(2nd E. Bedford)

Born: 1527

Died: 28 Jul 1585, Bedford House, The Strand, London, Middlesex, England

Buried: 14 Sep 1585, Chenies

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: John RUSSELL (1° E. Bedford)

Mother: Anne SAPCOTE (C. Bedford)

Married 1: Margaret St. JOHN (C. Bedford)


1. Edward RUSSELL (3° B. Russell)

2. John RUSSELL (4° B. Russell)

3. Francis RUSSELL (5º B. Russell)

4. William RUSSELL (1° B. Russell of Thornhaugh)

5. Anne RUSSELL (C. Warwick)

6. Elizabeth RUSSELL (C. Bath)

7. Margaret RUSSELL (C. Cumberland)


Married 2: Bridget HUSSEY (C. Rutland/C. Bedford) 25 Jun 1566

Russell,Francis(2ºE.Bedford)01.jpg (46750 bytes)

Only son of John Russell, first earl of Bedford, by his wife Anne, was born probably in 1527. Educated at King’s Hall, Cambridge. When quite young, Edward Underhill is said to have saved him from drowning in the Thames, a good office which was afterwards repaid when Underhill was in trouble on account of his opinions (Narrative of the Reformation, Camd. Soc., p. 140).

Godfather and namesake of Sir Francis Drake. The Drakes stood in good stead with the Russells, their landlords, sufficiently so for Lord Russell's son, the youth Francis Russell, to stand as godfather to Edmund's eldest son and to provide him with his Christian name.

He accompanied his father to the French war in 1544, and from 1547 to 1552 was Member of Parliament for Buckinghamshire, being probably the first heir to a peerage to sit in the House of Commons. When Edward VI was crowned, Russell was one of the forty who were created K.B. (2 Feb 1546/7). In 1547 he was sheriff of Bedfordshire. In 1548 he was at the head of one of the enclosure commissions. He assisted to quell the rising in Devonshire in 1549. After his father had been created Earl of Bedford in Jan 1550, was known as Lord Russell, taking his seat in the House of Lords under this title.

At the surrender of Boulogne certain hostages were required, one of whom was to have been Lord Russell, but he was released from that duty, and escorted the French nobles who were sent to England as sureties from Dover to London (cf. DASENT, Acts of Privy Council, ii. 421). On 11 Nov 1551 he attended Marie of Guise, Queen Dowager of Scotland, when she came from Hampton Court to London (MAC HYN, Diary, Camd. Soc. p. 11).

Russell,Francis(2°EBedford).jpg (87369 bytes)

Sketch of Francis Russell

by Hans Holbein the Younger,

Russell was in sympathy with the reformers, whose opinions he shared. In 1551 he attended the conferences on the sacrament held at the houses of Sir Richard Moryson and Sir William Cecil. In Feb 1551/2 he took his seat in the House of Lords as Baron Russell. From 1553 to 1580 Russell seems to have held the office of lord warden of the Stannaries.

He was one of the peers who signes the device of King Edward VI, and was in communication with Sir Thomas Wyatt and possibly he had carried letters from Elizabeth to Wyatt; and in consequence of his religious attitude was imprisoned during the earlier part of Mary’s reign. He was consequently for a time in the custody, first of the sheriff of London, and afterwards of the warden of the Fleet prison; later, Lord Rich took charge of him. While in prison John Bradford (b. 1510 - d. 1555) wrote to him sympathetically (FoxE).

On 14 Mar 1554/5 he became second Earl of Bedford on the death of his father. Being released he went into exile; visited Italy; came into touch with foreign reformers. In 1557 he was at Venice, whence he sent a Latin letter to Bullinger. He returned in that year, and was one of the captains in the English army at the battle of St Quentin, of which he wrote an account to Sir William Cecil. Afterwards he seems to have enjoyed some measure of the royal favour, and was made lord-lieutenant of the counties of Devon, Cornwall and Dorset early in 1558. He was busy at this time in levying men for the French war.

When Elizabeth ascended the throne the Earl of Bedford, became an active figure in public life, and took an active part in the religious settlement, being a commissioner to receive the oath of supremacy, and one of those who assisted in the drawing up of the new liturgy. He was made a privy councillor, and was sent on 23 Jan 1560/1 on diplomatic errands to Charles IX of France to congratulate him on his accession and also visited Mary Queen of Scots and tried to obtain her adhesion to the treaty of Edinburgh. He kept up his foreign connections, and in Jun 1561 unsuccessfully invited Peter Martyr to come to England (cf. 1 Zurich Letters, p. 81). From Feb 1564 to Oct 1567 he was governor of Berwick and warden of the east marches of Scotland, in which capacity he conducted various negotiations between Elizabeth and Mary. He appears to have been an efficient warden, but was irritated by the vacillating and tortuous conduct of the English Queen. Berwick he found in a state of decay. He strengthened the fortifications, and was an active border leader. On 23 Apr 1564 he was elected K.G. On 17 Nov 1564 he was named a commissioner with Thomas Randolph to treat as to Mary, Queen of Scots' marriage. When news arrived of her resolve to marry Darnley, he went to London to attend important meetings of the privy council, and immediately afterwards was appointed lordlieutenant of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, and the bishopric of Durham, with orders to keep a large force ready.

In Sep 1565 he was invited to settle disputes among the members of the Dutch church in London. On the border he seems to have acted diplomatically, and it was through him that Elizabeth supplied the lords of the congregation with money. When they fled over the border, Bedford received them at Carlisle, for which, though it was the legitimate outcome of Elizabeth's policy, he was blamed by Cecil. Among other communications which he made to the council at this time was a long account of Rizzio's murder, dated from Berwick, 27 Mar 1565/6, and signed by himself and Randolph. Later in this year (Dec) he was proxy for the Queen at the baptism of James. He travelled on this occasion with a considerable retinue. In Oct 1567 he gave up the Berwick appointment apparently on the ground of ill-health, but he was constantly in attendance at the council. 

In 1568, his cousin Margaret, a lady who had been Abbess of the dissolved Cistersian Abbey of Tarrant, in Dorset, left to Bedford a great deal of money, plate and jewels. In her will, proved in Jul 1568, her bequests include “my best gown of silk chamlet, my kirtle of satin, my scarlet petticoat, my best bonnet of velvet”. She was buried in Bere Regis Church.

When the northern insurrection broke out in 1569, Bedford was sent into Wales, but later went into Sussex. In  1570 the Queen visited Chenies, while Bedford was away at Coventry. Although he wrote to Cecil expressing a wish to see Norfolk released, Bedford was one of those who sat in judgment upon Thomas Howard, fourth Duke of Norfolk in 1572. In Jul 1572 the Queen again visited him, this time at Woburn Abbey, much apparently to the Earl's dismay, as he knew by experience how expensive the honour was. In 1576 he was president of the council of Wales, and ordered to raise one thousand men for Ireland; the same year he was made lieutenant of the Garter. In 1581 was one of the commissioners deputed to arrange a marriage between Elizabeth and Francois, Duke of Anjou; but from this time his health slowly gave way, though he was appointed to the office of chief justice and justice in eyre of the royal forests south of the Trent on 26 Feb 1583/4.

Camelford, in the duchy of Cornwall borough in the parish of Lanteglos, has been suggested as the seat Drake held in 1581. It returned two Members, and one of them was nominated by none other than the great magnate Francis Russell, Earl of Bedford, Drake's own godfather. Now for the first time perhaps, that connection was gathering its rewards. Bedford's influence was profound. He was warden of the stanneries, Lord Lieutenant of Devon and Cornwall, and controlled several parliamentary seats, all of which he assigned to friends and relatives who would assist him in promoting his particular cause in government, the Puritan faith. Sir Francis Drake satisfied Bedford on all counts. He was the son of an old family tenant; he was his godson; he was a national hero; and he was an unbridled Puritan, a patriot who cheerfully signed the Devon Instrument of Association in 1584, proclaiming unreserved support for the Queen and the Protestant succession, and who symbolized the nation's rising pride and confidence.

In 1584 Drake was elected one of the two Members for Bossiney, in Cornwall, on 28 Oct. His indenture was signed by a mere nine persons, creatures of Bedford, who controlled both the Bossiney seats, and simply presented the electors with their representative.

In 1586 came Drake's plan to create havoc on several Spanish held ports in South America and the Caribbean. As usual court and peerage were well represented. The Earls of Rutland, Shrewsbury and Bedford, seem to have invested money in the venture, and Shrewsbury supplied the bark Talbot. Leicester contributed the Galleon Leicester, commanded by his brother-in-law, Francis Knollys, and the tiny Speedwell. Some of the main investors were connected with the navy. Sir William Winter provided the Sea Dragon; the Lord Admiral, Charles, Lord howard of Effingham, the White Lion, captained by James Erisey, a West Country man; and the Hawkins brothers, the Bark Bond (Capt. Robert Crosse), the Hope, the Bark Hawkins (Capt. William Hawkins the younger), probably the Galliot Duck (Richard Hawkins), and possibly also the Bark Bonner, whose captain, George Fortescue, had been one of Drake's circumnavigators.

He appears to have been a generous, kindly and popular man, and died in London at Bedford House, Strand, on the 28 Jul 1585, of gangrene. He was buried at Chenies, where a monument, with figures of himself and his first wife, was erected. Bishop Pilkington made him in 1571 one of the overseers of his will. Many books were dedicated to him, among them Cooper's 'Chronicle', and Becon's 'Christian Knight' and 'Monstrous Merchandise of the Roman Bishops'. He left money to University College, Oxford, and founded a free school at Woburn. He also gave building stone to Trinity and Corpus Christi Colleges, Cambridge.

His first wife was Margaret (d. 1562), daughter of Sir John St John, by whom he had four sons and three daughters. His three eldest sons predeceased their father. His second wife was Bridget, daughter of John, Lord Hussey and widow of Henry Manners, Earl of Rutland.

He was succeeded as 3rd Earl by his grandson, Edward (b. 1572 — d. 1627), only son of Francis, Lord Russell.

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