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Russell, William (1613-1700) (DNB00)


RUSSELL, WILLIAM, first Duke of Bedford (1613–1700), second but eldest surviving son of Francis, fourth earl of Bedford [q. v.], was born in 1613. He was educated, according to Clarendon, at Magdalen College, Oxford, and was created a knight of the Bath on 1 Feb. 1626 (Doyle, Official Baronage, i. 158; Clarendon, Rebellion, vii. 189). In 1637 he married Anne, daughter of Robert Carr, earl of Somerset (Strafford Letters, ii. 58, 86). In the Long parliament he represented Tavistock, with John Pym for his colleague, and succeeded his father as Earl of Bedford on 9 May 1641. On 13 Aug. 1641 the House of Lords appointed him one of the commissioners to attend the king to Scotland, but he contrived to get excused. On 9 Sept. he protested against publishing the order of the upper house against innovations in religion, and on 24 Dec. signed another protest in favour of the policy of the popular leaders in the commons (Lords' Journals, iv. 362, 395, 490).

In 1642 parliament appointed him lord-lieutenant of the counties of Devon (28 Feb.) and Somerset (25 March) (Commons' Journals, ii. 459, 497). On 14 July he was also made general of the horse in the parliamentary army, with a salary of 6l. per diem (Lords' Journals, v. 211, 306). On 17 Aug. Bedford was instructed to suppress the Marquis of Hertford's attempt to execute the king's commission of array in Somerset, and, proceeding into the west, besieged Hertford in Sherborne Castle; but, in spite of the superior numbers of his forces, he was unable to take the castle or to prevent Hertford's escape (ib. v. 299; Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. vi. 147; Clarendon, Rebellion, vi. 7, 33). Marten attacked Bedford for incapacity, but Holles defended him, saying that the earl ‘had done as much as it was possible for a man to do, having neither money nor other necessaries sent him for the siege,’ adding also ‘that he was always ready and forward to hazard his own person, or to hearken or follow any advice that was given him.’ The House of Lords also expressed its satisfaction with his conduct (Lords' Journals, v. 385; Sanford, Studies and Illustrations of the Great Rebellion, p. 532). Bedford rejoined Essex at Worcester, and fought at Edgehill (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. vi. 88; Clarendon, Rebellion, vi. 81).

In 1643 he began to grow weary of the war, and, after the failure of the peace propositions put forward by the House of Lords in August 1643, he abandoned the parliamentary cause. The king's council hesitated to allow him to come to Oxford, alleging the danger of a duel between Hertford and Bedford; but Charles allowed him to kiss his hand, granted him a pardon under the great seal, and treated him with civility. Bedford accompanied the king to the siege of Gloucester, and fought in the royal ranks at the first battle of Newbury (ib. vii. 174, 189, 241, 245). Dissatisfied, however, with the king's policy, he resolved to return to the parliament, and surrendered himself to the Earl of Essex at the end of December 1643. In a letter to the speaker of the House of Lords he explained his conduct as dictated by a desire ‘to procure His Majesty to comply with his parliament, for which purpose I went to Oxford,’ but perceiving the fruitlessness of the attempt, ‘I resolved thenceforth, whatsoever prejudice might befall me thereby, to cast myself wholly upon the mercy of the parliament’ (Lords' Journals, vi. 356). Bedford was in custody for a few days, but on 15 July 1644 the sequestration was taken off his estates (ib. vi. 529, 634). Attempts made to procure his readmission to the House of Lords, though frequently repeated, always failed (ib. viii. 718; Sydney Papers, ed. Blencowe, pp. 7, 10, 14, 19).

From this date to the Restoration Bedford took no further part in English politics. In 1649 he took up the work of draining the fens which his father had left unfinished, and successfully completed the Bedford level (Cole, Collection of Laws of the Bedford Level Corporation, 1761, pp. 25, 245, 269). At the coronation of Charles II he bore St. Edward's staff, was made governor of Plymouth in 1671, and was in 1673 joint commissioner for the execution of the office of earl marshal (Doyle, i. 159). But he never held any post of importance. In 1675, when Danby proposed an ‘act to prevent the dangers which may arise from persons disaffected to the government,’ which prescribed a non-resistance oath for all officers in church and state, Bedford voted steadily with Shaftesbury against it, and signed three protests (Hist. and Proc. of the House of Lords, 1660–1742, i. 139–41, 157). In 1680 he was one of the sub-committee which prepared the Protestant Association Bill (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. ii. 211). He was also among the fifteen peers who on 25 Jan. 1681 petitioned the king against holding the next parliament at Oxford, instead of Westminster (Christie, Life of Shaftesbury, ii. 390). But, though following Shaftesbury's lead in the struggle for the Exclusion Bill, Bedford was not disposed to go beyond parliamentary action, and his name was not mixed up in the plots against the government, for which his son, Lord Russell, suffered [see Russell, William, (1639–1683)]. It was said that he offered the Duchess of Portsmouth 50,000l. for his son's pardon; but Bedford, in petitioning for the king's mercy, adds that he never had the presumption to think it could be obtained by any indirect means (Life of William, Lord Russell, ed. 1820, ii. 78; Memoirs of Thomas, Earl of Aylesbury, p. 77).

After his son's execution he took very little part in public life, and left his nephew, Edward Russell, to represent the Russell family in the movement which produced the fall of James II. A curious account of Bedford's way of living during his later years is given by the Earl of Aylesbury (ib. p. 182). When the revolution took place Bedford was appointed a privy councillor (14 Feb. 1689), and bore the sceptre at the coronation of William and Mary (11 April 1689). He was made lord lieutenant of the counties of Bedford, Cambridge (10 May 1689), and Middlesex (3 Feb. 1693), and on 11 May 1694 was created Duke of Bedford and Marquis of Tavistock. According to Macaulay he had been repeatedly offered a dukedom before, and accepted it now somewhat reluctantly (Hist. of England, ii. 487, ed. 1871). On 13 June 1695 Bedford was further created Baron Howland of Streatham, Surrey (Collins, Peerage, ed. Brydges, i. 288, 294). He died on 7 Sept. 1700, and was buried at Chenies.

By his wife, Anne Carr (who died on 10 May 1684, aged 64), Bedford had seven sons and four daughters. Of the sons, William [q. v.] was executed in 1683, and Edward (d. 1714) represented Bedfordshire from 1689 to 1705. Of the daughters, Margaret, born in 1656, married her cousin, Edward Russell, earl of Orford.

There are portraits of Bedford at Woburn Abbey, both by Vandyck and Kneller. A picture by Vandyck represented him with his brother-in-law, George Digby (afterwards second Earl of Bristol); it belongs to Earl Spencer. Vandyck also painted the Countess of Bedford, whose portrait is one of the series engraved by Lombart. That of her husband was engraved by Houbraken.

[Wiffen's House of Russell; Doyle's Official Baronage; Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges; authorities cited.]

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

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485 ii 4-3 f.e. Russell, William, 1st Duke of Bedford: for second but eldest surviving son read eldest son