Russell, Francis (1593-1641) (DNB00)

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RUSSELL, FRANCIS, fourth Earl of Bedford (1593–1641), born in 1593, was only son of Sir William Russell, lord Russell of Thornhaugh [q. v.], and of Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Long of Shengay, Northamptonshire. Francis Russell was knighted on 30 March 1607, succeeded his father as second Lord Russell of Thornhaugh on 9 Aug. 1613, and became, on 3 May 1627, fourth Earl of Bedford, by the death of his cousin Edward, the third earl (Collins, Peerage, ed. Brydges, i. 279; Doyle, Official Baronage, i. 158). On 8 July 1623 he was made lord-lieutenant of the county of Devon and city of Exeter (ib.) In 1621 Russell was one of the thirty-three peers who petitioned James I on the prejudice caused to the English peerage by the lavish grant of Irish and Scottish titles of nobility (Wilson, Hist. of the Reign of James I, ed. 1653, p. 187; Court and Times of James I, ii. 230). In 1628, during the debates on the petition of right, he supported the demands of the commons, and was a member of the committee which reported against the king's right to imprison (Gardiner, Hist. of England, vi. 276). In May he was sent down to Devonshire, ostensibly to assist in refitting the fleet returned from Rochelle, but according to report, on account of his opposition in the House of Lords (Court and Times of Charles I, i. 358). Bedford was one of the three peers implicated in the circulation of Sir Robert Dudley's 'Proposition for His Majesty s Service,' was arrested on 5 Nov. 1629, and was brought before the Star-chamber. The prosecution, however, was dropped when the real nature of the paper was discovered (see Dudley, Sir Robert, 1573-1649, Cotton, Sir Robert Bruce; Gardiner, vii. 139; Rushworth, i. App.p. 12: State Trials, iii. 396).

Bedford now turned his attention to the improvement of his estates. About 1631 he built the square of Covent Garden, with the piazza and church of St. Paul's, employing Inigo Jones as his architect (Wheatley and Cunningham, London Past and Present, i. 461). He was threatened with a Star-chamber suit for contravening the proclamation against new buildings, but seems to have compromised the matter (Strafford Letters, i. 263, 372). Bedford also put himself at the head of an association which undertook to drain the great level of the Fens. He and the other undertakers were to receive ninety-five thousand acres of land, of which twelve thousand were to be set apart for the king, and the profits of forty thousand were to serve as a security for keeping up the drainage works. This involved him in great difficulties. By 1637 he had spent 100,000l. on the undertaking, but in 1638 the work was pronounced incomplete, and the king decided to take the business into his own hands, allotting, however, forty thousand acres to the shareholders in satisfaction of their claims. The work was not declared finished till March 1653, twelve years after Bedford's death (Gardiner, Hist. of England, viii.295; Wells, Hist. of the Bedford Level, i. 106; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1629-31, p. 311).

In the Short parliament of 1640 Bedford again became prominent in opposition to the king. Clarendon terms him 'the great contriver and designer in the House of Lords' (Rebellion, iii. 25). He was one of the minority of twenty-five peers who agreed with the commons in hold ing that redress of grievances should precede supply (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1640, p. 66). In July 1640 Bedford and six other peers sent a letter to the Scottish leaders, in which, while refusing to invite a Scottish army into England or to assist it in arms, they promised to stand by the Scots in all legal and honourable ways (Oldmixon, Hist. of England, p. 141). His name was also attached to the fictitious engagement which Lord Savile forged in order to encourage the Scots to invade England (Gardiner, Hist. of England, ix. 179). He signed the petition of the twelve peers, urging Charles to call a parliament, make peace with the Scots, and dismiss his obnoxious ministers, which was presented to the king on 5 Sept. 1640. Two days later he and the Earl of Hertford presented the petition to the king's council in London, and urged them to sign it also. Bedford himself said little, but the councillors evidently regarded him as the ringleader of the petitioners, and they were certainly correct. The petition had been drawn up by Pym, who was 'wholly devoted to' Bedford, and by Oliver St. John [q. v.], who was 'of intimate trust ' with him (Clarendon, Rebellion, iii. 30, 32; Clarendon State Papers, ii. 94, 110, 115).

At the treaty of Ripon, where Bedford was one of the English commissioners, the falsity of Savile's engagement was discovered, and, at the request of the seven peers concerned, their fictitious signatures were destroyed (Gardiner, ix. 210; Nalson, Historical Collections, ii. 427). During the first few months of the Long parliament Bedford was the undisputed leader of the popular party. On 19 Feb. 1641 he and six other opposition peers were admitted to the privy council (Clarendon, Rebellion, iii. 50). His influence procured the solicitor-generalship for Oliver St. John (29 Jan. 1641), and it was known that Pym was to become chancellor of the exchequer, and that Bedford himself would become treasurer (ib. iii. 8488). He hoped to reconcile the king to the diminution of his prerogative by the improvement of his revenue, and put off taking office until the Tonnage and Poundage Bill should have passed, and his financial schemes should be completed. 'To my knowledge,' says Clarendon, 'he had it in design to endeavour the setting up the excise in England as the only natural means to advance the king's profit' (ib. iii. 192; cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1640-1, p. 565; Wiffen, Memoirs of the House of Russell, ii. 186). At the same time, Bedford, though not discountenancing the nonconformist clergy, had no desire to alter the government of the church, and was on good terms with Laud (Clarendon, Rebellion, iii. 144). Moreover, though convinced of Strafford's guilt, he was reluctant to force the king to act against his conscience, and willing to be content with Strafford's exclusion from office (ib. iii. 162, 192; cf. Gardiner, Hist. of England, ix. 341). Thus, both Bedford's views and his position qualified him for the task of mediating between the king and the popular party. But the discovery of the army plot sealed Strafford's fate, and while the attainder bill was before the House of Lords, Bedford fell ill of the smallpox. He died on 9 May, on the morning of the day when Charles gave his assent to the attainder bill. Laud, who erroneously believed that Bedford was resolved to have Strafford's blood, regarded his death as a judgment (Laud, Works, in. 443). Clarendon states that Bedford died 'much afflicted with the passion and fury which he perceived his party inclined to. ... He was a wise man, and would have proposed and advised moderate courses; but was not incapable, for want of resolution, of being carried into violent ones, if his advice would not have been submitted to; and therefore many who knew him well thought his death not unseasonable, as well to his fame as to his fortune' (Rebellion, iii. 192).

Bedford married Catherine, daughter of Giles, third lord Chandos. She died on 30 Jan. 1657. By her he had four sons and four daughters : (1) Francis, who married Catherine, daughter of William, lord Grey of Wark, and died without issue about a month before his father. (2) William, fifth earl and first duke of Bedford [q. v.] (3) John, a colonel in the royalist army and an active royalist conspirator during the protectorate period, who in November 1660 raised, and for twenty-one years commanded, Charles II's regiment of foot-guards (now the grenadier guards); he died on 25 Nov. 1687 (Dalton, Army Lists, i. 7). (4) Edward, married Penelope, widow of Sir William Brooke, and was the father of Edward Russell, earl of Orford [q. v.] Bedford's four daughters were: (1) Catherine, who married Robert Greville, second lord Brooke [q. v.]: (2) Anne, who married George, lord Digby, afterwards second Earl of Bristol: (3) Margaret, who married James Hay, second earl of Carlisle, became the fifth wife of Edward Montague, earl of Manchester, and married, thirdly, Robert Rich, fifth earl of Warwick; (4) Diana, who married Francis, lord Newport (Wiffen, ii. 126, 160).

Bedford's portrait, painted by Vandyck in 1636, is at Woburn Abbey. It was engraved by Houbraken. A list of other portraits is given by Wiffen (ii. 195).

[Doyle's Official Baronage; Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges; Wiffen's Memorials of the House of Russell, 1833; Sanford's Studies and Illustrations of the Great Rebellion, 1858, p. 286; The Earl of Bedford's Passage to the highest Court of Parliament, 4to, 1641, a pamphlet on Bedford's death.]

C. H. F.

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  
433 ii 34 Russell, Francis, 4th Earl of Bedford: after 1607, insert was M.P. for the borough of Lyme Regis 1610-1,
435 i 17-21 Note that Francis, who is here described as the eldest son, was the second son, and that William, who is here described as the second son, was the eldest son.