John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford


John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford

John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, KG, PC, JP (c. 1485 – 14 March 1554/1555) was an English royal minister in the later Tudor era. He served variously as Lord High Admiral and Lord Privy Seal.

He was the son of James Russell of Kingston Russell and his wife Alice Wyse, and was born about 1485 at Long Bredy, Dorset. James was son of another John Russell and Alice Froxmere, son of Henry Russell and Elizabeth Herring, who was son of Stephen Russell (alias "Stephen Gascoigne"), MP for Weymouth and Alice de la Tour.

In 1506 he was of service to Philip of Austria and Juana his wife (King and Queen of Castile) when they were shipwrecked off Weymouth, and was introduced to the Court by them. He became Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Henry VII in 1507 and Henry VIII in 1509, who employed him in various military and diplomatic missions during the War of the League of Cambrai. He was at the taking of Thérouanne and Tournai. He was knighted on 2 July 1522 after losing an eye at the taking of Morlaix in Brittany, and he witnessed the Battle of Pavia.

In the spring of 1526, he married Anne Sapcote, widow of John Broughton and of Sir Richard Jerningham, and daughter of Sir Guy Sapcote and his wife Margaret Wolston, and made alterations to Chenies Manor House to reflect his new good fortunes. He now stood in favor with the King and Cardinal Wolsey, though he would not suffer disgrace at the fall of the latter.

He was made Sheriff of Dorset and Somerset in 1528 and served as Member of Parliament for Buckinghamshire 1529–1536, retaining the royal favor despite the antipathy of Anne Boleyn. Late in 1536, he was made a Privy Counsellor, and helped to suppress the Pilgrimage of Grace.

The fall and execution of the Marquess of Exeter left a vacuum of power in the southwestern counties of England, which Russell would be called upon to fill. On 9 March 1538/1539 he was created Baron Russell, and appointed Lord President of the Council of the West. In the next month, he was made a Knight of the Garter. In July 1539 he was made High Steward of Cornwall, and Lord Warden of the Stannaries.

The Council of the West proved unsuccessful as an instrument of government, and did not survive the fall of Cromwell. Russell, however, remained a great magnate in the western counties, and obtained the office of Lord High Admiral in 1540. (The previous holder, the Earl of Southampton, replaced Cromwell as Lord Privy Seal.) In 1542, Russell himself resigned the Admiralty and succeeded to the Privy Seal on the death of Southampton. He was High Steward of the University of Oxford from 1543 till his death.

During the Italian War of 1542, he unsuccessfully besieged Montreuil in 1544, and was Captain General of the Vanguard of the army for the attack on Boulogne in 1545. He was a close companion of Henry VIII during the last years of his reign. On Henry's death, he was one of the executors of the King's will, and one of sixteen counsellors during the minority of Edward VI.

On the dissolution of the greater monasteries he obtained for himself the Cistercian Abbey at Dunkeswell, Devon, the Abbey of Tavistock, Devon, the town of Tavistock and other rich holdings. On 4 May 1552 he obtained seven acres (28,000 m²) called "Long Acre", the garden of a suppressed convent, which is now the site of "Covent Garden". He was Lord High Steward for Edward's coronation 20 February 1547. He was created Earl of Bedford on 19 January 1549/1550 for his assistance in carrying out the order of the Council against "images" and for promoting the new religion. In 1552, he was made Lord Lieutenant of Devon. On 16 June 1553 he was one of the twenty-six Peers who signed the settlement of the crown on Lady Jane Grey. He was sent to attend Philip II into England on his coming from Spain to wed the Queen.

He died 14 March 1554/1555 and was buried at Chenies, Buckinghamshire, in the private Bedford Chapel of the church next to his manor there.

Russell is the ancestor of all subsequent Earls and Dukes of Bedford and Earls Russell, including John Russell, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and philosopher Bertrand Russell.

External links

* [http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/Bios/JohnRussell(1EBedford).htm John Russell at Tudor Place]
*Genealogics name|id=00105836|name=Stephen Russell
* [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chenies_Manor_House] Chenies Manor House

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