Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Russell, Edward (1653-1727)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
696169Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 49 — Russell, Edward (1653-1727)1897John Knox Laughton

RUSSELL, EDWARD, Earl of Orford (1653–1727), admiral of the fleet, born in 1653, was son of Edward Russell, a younger brother of William Russell, first duke of Bedford. He was in 1671 appointed lieutenant of the Advice. In the battle of Solebay, on 28 May 1672, he was lieutenant of the Rupert with Sir John Holmes; and on 10 June he was promoted to be captain of the Phœnix. In 1673 he commanded the Swallow attached to the fleet under Prince Rupert; and in 1676 was appointed to the Reserve, one of the squadron in the Mediterranean under Sir John Narbrough [q. v.] Continuing in the Mediterranean with Arthur Herbert (afterwards earl of Torrington) [q. v.], in 1678 he commanded the Swiftsure, in 1680 the Newcastle, in 1682 the Tiger, which he seems to have quitted in the following year, probably on the execution of his cousin, William, lord Russell [q. v.] Discontented with the government, he afterwards became an active agent in the cause of the Prince of Orange, and during the reign of James II made several journeys to Holland in the prince's interest. In a private capacity he accompanied the prince to England in 1688, and on his march on London. On 4 April 1689 he was appointed treasurer of the navy, and on 22 July admiral of the blue squadron in the fleet under Torrington.

In December he was sent with a small squadron to escort the Queen of Spain to Coruña. He returned to England in April 1690, but during the following months, though nominally in command of the blue squadron, spent most of the time in London, intriguing against Torrington, who held the command, which he, apparently, considered ought to be his by right of his political services. It would seem to be certain that it was mainly through his intrigues and misrepresentations that the disastrous order to fight was sent to Torrington, Russell remaining meanwhile in London to watch the course of events. In December, when Torrington was finally superseded, Russell was appointed in his stead, and commanded the fleet during the summer of 1691 without being able to bring the French to action, notwithstanding a very great superiority of force. But he was now in correspondence with the exiled James, and was preparing to act as a traitor to King William, as he had formerly done to James. It was possibly on this ground that he kept out of the way of the French fleet in the summer of 1691; but his negotiations with James led to little result, and next year he had no choice but to engage the enemy.

By 15 May 1692 the English and Dutch fleet, to the number of eighty-two ships of the line, was collected at Portsmouth. It was known that the French fleet under the Comte de Tourville had left Brest; but it was resolved by Russell after a council of war not to go down the Channel to look for the enemy, but to stand over towards Cape Barfleur to meet them there. On the 18th Russell had intelligence of the enemy's approach, brought by a Captain John Tupper in command of a Guernsey privateer, who sailed through their fleet in a fog. Russell immediately weighed with a westerly wind; and the next morning, 19 May, being then some twenty miles to the north-east of Cape Barfleur, the look-out frigates signalled the enemy in sight, coming on with a fair wind at about W.S.W. Tourville had with him only forty-five ships of the line, but, in spite of the odds against him, he ran down to engage, not so much because positive orders to do so had been given him under the king's own hand, as because, in the hazy weather that prevailed, he had not realised the enormous superiority of the force opposed to him till it was too late to retreat.

The allied fleet, in line of battle, was standing towards the south, the Dutch leading; but the blue squadron was a good deal astern and some three miles to leeward. In the van, the French contained the Dutch, preventing them from coming to close action, while the French centre and rear, with a local superiority of numbers, made a furious attack on the English centre, the red squadron. This squadron was under the immediate command of Russell himself in the Britannia, and his ship was closely engaged by the Soleil Royal, carrying Tourville's flag. Tactically the French had been given a great advantage; but the ships of the red squadron defended themselves stoutly, and the balance of the fighting was curiously even till towards two o'clock, when the wind veered to about W.N.W., permitting the rear of the red squadron under Sir Clowdisley Shovell [q. v.] to break through the French line, and a little later the whole of the blue squadron, under Rooke, Sir John Ashby [q. v.], and Richard Carter [q. v.], passed to windward. By four o'clock the French centre and rear were enveloped by the English fleet with a twofold superiority of numbers.

The battle was thus practically won when the wind died away, and a fog came on so dense that the firing was stopped. Towards six the fog lifted a little and a light easterly breeze sprang up, before which the French fled in disorder, followed by the English through the night and through the next day. Three of the French ships escaped to the north-west, and, flying down the Channel, reached Brest. Others escaped to the north-east and into the North Sea, whence they returned to Brest by passing round Scotland and Ireland; but the great body of their fleet was driven to the westward along the coast towards Cape de La Hague, and in the night of the 20th some of their ships ran through the Race of Alderney. But thirteen, caught by the tide, were driven back to the eastward. Three of these were burnt at Cherbourg by Sir Ralph Delavall [q. v.]; the rest took refuge in the bay of La Hague. The whole of the English fleet followed, and after examining the situation on the 22nd, Russell sent in the boats under the command of Sir George Rooke, who burnt the whole twelve as well as some eight or ten transports on the evening of the 23rd and the morning of the 24th; after which, leaving a detachment of the fleet under Ashby to look after the French ships which had fled into Saint-Malo, Russell returned to Portsmouth.

Notwithstanding the decisive nature of victory, there was a general feeling that more should have been done, and both Russell and Ashby were charged with not taking proper measures to complete the destruction of the French. The House of Commons resolved that Russell had ‘behaved with courage, fidelity, and conduct,’ but the popular feeling insisted on his dismissal. He was accordingly removed from the command, but, after the disasters sustained during the summer of 1693, was reinstated in the following November, and on 2 May 1694 was also appointed first lord of the admiralty. In June, in command of an allied fleet of some sixty-three sail of the line, he was sent to the Mediterranean, where the threat of his presence at once led the French, at the time off Barcelona, to retire to Toulon. As it was evident that the French attack on the Catalan coast would be renewed as soon as the English fleet departed, it was kept in the Mediterranean during the rest of the year, and wintered at Cadiz. In the spring of 1695 it again took up a station off Barcelona. In August an attempt was made to recover Palamos, which the French had occupied in the previous year; but on learning that a fleet of sixty sail lay at Toulon ready for sea, Russell re-embarked the troops, withdrew from Palamos, and sailed to meet the enemy, who, however, remained in Toulon. Russell's actions both in 1694 and 1695 are early instances of the recognition of the power of a fleet, not necessarily superior in force, to prevent territorial aggression (Colomb, Naval Warfare, pp. 271–2).

In the autumn of 1695 the fleet returned to England, and Russell had no further service afloat. He continued at the admiralty till 1699. He had represented Launceston (1689), Portsmouth (1690), and Cambridgeshire (1695) in the lower house; and on 7 May 1697 he was raised to the peerage as Baron of Shingey, Viscount Barfleur and Earl of Orford. During the king's absence in Holland in the summer of 1697, and again in the summer of 1698, he was one of the lords justices. In April 1706 he was appointed one of the commissioners for the union with Scotland; he was first lord of the admiralty from November 1709 to September 1710, and again from October 1714 to April 1717. He was also one of the lords justices after the death of Queen Anne, pending the arrival of George I, and in September 1714 was nominated lord-lieutenant of Cambridgeshire. He died on 26 Nov. 1727. He married in 1691 his cousin Mary, daughter of William Russell, first duke of Bedford, and sister of William, lord Russell, but, leaving no issue, the titles became extinct on his death. Orford is described in 1704 as ‘of a sanguine complexion, inclining to fat; of a middle stature.’ His portrait, by R. Bockman, is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich; another, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, has been engraved.

[Charnock's Biogr. Nav. i. 354; Campbell's Lives of the British Admirals, ii. 317, &c.; Burchett's Transactions at Sea; Burnet's Hist. of his own Time; Dalrymple's Memoirs of Great Britain and Ireland; Memoirs relating to Lord Torrington (Camden Soc.); Life of Captain Stephen Martin (Navy Records Society); The Battle of La Hogue, in Quarterly Review, April 1893; Army and Navy Gazette, 21 May, 4 June, 6 Aug. 1892; Troude's Batailles Navales de la France, i. 209; Sue's Hist. de la Marine Française, v. 65–92.]

J. K. L.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.240
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line
430 ii 32
Russell, Edward, Earl of Orford: for La Hogue read La Hague
431 i 28 after 1699, insert He had represented Launceston (1689), Portsmouth (1690), and Cambridgeshire (1695) in the lower house,