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Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford

Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford

English politician
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro English politician
Countries England United Kingdom
Occupations Diplomat Politician
A.K.A. Francis Russell
Gender male
Death July 28, 1585
Father: John Russell1st Earl of Bedford
Children: William Russell1st Baron Russell of ThornhaughAnne RussellCountess of WarwickMargaret CliffordCountess of Cumberland
The details

Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford, KG (c. 1527 – 28 July 1585) was an English nobleman, soldier, and politician and godfather to Francis Drake.


Early life

Quartered arms of Sir Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford, KG
Francis Russell as a boy, by Hans Holbein the Younger, drawing in the Royal Collection

Francis was the son of John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford and Anne Sapcote. He was educated at King's Hall, Cambridge and accompanied his father, to sit in the House of Commons. He represented Buckinghamshire in parliament in 1545-47 and 1547-52. In 1547 he was appointed High Sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. He assisted to quell the rising in Devonshire in 1549, and after his father had been created Earl of Bedford in January 1550, was known as Lord Russell, taking his seat in the House of Lords under this title in 1552.

Russell was in sympathy with the reformers, whose opinions he shared, and was in communication with Sir Thomas Wyatt; and in consequence of his religious attitude was imprisoned during the earlier part of Mary's reign. Being released he visited Italy, came into touch with foreign reformers. He led the English contingent fighting for Philip II of Spain, then England's King Consort, at the Battle of St. Quentin in 1557.

Elizabeth I

When Elizabeth I of England ascended the throne in November 1558 the Earl of Bedford, as Russell had been since 1555, became an active figure in public life. He was made a privy councillor, and was sent on diplomatic errands to Charles IX of France and Mary, Queen of Scots.

From February 1564 to October 1567 he was governor of Berwick and warden of the east marches of England, in which capacity he conducted various negotiations between Elizabeth and Mary. Bedford represented Elizabeth as her ambassador at the baptism of Prince James on 17 December 1566 at Stirling Castle, and was guest of honour at the subsequent banquet and masque. He appears to have been an efficient warden, but was irritated by the vacillating and tortuous conduct of the English queen. When the northern insurrection broke out in 1569, Bedford was sent into Wales, and he sat in judgment upon the Duke of Norfolk in 1572.

In 1576 he was president of the council of Wales, and in 1581 was one of the commissioners deputed to arrange a marriage between Elizabeth and François, Duke of Anjou. Bedford, who was made a Knight of the Garter in 1564, appears to have been a generous and popular man, and died in London. He was buried at the family chapel at St. Michael’s Church next to Chenies Manor House, the family estate which he had made his principal home and where he had entertained Queen Elizabeth in 1570.

Marriage and issue

His first wife was Margaret St John (Bletsoe, Bedfordshire, 1533 - 27 August 1562), daughter of Sir John St John (great-grandson of Margaret Beauchamp of Bletso) and Margaret Walgrave, by whom he had four sons and three daughters:

  • Anne Russell (1548–1603), married Ambrose Dudley, 3rd Earl of Warwick
  • Henry Russell, Baron Russell (1551–1572), married Jane Sybilla Morrison of Cashiobury, without issue
  • John Russell, Baron Russell (c.1553–1584), married Elizabeth Cooke, daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke and Anne FitzWilliam. They had one son, Francis (died young), and two daughters, who included Hon. Anne, Countess of Worcester, wife of the 1st Marquess of Worcester.
  • Francis Russell, Baron Russell (c.1554 – 27 July 1585), MP for Northumberland 1572-84; mortally wounded in a fray on the Scottish border, dying hours before his father. Married Juliana Foster and had issue, including Edward Russell, 3rd Earl of Bedford, and Mary Ann Russell, wife of John Roote, and had issue
  • William Russell, 1st Baron Russell of Thornhaugh (c.1557–1613)
  • Elizabeth Russell (d. 1605), married William Bourchier, 3rd Earl of Bath
  • Margaret Russell (1560–1616), married George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland.

His second wife was Bridget (d. 1601), daughter of John Hussey, 1st Baron Hussey of Sleaford, twice widowed. He was succeeded as third Earl by his grandson, Edward (1572–1627), only son of Francis, Lord Russell (c. 1554–1585).

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