Boy, the “magical” dog of prince Rupert of the Rhine, listed as the the first dog to serve the British Army

 
 

The friendship between man and dog goes back to ancient times, and it is no wonder many of our canine friends have been mentioned in the history of humanity on occasion. Even kings were not immune to the charm of these animals, and many of them gave canines a special place beside their thrones. Among dogs that belonged to royalty, there is one with a very interesting life story, Boy, Prince Rupert’s dog that supposedly possessed some magical powers.

First of all, let’s say a few words about its owner for those who are unfamiliar with him. Prince Rupert of the Rhine was a prominent German nobleman, soldier, artist, and scientist who was also the nephew of King Charles I of England and the first cousin of King Charles II of England. Since his youth, Rupert had proven himself in battle many times.

During one of the wars he took part in, the Thirty Years War in Germany, he fought against the Holy Roman Empire, was captured, and put behind bars in Linz. He was well treated due to his status–his captors’ main motivation was to convert the Calvinist prince to Catholicism. During this time, the earl of Arundel, an Englishman, thought that Rupert would feel better if he had some company. For this purpose, he gave him a small puppy, a rare white hunting poodle. The dog, although it was female, was named Boy. Nobody could have predicted that, some years later, Boy would become something of a political figure in England.

After Rupert’s release from imprisonment, he became a commander of the cavalry of the Royalist forces during the English Civil War, and was appointed Master of the Horse, a high rank within the royal court, by King Charles I. Everywhere he went, he had his faithful companion following him. Boy was always with Rupert, either on the battlefield or in the royal court, and soon the dog became as famous as its owner. As a prominent figure in the war, Rupert was often the main course in propaganda spread by the Parliamentarians. That means that Boy, as he was always with him, was also exposed to this propaganda.

Boye

The stories about Boy and his other-worldly abilities went wild. Some Parliamentarians claimed that Boy possessed dark magical powers and that he was, in fact, a dog-witch or even a witch familiar. Some even considered her to be the devil itself. Royalist satirists, on the other hand, defended Rupert and Boy by inventing their own versions of legends about the dog and its owner. One pamphlet presented Boy as a beautiful lady from Lapland, transformed into a white dog to act as his protector. Some Royalist publications even said that Boy was skillful at finding hidden treasures, that she was resistant to any attack and could catch a bullet aimed at her master in her mouth. A true super-dog among dogs! Other sources said that the poodle made a signal with her legs every time she heard the name of John Pym (leader of the Parliamentarian army) being spoken.

Pro-Parliamentary Pamphlet of 1643

Legend and magic aside, Boy was loved and respected by the Royalist soldiers, and they gave her the rank of Sergeant-Major-General. The dog was their mascot and their supporter on the battlefields, together with Rupert. Boy was quite popular in the royal court too. According to some accounts, Charles I himself fed Boy, and later Boy performed for him.

Boy’s popularity was huge, and people from all around Europe heard about her. The news about her powers and character even reached Murad IV, the Ottoman Sultan at the time, who expressed the desire to own a dog with similar qualities.

A contemporary depiction of Boy’s death

Unfortunately, Boy stopped accompanying Rupert in 1644. During the Battle of Marston, Boy was tied up in the Royalist camp but somehow managed to escape and followed her master on the battlefield. The battle was not going well for the Royalists and Rupert ordered his forces to retreat. During this fight and in this chaos, probably while she was looking for Rupert, Boy was killed.

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The lost battle, as well as the death of Boy, was sad for Royalists. Contemporary artists made wooden carvings of the scene in which Boy was lying upside down, dead on the field. Boy was probably not gifted with magical powers, but nevertheless, she was a noble member of the kingdom of dogs. As a legacy, today Boy is listed as the first dog in the service of the British Army.