Russell, William (1558?-1613) (DNB00)

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RUSSELL, Sir WILLIAM, first Baron Russell of Thornhaugh (1558?–1613), fourth and youngest son of Francis Russell, second earl of Bedford [q. v.], was born about 1558. He was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he ‘sat at the feet of that excellent divine, Dr. Humphrys’ [see Humphrey, Laurence, D.D.], but apparently did not graduate. He then spent several years in travelling through France, Germany, Italy, and Hungary. Returning to England about 1579, he was sent to Ireland in October of the following year in command of a company of recruits raised by the English clergy for the wars in Ireland. He was stationed on the Wicklow frontier to hold Fiagh Mac Hugh O'Byrne [q. v.] in check, and on 4 April 1581 he and Sir William Stanley (1548–1629) [q. v.] succeeded in burning Fiagh's house of Ballinacor and killing some of his followers. He was rewarded with a lease of the abbey of Baltinglas in co. Carlow on 4 Sept., and, being licensed to return to England, he was knighted by the lord-deputy, Arthur Grey, fourteenth lord Grey de Wilton [q. v.], on 10 Sept. On the occasion of the Duc d'Alençon's visit to England in November, he took part in a royal combat and fight on foot, wherein the duke and the prince dauphin were the challengers and Russell and Lord Thomas Howard the defenders.

In December 1585 Russell accompanied the Earl of Leicester on his expedition to the Netherlands, and was by him appointed lieutenant-general of cavalry. He repaired to England in April 1586 in order to raise a band of horse, but returned in time to take part in the fight at Warnsfeld before Zutphen on 22 Sept., when he led the attack, and, according to Stow (Annals, p. 737), ‘so terribly he charged that after he had broke his lance, he with his curtle-axe so played his part that the enemy reputed him a devil and no man.’ On the death of Sir Philip Sidney, who in token of friendship bequeathed him his best gilt armour, he succeeded him as governor of the cautionary town of Flushing (patent dated 1 Feb. 1587, in Rymer's Fœdera, xvi. 2). On 5 Oct. following he commanded a party of six hundred horse, and successfully intercepted a convoy of provisions designed for the relief of Zutphen. As governor of Flushing he justified the confidence placed in him. In June 1587 he despatched a force with provisions to strengthen Sluys, which the Duke of Parma was on the point of blockading, and, according to Roger Williams [q. v.], who commanded the party, it was entirely due to his resolution and quick despatch that the town was not lost without a blow, ‘as a number of others were in those countries far better than Sluys’ (Discourse of Warre, p. 57). In the quarrel between the estates and the Earl of Leicester he loyally supported the latter, and, after Leicester's withdrawal from the Netherlands in December 1587, he himself incurred the censure of the estates by supporting a movement on the part of the citizens of Campveer and Arnemuyden to place themselves under the immediate protection of Elizabeth. Others attributed his action to a desire to make himself master of Walcheren, out of a feeling of pique because the estates had given away the regiment of Zeeland, of which his predecessor, Sir Philip Sidney, had been colonel, to Count Solms. Russell disavowed being actuated by any feeling of ill-will towards either the estates or Prince Maurice, and the dispute was finally terminated by Elizabeth disclaiming any wish to encroach on the authority of the estates (Grimstone, Hist. of the Netherlands, pp. 867–871). Otherwise, Russell's conduct as governor of Flushing seems to have afforded general satisfaction, and Elizabeth was particularly gratified by the request of the deputies of the churches of the Netherlands that he might be continued at his post (cf. Motley, United Netherlands, ii. 444). But he was not on very friendly terms with Leicester's successor, Lord Willoughby [see Bertie, Peregrine, Lord Willoughby de Eresby]. Though subsequently reconciled to Willoughby (Bertie, Five Generations, p. 210), he begged his friends ‘to help him away from so beggarly a government wherein he should but undo himself without hope of service or reward’ (Harl. MS. 286, f. 95). His petition was granted, and on 16 July 1588 he was superseded by Sir Robert Sidney.

On 16 May 1594 he was appointed lord-deputy of Ireland, in place of Sir William Fitzwilliam (1526–1599) [q. v.]; and in July following the degree of M.A. was conferred on him by the university of Oxford. He landed at Howth on 31 July, and on 11 Aug. was sworn in with due solemnity. The chief danger that threatened the peace of the country was due to the menacing attitude of the Earl of Tyrone [see O'Neill, Hugh, second Earl of Tyrone] and Hugh Roe O'Donnell [q. v.] Four days later Tyrone unexpectedly presented himself before the council and tendered his submission. This step took Russell and the council by surprise, and Tyrone was allowed to return to his own country in safety. Afterwards, when Russell recognised his mistake in thus letting Tyrone escape, he tried, not perhaps very successfully, to shift the blame on to the council; but Elizabeth, while publicly accepting his excuses, did not fail to read him a severe lecture in private. Meanwhile the garrison at Enniskillen was being hard pressed by Sir Hugh Maguire [q. v.] and O'Donnell, and, a relief party under Sir Henry Duke having been repulsed with loss, Russell was constrained to march thither in person. Accordingly, leaving the Earl of Ormonde ‘to keep the borders’ against Fiagh Mac Hugh and Walter Reagh Fitzgerald, he set out towards the north on 18 Aug. Proceeding by way of Mullingar, Athlone, Roscommon, and Boyle, and through the mountains and bogs of O'Rourke's country, he succeeded in relieving Enniskillen on 30 Aug., and ten days later returned in safety to Dublin. Seeing how completely he had been deceived by Tyrone's specious promises, he tried to retrieve his blunder by inviting the earl again to Dublin. Tyrone declined the invitation, and on 8 Dec. Russell wrote that he had broken off all manner of temporising courses with him. Recognising the necessity for vigorous action, he applied for reinforcements under the command of an experienced leader. His request was granted; but he was mortified to find that the general selected to co-operate with him was Sir John Norris (1547?–1597) [q. v.], president of Munster. Norris had petitioned against Russell's appointment as Leicester's successor in the government of the Netherlands, and a commission, with the title of general of the army in Ulster in the absence of the lord-deputy, was now given him with authority almost equal to Russell's. Norris, however, did not arrive in Ireland till the beginning of May 1595, and in the meantime Russell made several unsuccessful attempts to capture Fiagh Mac Hugh.

On 16 Jan. he instituted ‘a hunting journey’ to Ballinacor, and, having proclaimed Fiagh, his wife, and Walter Reagh traitors, returned to Dublin. A fortnight later, accompanied by Sir George Bourchier, Sir Geoffrey Fenton, and other officers, he made another expedition thither. Ballinacor was fortified and garrisoned, and a number of Fiagh's followers slain; but Fiagh himself evaded capture, and on the 24th Russell again returned to Dublin. Early in April Walter Reagh was captured and hanged, and another effort made to capture Fiagh. Fixing his headquarters at Money, half way between Tullow and Shillelagh, on the borders of Carlow, the deputy made frequent incursions into the glens of Wicklow, combining the business of rebel-hunting with the more peaceful recreation of shooting and fishing. A number of Fiagh's relations, including his wife Rose, fell into his hands, but Fiagh himself, though he had one or two hairbreadth escapes, contrived to elude his pursuers. On 4 May Norris landed at Waterford. Russell, though resenting his appointment, received him with courtesy, and even with hospitality. Meanwhile affairs in the north had assumed a more threatening aspect. A general hosting was proclaimed for 12 June, and on the 13th Norris set out for Newry, whither he was followed five days later by Russell. On the 23rd Tyrone, O'Donnell, Maguire, and their associates were proclaimed traitors in English and Irish, and a few days afterwards the army moved to Armagh, which Russell set to work to fortify, at the same time relieving Monaghan. Subsequently a council of war was held at Dundalk, and on 16 July Russell, in accordance with his instructions, returned to Dublin, leaving the army in the north to the sole command of Norris. So far they had managed to agree fairly well; but Norris was annoyed at having to play a subordinate part, and as the summer wore to a close his relations with Russell grew more and more strained. Early in September he suffered a slight repulse by Tyrone, and Russell at once moved to Kells, partly to support him, partly to watch the situation in Connaught, where Sir Richard Bingham [q. v.] was being hard pressed by O'Donnell and the Burkes. But the home government having, at Norris's suggestion, authorised a compromise, he returned to Dublin, leaving Norris to come to terms with Tyrone, which he eventually did on 2 Oct.

Early next month Fiagh Mac Hugh came to Dublin to beg for pardon, and Russell, having referred his case to the privy council, immediately set out for Connaught. He was received in state at Galway, but was everywhere met with complaints against Bingham, whose harsh government was said to be the principal cause of disorder. At Athlone he sat in council to consider these complaints and, having promised to institute an inquiry into their grievances, a peace was patched up with the Burkes, and Russell returned to Dublin shortly before Christmas. Owing to O'Donnell's intrigues the pacification was of short duration, and Russell was forced to confess that he had gone but ‘on a sleeveless errand.’ Early in March 1596 the Burkes, reinforced by a body of Scottish mercenaries, crossed the Shannon and laid waste Mac Coghlan's country, but were immediately attacked and put to flight by the deputy. In consequence of Norris's representations, Bingham was removed, greatly to the annoyance of Russell and all those who were in favour of strong measures. The fact that Tyrone delayed several weeks before he ‘took out’ his pardon naturally raised suspicions as to his sincerity, and when he eventually did so, about the middle of July, Russell insisted that ‘the dangers of the realm were in no way diminished … but rather increased by a deeper subtlety dissembled with a show of duty and good meaning when he saw he could do no other.’ Norris protested that the deputy was doing all in his power to nullify his efforts at a settlement. It was manifest that the system of dual government was working inconceivable mischief, and both Russell and Norris begged to be recalled. Matters grew worse when the deputy, in consequence of a fresh rising on the part of Fiagh Mac Hugh O'Byrne in September, determined to make a vigorous effort to capture him. This, Norris declared, was simply to endanger the safety of the whole kingdom; but the deputy held resolutely to his purpose. Day after day during the entire winter and into the following spring, despite the remonstrances of Norris and the open threats of Tyrone, he scoured the mountains and glens of Wicklow. His perseverance was at last rewarded on 8 May 1597 by the capture and death of Fiagh. On his way back to Dublin ‘the people of the country met him with great joy and gladness, and, as their manner is, bestowed many blessings on him for performing so good a deed and delivering them from their long oppressions.’ But Fiagh's death did not affect the situation.

In anticipation of his recall Russell had already, in March, removed from the Castle and put his train on board wages (Collins, Sidney Papers, ii. 25). His successor, Thomas, lord Burgh, arrived on 15 May, and on 26 May he quitted Ireland. On his return there was some talk of making him governor of Berwick, and, after lord Burgh's death, he and Sir Robert Sidney were suggested for the vacant post; but he stood ‘stiffly not to go’ unless he might have it on as good terms as Lord Burgh (ib. ii. 71). He was frequently consulted on Irish affairs and, in anticipation of a Spanish invasion in the summer of 1599, he was appointed commander of the forces in the west. He was an unsuccessful competitor with Sir Walter Ralegh for the governorship of Jersey (but cf. Edwards, Life of Sir Walter Ralegh, i. 262), and in September 1602 he had the honour of entertaining the queen at his house at Chiswick. He was created Baron Russell of Thornhaugh in Northamptonshire by James I on 21 July 1603. His last public appearance was at the funeral of Prince Henry, to whom he was much attached. He died at his seat at Northall on 9 March 1613, and was buried in the church of Thornhaugh, where there is a monument to his memory.

Russell married, about 1590, Elizabeth (d. 1611), daughter and heiress of Henry Long of Shengay, Northamptonshire. He had an only son, Francis Russell, fourth earl of Bedford [q. v.] There are full-length portraits of him and his wife at Woburn Abbey.

[Wiffen's Hist. Memoirs of the House of Russell, with extracts from Walker's Funeral Sermon, of which there is no copy in the British Museum; Collins's Peerage, i. 274; Dugdale's Baronage, ii. 380; G. E. C[ockayne]'s Peerage; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Bloxam's Reg. Magd. College, Oxford; Stow's Annals; Leycester Correspondence (Camden Soc.); Clements Markham's Fighting Veres; Lady Georgina Bertie's Five Generations of a Loyal House; Wright's Queen Elizabeth and her Times; Lloyd's State Worthies; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–80 p. 491, 1595–7 p. 148, and other references, chiefly in letters from John Chamberlain to Dudley Carleton, printed in full in Chamberlain's Letters (Camden Soc.); ib. Foreign xi. 294; Simancas iii. 435, 555; Ireland ii. 264, 296, 317, 319, v. vi. vii. passim; Cal. Carew MSS. containing his Journal in Ireland, iii. 260, of which there is another copy among the Russell Papers at Woburn (cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. p. 2); Cal. Hatfield MSS. iii. 190, 378, 427, iv. 50, 385, 499, 616 (chiefly relating to Flushing affairs); Cal. Fiants Eliz. No. 3745; Annals of the Four Masters, ed. O'Donovan, vi. 1955, 1989, 2019; O'Sullivan-Beare's Historiæ Catholicæ Iberniæ Compendium, pp. 171, 175–7; Bagwell's Ireland under the Tudors, iii. 242–79; Shirley's Hist. of co. Monaghan, p. 100; Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. pt. ii. (Gawdy MSS.) p. 30; Egerton MS. 1694, p. 51 (protest against appointment of Sir John Norris); Cotton MSS. Galba D. i. f. 140, D. ii. ff. 13, 18, 60, 273, 284, D. iii. ff. 3, 32, 36, 40, 42, 48, 54 (letters to the Earl of Leicester on Flushing affairs), Titus B. ii. f. 317 (to the Earl of Sussex, 2 Jan. 1576), Titus B. vii. f. 94 (recommending Davison to Leicester), B. xii. f. 347b, xiii. ff. 477, 485, 497 (relative to government of Ireland); Addit. MS. 34218, f. 191b (patent of creation); Add. Ch. 6220.]

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