Handsome and clever, the eldest son of a wealthy family, Richard Lovelace was very much the courtly Cavalier poet. When King Charles and his queen visited Oxford in 1636, they were so favourably impressed by undergraduate Lovelace's demeanour that they commanded he be given an M.A. on the spot. However, his allegiance to King Charles during the Civil Wars caused him several stays in prison (during the first of which he wrote To Althea).
His period of imprisonment and his adventures in the French campaign against the Spanish, during which he was wounded, exhausted his inheritance. He spent the last years of his life impoverished and depressed, and died at the age of 39 in a London slum.