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Earls And Dukes of Bedford

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The present English title of duke of Bedford comes from a line of earls and dukes in the Russell family. In January 1550 John, Baron Russell, was created earl of Bedford, and in May 1694 his descendant, William, the 5th earl, became duke of Bedford. The Russell line is dealt with in the later part of this article. The title of duke of Bedford had, however, been previously held, notably by the third son of Henry IV.; and the earlier creations may first be considered here.

John Plantagenet, duke of Bedford (1389-1435), third SOH of Henry IV., king of England, was born on the 10th of June 1389. He received various dignities after his father became king in 1399, and gained his early experiences in warfare when he undertook the office of warden of the east marches of Scotland in 1404; he was fairly successful in this command, which he held until September 1414. In the previous May his brother, the new king Henry V., had created him duke of Bedford, and after resigning the wardenship he began to take a leading part in the royal councils. He acted as lieutenant of the kingdom during Henry's expedition to France in 1415, and in August 1416 commanded the ships which defeated the French fleet at the mouth of the Seine, and was instrumental in relieving Harfleur. Again appointed lieutenant in July 1417, he marched against the Scots, who abandoned the siege of Berwick at his approach; and on his return to London he brought Sir John Oldcastle to trial and was present at his execution. He appears to have governed the country with considerable success until December 1419, when he resigned his office as lieutenant and joined the king in France. Returning to England, he undertook the lieutenancy for the third time in June 1421, and in the following May conducted the queen to join Henry in Normandy. He then took his brother's place and led the English troops to the relief of Cosne, but on hearing of the king's serious illness he left the army and hurried to his side. Henry's last wish was that Bedford should be guardian of the kingdom and of the young king, and that Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, should act as regent in France. But when Philip declined to undertake this office, it too was assumed by Bedford, who, after the death of the French king Charles VI. in October 1422, presided at a session of the parlement of Paris, and compelled all present to take an oath of fidelity to King Henry VI. Meanwhile the English parliament had decided that Bedford should be "protector and defender" of the kingdom, and that in his absence the office should devolve upon his brother Humphrey, duke of Gloucester. Confining himself to the conduct of affairs in France the protector took up Henry V.'s work of conquest, captured Meulan and other places, and sought to strengthen his position by an alliance with Philip of Burgundy. This task was rendered more difficult as Gloucester had just married Jacqueline, countess of Holland and Hainaut, a union which gave the English duke a claim on lands which Philip hoped to secure for himself. Bedford, however, having allayed Philip's irritation, formed an alliance with him and with John VI., duke of Brittany, at Amiens in April 1423, and himself arranged to marry Anne, a sister of the Burgundian duke. This marriage was celebrated at Troyes in the following June, and the war against Charles, the dauphin of France, was prosecuted with vigour and success. Bedford sought to restore prosperity to the districts under his rule by reforming the debased coinage, granting privileges to merchants and manufacturers, and removing various abuses. He then granted some counties to Philip to check the growing hostility between him and Gloucester, and on the 17th of August 1424 gained a great victory over a combined army of French and Scots at Verneuil. But in spite of the efforts of the protector the good understanding between England and Burgundy was partially destroyed whenGloucester invaded Hainaut in October 1424. The ambition of his brother gave Bedford trouble in another direction also; for on his return from Hainaut Gloucester quarrelled with the chancellor, Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, and the council implored Bedford to come to England to settle this dispute. He reached London in January 1426, and after concluding a bond of alliance with Gloucester effected a reconciliation between the duke and the chancellor; and knighted the young king, Henry VI. Bedford then promised to act in accordance with the will of the council, and in harmony with the decision of this body raised a body of troops and returned to France in March 1427. Having ordered Gloucester to desist from a further attack on Hainaut, he threatened Brittany and compelled Duke John to return to the English alliance; and the success of his troops continued until the siege of Orleans, to which he consented with reluctance, was undertaken in October 1428. Having assured himself that Philip was prepared to desert him, Bedford sent orders to his army to raise the siege in April 1429. He then acted with great energy and judgment in attempting to stem the tide of disasters which followed this failure, strengthened his hold upon Paris, and sent to England for reinforcements; but before any engagement took place he visited Rouen, where he sought to bind the Normans closer to England, and after his return to Paris resigned the French regency to Philip of Burgundy in accordance with the wish of the Parisians. Retaining the government of Normandy Bedford established himself at Rouen and directed the movements of the English forces with some success. He did not interfere to save the life of Joan of Arc. He was joined by Henry VI. in April 1430, when the regency was temporarily suspended, and he secured Henry's coronation at Paris in December 1431. In November 1432 his wife Anne died, and in April 1433 he was married at Therouanne to Jacqueline, daughter of Pierre I., count of St Pol. But notwithstanding Bedford's vigour the English lost ground steadily; and the death of Anne and this marriage destroyed the friendly relations between England and Burgundy. Negotiations for peace had no result, and when the duke returned to England in June 1433 he told parliament that he had come home to defend himself against the charge that the losses in France were caused by his neglect, and demanded that his detractors should make their accusations public. The chancellor replied that no such charges were known to the king or the council, and the duke was thanked for his great services. His next act was to secure an inquiry into the national finances; and when asked by the parliament to stay in England he declared that his services were at the king's disposal. As chief councillor he offered to take a smaller salary than had been previously paid to Gloucester, and undertook this office in December 1433, when his demands with regard to a continual council were conceded. Bedford, who was anxious to prosecute the war in France, left England again in 1434, but early in 1 435 was obliged to consent to the attendance of English representatives at a congress held to arrange terms of peace at Arras. Unable to consent to the French terms the English envoys left Arras in September, and Philip of Burgundy made a separate treaty with France. Bedford only lived to see the ruin of the cause for which he struggled so loyally. He died at Rouen on the 14th of September 1435, and was buried in the cathedral of that city. He left a natural son, Richard, but no legitimate issue. Bedford was a man of considerable administrative ability, brave and humane in war, wise and unselfish in peace. He was not responsible for the misfortunes of the English in France, and his courage in the face of failure was as admirable as his continued endeavour to make the people under his rule contented and prosperous.

The chief contemporary authorities for Bedford's life are: Vita et gesta Henrici Quinti, edited by T. Hearne (Oxford, 1727); E. de Monstrelet, Chronique, edited by L. D. d'Arcq. (Paris, 1857-1862); William of Worcester, Annales rerum Anglicarum, edited by J. Stevenson (London, 1864). See also Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council of England, edited by J. R. Dasent (London, 1890-1899); W. Stubbs, Constitutional History, vol. iii. (Oxford, 1895); P. A. Barante, Histoire des ducs de Bourgogne (Paris, 1824).

In 1470 George Nevill (c. 1457-1483), son of John, earl of Northumberland, was created duke of Bedford; but after his father's attainder and death at the battle of Barnet in 1471 he was degraded from the peerage.

The next duke of Bedford was Jasper Tudor (c. 1430-1495), half-brother of King Henry VI. and uncle of Henry VII. He was made earl of Pembroke in 1453. Having survived the vicissitudes of the Wars of the Roses he was restored to his earldom and created duke of Bedford in 1485. The duke, who was lord-lieutenant of Ireland from 1486 to 1494, died without legitimate issue on the 21st of December 1495.

John Russell, 1st earl of Bedford (c. 1486-1555), was a son of James Russell ( d. 1509). Having travelled widely, he attained some position at the court of Henry VII., and was subsequently in great favour with Henry VIII. In 1513 he took part in the war with France, and, having been knighted about the same time, was afterwards employed on several diplomatic errands. He was with Henry at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, and, returning to military service when the French war was renewed, lost his right eye at the siege of Morlaix in 1522. He was soon made knight marshal of the royal household, and in 1523 went secretly to France, where he negotiated a treaty between Henry and Charles, duke of Bourbon, who was anxious to betray the French king Francis I. After a short visit to England Russell was sent with money to Bourbon, joining the constable at the siege of Marseilles. In 1524 he visited Pope Clement VII. at Rome, and, having eluded the French, who endeavoured to capture him, was present at the battle of Pavia in February 1525, returning to England about the close of the year. In January 1527 he was sent as ambassador to Clement, who employed him to treat on his behalf with Charles de Lannoy, the general of Charles V. The next few years of Russell's life were mainly spent in England. He was member of parliament for Buckingham in the parliament of 1529, and although an opponent of the party of Anne Boleyn, retained the favour of Henry VIII. He took an active part in suppressing the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, and was one of the commissioners appointed to try the Lincolnshire prisoners. Honours now crowded upon him. His appointment as comptroller of the king's household in 1537 was followed by that of a privy councillor in 1538; then he was made lord high admiral, high steward of the duchy of Cornwall and a knight of the garter. In March 1539 he was created Baron Russell of Chenies, and in 1542 became high steward of the university of Oxford, and keeper of the privy seal. In 1539, when Charles V. and Francis I. were threatening to invade England, he was sent into the west, and III. 20 a crossed to France when Henry attacked Francis in 1544. He was in command of an army in the west of England in 1545, and when Henry died in January 1547 was one of the executors of his will. Under Edward VI. Russell was lord high steward and keeper of the privy seal, and the defeat which he inflicted on the rebels at Clyst St Mary near Exeter in August 1549, was largely instrumental in suppressing the rising in Devonshire. In January 1550 he was created earl of Bedford, and was one of the commissioners appointed to make peace with France in this year. He opposed the proposal to seat Lady Jane Grey on the throne; supported Queen Mary, who reappointed him lord privy seal; and assisted to prevent Sir Thomas Wyat's rising from spreading to Devonshire. In 1554 he went to Spain to conclude the marriage treaty between Mary and Philip II., and soon after his return died in London on the 14th of March 1555. By extensive acquisitions of land Bedford was the founder of the wealth and greatness of the house of Russell. Through his wife, Anne (d. 1559), daughter of Sir Guy Sapcote, whom he married in 1526, he obtained Chenies, and in 1539 was granted the forest of Exmoor, and also Tavistock, and a number of manors in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, which had formerly belonged to the abbey of Tavistock. In 1549 he received Thorney, the abbey of Woburn, and extensive lands in the eastern counties; and in 1552 Covent Garden and seven acres of land in London, formerly the property of the protector Somerset. He left an only son, Francis, who succeeded him in the title.

See Letters and Papers of Henry VIII. (London, 1862-1901); State Papers during the Reign of Henry VIII. (London, 1831-1852); Calendar of State Papers, Edward VI. and Mary (London, 1861); J. H. Wiffen, Historical Memoirs of the House of Russell (London, 1833); J. A. Froude, History of England, passim (London, 1881 fol.).

Francis Russell, 2nd earl of Bedford (c. 1527-1585), was educated at King's Hall, Cambridge. He accompanied his father to the French war in 1544, and from 1547 to 1552 was member of parliament for Buckinghamshire, being probably the first heir to a peerage to sit in the House of Commons. 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 Wyat; and in consequence of his religious attitude was imprisoned during the earlier part of Mary's reign. Being released he went into exile; visited Italy; came into touch with foreign reformers; and fought at the battle of St Quentin in 1557. Afterwards he seems to have enjoyed some measure of the royal favour, and was made lord-lieutenant of the counties of Devon, Cornwall and Dorset early in 1558

When Elizabeth 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 Scotland, in which capacity he conducted various negotiations between Elizabeth and Mary. 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 Francis, duke of Anjou. Bedford, who was made a knight of the garter in 1564, was lord warden of the Stannaries from 1 553 to 1580. He appears to have been a generous and popular man, and died in London on the 28th of July 1585. He was buried at Chenies. His first wife was Margaret (d. 1562), daughter of Sir John St John, by whom he had four sons and three daughters. His three eldest sons predeceased their father. His second wife was Bridget (d. 1601), daughter of John, Lord Hussey. He was succeeded as 3rd earl by his grandson, Edward (1572-1627), only son of Francis, Lord Russell (c. 1550-1585).

The 3rd earl left no children when he died on the 3rd of May 1627, and was succeeded by his cousin.

Francis Russell, 4th earl of Bedford (1593-1641), was the only son of William, Lord Russell of Thornhaugh, to which barony he succeeded in August 1613. For a short time previously he had been member of parliament for the borough of Lyme Regis; in 1623 he was made lord-lieutenant of Devonshire; and in May 1627 became earl of Bedford by the death of his cousin, Edward, the 3rd earl. When the quarrel broke out between Charles I. and the parliament, Bedford supported the demands of the House of Commons as embodied in the Petition of Right, and in 1629 was arrested for his share in the circulation of Sir Robert Dudley's pamphlet, "Proposition for His Majesty's service," but was quickly released. The Short parliament meeting in April 1640 found the earl as one of the king's leading opponents. He was greatly trusted by John Pym and Oliver St John, and is mentioned by Clarendon as among the "great contrivers and designers" in the House of Lords. In July 1640 he was among the peers who wrote to the Scottish leaders refusing to invite a Scottish army into England, but promising to stand by the Scots in all legal and honourable ways; and his signature was afterwards forged by Thomas, Viscount Savile, in order to encourage the Scots to invade England. In the following September he was among those peers who urged Charles to call a parliament, to make peace with the Scots, and to dismiss his obnoxious ministers; and was one of the English commissioners appointed to conclude the, treaty of Ripon. When the Long parliament met in November 1640, Bedford was generally regarded as the leader of the parliamentarians. In February 1641 he was made a privy councillor, and during the course of some negotiations was promised the office of lord high treasurer. He was essentially a moderate man, and seemed anxious to settle the question of the royal revenue in a satisfactory manner. He did not wish to alter the government of the Church, was on good terms with Archbishop Laud, and, although convinced of Strafford's guilt, was anxious to save his life. In the midst of the parliamentary struggle Bedford died of smallpox on the 9th of May 1641. Clarendon described him as "a wise man, and of too great and plentiful a fortune to wish the subversion of the government," and again referring to his death said that "many who knew him well thought his death not unseasonable as well to his fame as his fortune, and that it rescued him as well from some possible guilt as from those visible misfortunes which men of all conditions have since undergone." Bedford was the head of those who undertook to drain the great level of the fens, called after him the "Bedford level." He spent a large sum of money over this work and received 43,000 acres of land, but owing to various jealousies and difficulties the king took the work into his own hands in 1638, making a further grant of land to the earl. Bedford married Catherine (d. 16J7), daughter of Giles, 3rd Lord Chandos, by whom he had four sons and four daughters. His eldest son, William (1613-1700), succeeded him as 5th earl, fought first on the side of the parliament and then on that of the king during the Civil War, and in 1694 was created marquess of Tavistock and duke of Bedford.

See Clarendon, History of the Rebellion, passim (Oxford, 1888); J.H. Wiffen, Historical Memoirs of the House of Russell (London, 1833); J. L. Sanford, Studies and Illustrations of the Great Rebellion (London, 1858) .

The first duke, who married Anne (d. 1684), daughter of Robert Carr, earl of Somerset, was succeeded in the title by his grandson Wriothesley (1680-1711), who was a son of Lord William Russell by his marriage with Rachel, daughter of Thomas Wriothesley, 4th earl of Southampton, and who became second duke in 1700. Eleven years later the second duke was succeeded by his eldest son Wriothesley (1708-1732), who died without issue in October 1732, when the title passed to his brother John.

John Russell, 4th duke of Bedford (1710-1771), second son of Wriothesley Russell, 2nd duke of Bedford, by his wife, Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of John Howland of Streatham, Surrey, was born on the 30th of September '71 o. Known as Lord John Russell, he married in October 1731 Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of Charles, 3rd earl of Sunderland; became duke of Bedford on his brother's death a year later; and having lost his first wife in 1735, married in April 1737 Lady Gertrude LevesonGower (d. 1794), daughter of John, Earl Gower. In the House of Lords he joined the party hostile to Sir Robert Walpole, took a fairly prominent part in public business, and earned the dislike of George II. When Carteret, now Earl Granville, resigned office in November 1744, Bedford became first lord of the admiralty in the administration of Henry Pelham, and was made a privy councillor. He was very successful at the admiralty, but was not equally fortunate after he became secretary of state for the southern department in February 1748. Pelham accused him of idleness; he was constantly at variance with the duke of Newcastle, and resigned office in June 1751. Instigated by his friends he was active in opposition to the government, and after Newcastle's resignation in November 1756, became lord-lieutenant of Ireland in the ministry of William Pitt and the duke of Devonshire, retaining this office after Newcastle, in alliance with Pitt, returned to power in June 1757. In Ireland he favoured a relaxation of the penal laws against Roman Catholics, but did not keep his promises to observe neutrality between the rival parties, and to abstain from securing pensions for his friends. His own courtly manners and generosity, and his wife's good qualities, however, seem to have gained for him some popularity, although Horace Walpole says he disgusted everybody. In March 1761 he resigned this office. Having allied himself with the earl of Bute and the party anxious to bring the Seven Years' War to a close, Bedford was noticed as the strongest opponent of Pitt, and became lord privy seal under Bute after Pitt resigned in October 1761. The cabinet of Bute was divided over the policy to be pursued with regard to the war, but pacific counsels prevailed, and in September 1762 Bedford went to France to treat for peace. He was considerably annoyed because some of the peace negotiations were conducted through other channels, but he signed the peace of Paris in February 1763. Resigning his office as lord privy seal soon afterwards, various causes of estrangement arose between Bute and Bedford, and the subsequent relations of the two men were somewhat virulent. The duke refused to take office under George Grenville on Bute's resignation in April 1763, and sought to induce Pitt to return to power. A report, however, that Pitt would only take office on condition that Bedford was excluded, incensed him and, smarting under this rebuff, he joined the cabinet of Grenville as lord president of the council in September 1763. His haughty manner, his somewhat insulting language, and his attitude with regard to the regency bill in 1765 offended George III., who sought in vain to supplant him, and after this failure was obliged to make humiliating concessions to the ministry. In July 1765, however, he was able to dispense with the services of Bedford and his colleagues, and the duke became the leader of a political party, distinguished for rapacity, and known as the "Bedford party," or the "Bloomsbury gang." During his term of office he had opposed a bill to place high import duties on Italian silks. He was consequently assaulted and his London residence attacked by a mob. He took some part in subsequent political intrigues, and although he did not return to office, his friends, with his consent, joined the ministry of the duke of Grafton in December 1767. This proceeding led "Junius" to write his "letter to the duke of Bedford," one of especial violence. Bedford was hostile to John Wilkes, and narrowly escaped from a mob favourable to the agitator at Honiton in July 1769. His health had been declining for some years, and in 1770 he became partially paralysed. He died at Woburn on the 15th of January 1771, and was buried in the family burying-place at Chenies. His three sons all predeceased him, and he was succeeded in the title by his grandson, Francis. The duke held many public offices: lord-lieutenant of Bedfordshire and Devonshire, and chancellor of Dublin University among others, and was a knight of the garter. Bedford was a proud and conceited man, but possessed both ability and common-sense. The important part which he took in public life, however, was due rather to his wealth and position than to his personal taste or ambition. He was neither above nor below the standard of political morality of the time, and was influenced by his duchess, who was very ambitious, and by followers who were singularly unscrupulous. See Correspondence of John, 4th Duke of Bedford, edited by Lord John Russell (London, 1842-1846); J. H. Wiffen, Historical Memoirs of the House of Russell (London, 1833); W. E. H. Lecky, History of England, vol. iii. (London, 1892); Horace Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George II. (London, 1847), and Memoirs of the Reign of George III., edited by G. F. R. Barker (London, 1894.) Francis Russell, 5th duke of Bedford (1765-1802), eldest son of Francis Russell, marquess of Tavistock (d. 1767), by his wife, Elizabeth (d. 1768), daughter of William Keppel, 2nd earl of Albemarle, was baptized on the 23rd of July 1765. In January 1771 he succeeded his grandfather as duke of Bedford, and was educated at Westminster school and Trinity College, Cambridge, afterwards spending nearly two years in foreign travel. Regarding Charles James Fox as his political leader, he joined the Whigs in the House of Lords, and became a member of the circle of the prince of Wales, afterwards George IV. Having overcome some nervousness and educational defects, he began to speak in the House, and soon became one of the leading debaters in that assembly. He opposed most of the measures brought forward by the ministry of William Pitt, and objected to the grant of a pension to Edmund Burke, an action which drew down upon him a scathing attack from Burke's pen. Bedford was greatly interested in agriculture. He established a model farm at Woburn, and made experiments with regard to the breeding of sheep. He was a member of the original board of agriculture, and was the first president of the Smithfield club. He died at Woburn on the 2nd of March 1802, and was buried in the family burying-place at Chenies. The duke was never married, and was succeeded in the title by his brother, John.

See Lord Holland, Memoirs of the Whig Party (London, 1854) J. H. Wiffen, Historical Memoirs of the House of Russell (London, 1833); E. Burke, Letter to a Noble Lord (Edinburgh, 1837; and Earl Stanhope, Life of Pitt (London, 1861-1862).

John Russell, 6th duke of Bedford (1766-1839) ,was succeeded as seventh duke by his eldest son, Francis (1788-1861), who had an only son, William (1809-1872), who became duke on his father's death in 1861. When the eighth duke died in 1872, he was succeeded by his cousin, Francis Charles Hastings (1819-1891), who was member of parliament for Bedfordshire from 1847 until he succeeded to the title. The ninth duke was the eldest son of Major-General Lord George William Russell (1790-1846), who was a son of the sixth duke. He married Elizabeth, daughter of George John, 5th Earl de la Warr, and both his sons, George William Francis Sackville (1852-1893), and Herbrand Arthur (b. 1858), succeeded in turn to the title.


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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Earls And Dukes of Bedford'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/bri/e/earls-and-dukes-of-bedford.html. 1910.

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