later the two again joined the king at Oxford (Whitelocke, Memorials, p. 187). They were in the city during the siege, and on its surrender (22 June 1646) were granted special terms on condition of their not approaching within twenty miles of London (Warburton, iii. 230), but this condition was held to have been broken, and on 26 June parliament voted that they should leave England within ten days (ib. iii. 235; Old Parliamentary Hist. xiv. 473). Accordingly, on July 8, Maurice crossed over from Dover to Holland, Rupert having sailed three days before to Calais.
Maurice served in the army of the Prince of Orange in Flanders, and was joined by Prince Rupert in 1648, in which year he began his career of piracy in the Channel and adventure on the sea. In January 1649 he resolved to join Rupert in a voyage to the West Indies. On the journey he visited Kinsale, and leaving Ireland in the autumn of 1649, crossed to Portugal. Thence he proceeded by way of Toulon to Africa, Cape Verd Isles, and the river Gambia, where in March 1652 he hoisted his vice-admiral's flag on an English prize named the Friendship, which was renamed the Defiance (Warburton, iii. 542). Afterwards Maurice and Rupert sailed to the West Indies, and on 14 Sept. 1652, in a storm off the Anagadas, Maurice was lost with three of the four ships (‘Narrative’ in Warburton, vol. iii. ch. ii. and iii. 544; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1652–3, p. 522).
Prince Maurice does not seem to have shared in any way the capacity of his elder brother; as a soldier he was personally brave, but without power of strategy or discipline; he had much of Rupert's rashness, but not apparently his power of commanding men; he ‘understood very little more of the war than to fight very stoutly when there was occasion;’ and he carried to excess Rupert's disregard of the civil and political aspects of the English civil war. Perhaps the best trait in his character is his affection for, and fidelity to his brother (Clarendon, Hist. bk. vii. §§ 85, note).
A portrait by Mytens is at Hampton Court, and two by Vandyck belong to the Earl of Craven.
[Mrs. Green's Lives of the Princesses of England; Warburton's Memoirs of Prince Rupert and the Cavaliers, 1849; Webb's Memorials of the Civil War in Herefordshire, 1879; Diary of Richard Symonds (Camden Society), 1859; Clarendon's Great Rebellion; Bibliotheca Gloucestrensis, ed. Washbourn, 1825, and the Calendars of State Papers.]